Aaron Rodgers will have to wait one more year for another chance to play in the Super Bowl. On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers were manhandled 37-20 by the NFC champions, the San Francisco 49ers. This loss ended their best season since 2016 and sent the 13-3 Packers into the offseason. Under rookie head coach Matt LeFleur, the Packers went 6-0 in divisional games and earned the two seed in a stacked NFC. But where do they go from here? Looking at the offseason under GM Brian Gutekunst, the Packers will look to reload and contend in the 2020 season.
Looking At The Offseason: Green Bay Packers
Assessing Their Free Agents
In comparison to a lot of teams, the Packers don’t have many pressing free agents to bring back. The two biggest names that stand out are Blake Martinez and Bryan Bulaga. Bulaga is going to be 31 years old in March but has remained healthy the past two seasons. He remains one of the best tackles in football and helped the team earn the sixth-best offensive line by PFF. Bringing him back should be a priority for the team, especially given how hard it is to find offensive line help in the NFL. Martinez is going to be the toughest choice to bring back or not. In 2017, he was tied for first for most tackles in the league. And in the past two seasons, he has finished second. Despite being a tackling machine, Martinez lacks the quickness required for effectively stopping the run.
Free agency provides options for Green Bay such as Cory Littleton, who offer the strengths that Martinez lacks. Whether or not they have any money to spend or not will be the question. The Packers have $29 million to spend as of this writing, but depending on who they bring back, that number will be smaller. Other noteworthy free agents on their team include Mason Crosby, Tramon Williams, Kyler Fackrell, and Geronimo Allison.
Assessing Their Offensive Needs
The biggest and most glaring need is to surround Rodgers with more weapons. Outside of Davante Adams, nobody else on this team attained more than 500 yards. Adams still finished with 997 yards despite missing four games from injury, and the lack of depth behind him showed all year. In the divisional round, Adams had 160 yards, while everyone else had 83 combined. Against the 49ers, Adams was targeted twice as much as his teammates. With Allison, Jake Kumerow and Allen Lazard all entering free agency, the Packers should draft a wide receiver in round one to help Rodgers. Luckily for them, this draft has been talked about as “potentially historic”.
In the NFL today, having a great tight end is crucial. When looking at the Super Bowl, both teams possess two of the most talented tight ends we’ve ever seen: George Kittle and Travis Kelce. Over the 2010s, Rob Gronkowski was a major difference-maker for the New England Patriots dynasty. Even when the Philadelphia Eagles won their ring, Zach Ertz was a huge reason why. The Packers have Jimmy Graham who has been in decline for a handful of years now and he is not the answer. Whether it is in the draft or free agency, the Packers need an athletic tight end who can make plays after the catch, something they currently lack.
Assessing Their Defensive Needs
Finally, as mentioned earlier, linebacker could be a need should they not bring back Martinez. Even though the defense for the Packers had its moments, they collapsed against the 49ers and showed their run defense especially needs major help. Overall this year they finished 23rd in run defense, giving up 120.1 yards per game. Kenny Clark is one of the better run stoppers in football, but he needs help. Giving up 4.7 yards per carry is not going to cut it in 2020, especially with teams like the 49ers, Minnesota Vikings, and Seattle Seahawks who run the ball at absurdly high rates in their conference.
Looking At The Offseason, Fans Should Be Hopeful
Looking at the offseason, it would be understandable for fans to be nervous. But in just one offseason, the Packers improved their roster enough to go from 6-9-1, to 13-3. As mentioned earlier, the wide receiver draft class this year is supposed to be very deep and talented. While Rodgers may not be the same player he once was, he should only get better next season as he gains more rapport with LeFleur. The next couple of months will tell us whether or not we should take the Packers seriously as contenders or not. But nonetheless, fans should be happy with the season they had, as well as have hope for the future.
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