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4 offseason moves to launch Green Bay Packers rebuild

Matt Johnson
Green Bay Packers
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers earned playoff appearances and competed for Super Bowls for nearly three decades. But every dynasty must come to an end and the Aaron Rodgers era is drawing to a close at Lambeau Field. While the organization could go in a variety of directions this offseason, a rebuild may be the best option.

There’s a chance the Packers retain both Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. The electric quarterback-receiver duo could run it back for the 2022 season, but it would come at a staggering financial cost with long-term consequences. Meanwhile, losing one means the other will have no interest in returning.

For now, general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur want to bring their stars back. But with the best roster this franchise has fielded in decades falling well short of the Super Bowl, improvement in 2022 feels doubtful. Because of it, tearing things down might be Green Bay’s best approach.

Let’s dive into four moves to help kickstart a Green Bay Packers rebuild.

Send Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams to the Denver Broncos

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Baltimore Ravens
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

If Rodgers asks for a trade, Adams likely wants to follow his quarterback. Very few teams can absorb the cap hits that are necessary from acquiring both players and signing them to lucrative contract extensions. But the Denver Broncos, a franchise desperate to be relevant with new money coming in, are the perfect trade partner.

  • Green Bay Packers trade: Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb
  • Denver Broncos trade: 2022 DEN 1st, 2022 DEN 2nd, 2023 DEN 1st, 2023 DEN 3rd, WR Jerry Jeudy, TE Albert Okwuegbunam

It’s a rather simple decision for Green Bay. Jeudy, who boasts the talent to become a go-to weapon, steps into Adams’ role. He instantly becomes the go-to target for Jordan Love, utilized everywhere on the field with LaFleur finding ways to get him open. While it would still leave the Packers with a relatively weak receiving corps outside of Jeudy, it’s the first step towards putting Love in an offense that gives him a shot to succeed.

Related: 4 ideal Aaron Rodgers trade scenarios

Albert Okwuegbunam could fill the void at tight end left by Robert Tonyan, an impending free-agent recovering from a torn ACL. We saw in the loss to the San Francisco 49ers why this offense needs a pass-catching tight end, Okwuegbunam fills that role.

Most importantly, the draft picks give Gutekunst the ammunition to fill out this roster with cheap, young talent. That’s exactly what a franchise in an awful cap situation needs.

Cleaning up the Green Bay Packers salary cap issues

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
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Green Bay’s decision to sign Za’Darius Smith paid off. While a back injury prevented him from playing in a majority of the 2021 season, the Packers received two Pro Bowl seasons and 26 sacks out of their top edge rusher. But cuts need to be made and Smith will be among the cap casualties.

Cutting Smith creates $15.28 million in cap relief, per OvertheCap.com. It’s a good start but there is a lot more work necessary just to sign the 2022 rookie class. After that, Randall Cobb ($6.858 million savings), Mason Crosby ($2.395 million savings) will be gone.

Factoring in a Rodgers trade ($19.8 million savings) and a contract restructure for David Bakhtiari ($7.72 million), that puts Packers in the green. Keep in mind, edge rusher Preston Smith ($12.5 million savings), offensive tackle Billy Turner ($6.1 million if post-June 1 cut) and defensive end Dean Lowry ($4.08 million) are potential cut candidates.

  • Green Bay Packers record (Aaron Rodgers starting): 139-66-1

It gets the Packers under the 2022 salary cap and contract extensions would create more flexibility. More importantly, Green Bay would be projected to have more than $100 million in cap space next offseason.

Sign Jaire Alexander, Rashan Gary to contract extensions

NFL: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Before the 2021 season began, Green Bay knew Jaire Alexander is one of the elite, young defensive players in the NFL. While an AC joint injury sidelined him for a majority of the year, that doesn’t change the fact he is an All-Pro talent.

Read More: Potential Davante Adams sign-and-trade scenarios

Among cornerbacks who played 500-plus snaps in 2020, Alexander surrendered the third-lowest reception rate (50.7), the second-lowest yards per reception (9.6) and the second-lowest passer rating allowed (68.3), per Pro Football Focus. That’s not someone Green Bay can afford to lose. A rebuild is about keeping top, young talent and a multi-year deal worth $19-plus million per season keeps Alexander in Green Bay.

The other priority this offseason needs to be Rashan Gary. Labeled by many as a draft bust a year ago, Hary broke out in 2021. The 6-foot-5 edge rusher generated 81 total pressures, posting a stellar 88.8 PFF pass-rush grade with 10 sacks in 463 pass-rush snaps. For the Packers to be a contender in the future, they need an elite defense. Gary is the building block that Joe Barry wants rushing the quarterback and Green Bay would be wise to sign him now.

Committing to to draft and develop philosophy

NCAA Football: Big Ten Football Championship-Iowa vs Michigan
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The late Ted Thompson devoted himself to the philosophy of drafting and developing talent. While it’s the goal of every general manager, Thompson often used the NFL Draft to always prepare for the future. Sometimes the picks would be unconventional and the mistakes piled up near the end, but Gutekunst has shown he offers the right balance when looking to build a roster.

With that in mind, trading Rodgers and Adams put Green Bay in an excellent position to reshape this roster in the 2022 NFL Draft.

2022 Green Bay Packers mock draft

  • 1st round, 9th overall: David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
  • 1st round, 28th overall: Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
  • 2nd round, 40th overall: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
  • 2nd round, 59th overall: Travis Jones, iDL, UConn
  • 3rd round, 92nd overall: Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming
  • 4th round, 128th overall: Cole Strange, iOL, Chattanooga
  • 4th round, 137th overall: Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky

Starting things off, Ojabo enjoyed a breakout season in 2021 at Michigan and vaulted his name into consideration for a top-10 pick. He’s not a refined pass rusher, but Green Bay proved its track record in development with Gary. Needing a complementary weapon on the opposite site, Ojabo’s athleticism will contrast Gary’s strength to create a dynamic duo.

Raimann is another draft sister. Once a tight end at Central Michigan, PFF credited the 6-foot-7 tackle with only 10 pressures allowed this season. He could step in quickly at right tackle, giving the Packers to anchors to protect the edges for their quarterback.

While Dotson doesn’t offer tremendous size, the Penn State star simply knows how to create separation and thrives at getting open deep. LaFleur can have him stretch the field or let him get open over the middle, turning short catches into long gains. Either way, a fun weapon to pair with Jeudy.