Packers Primed to Plunder Free Agency and Draft: Filling Key Holes on the Roster

Even with an unprecedented jump in salary cap between the 2023 and 2024 seasons, the Green Bay Packers entered the new year with barely $13 million in cap space—the cost to sign a new draft class, but nowhere near enough to make major waves in free agency.

As such, the club had to part ways with a few franchise mainstays to give themselves breathing room, including left tackle David Bakhtiari, running back Aaron Jones and middle linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, who had been a quality player since signing with the Cheeseheads before the 2021 season.

Green Bay wasted no time making use of the space they created, overhauling their roster in a matter of hours on Monday afternoon as they agreed in principle to free agent contracts once the legal tampering period began. This is what the Packers have done so far, as well as moves still on the table as they look to build a Super Bowl championship roster before quarterback Jordan Love comes due for a second contract.

Revamping the Running Backs

This wasn’t a roster hole as of Monday morning but that didn’t take long to change. General Manager Brian Gutekunst gave running back Aaron Jones the pink slip after seven years, more than 8,000 offensive yards and 63 touchdowns in a Packers uniform, clearing cap space but losing one of the best running backs in franchise history in the process.

Gutekunst quickly moved to fill that void, signing former Raiders tailback Josh Jacobs to a four-year, $48 million contract that closely mirrors the second deal that Jones picked up ahead of the 2021 season, but there are several important differences.

One is that Jacobs is three years younger, a borderline necessity at one of the league’s most demanding positions. Another is that the contract preserves financial flexibility for Green Bay, which is essential now that Jordan Love is due for an extension at the end of this season. Should Love have an MVP-caliber campaign this year, he’ll easily command $40 million per year or more on the open market, so the Packers will need to pull out all the stops to retain him.

While the Jacobs deal will run for four seasons in principle, the Packers could easily move on from him next season before his roster bonuses kick in and his contract value starts to ramp up: it’s a prove-it deal that could earn him big bucks with a successful season, the type of value for both parties involved that’s worthy of the best sports betting apps and their promo codes.

Shoring Up the Secondary

The Packers also agreed to a four-year, $68 million contract with former Giants safety Xavier McKinney. He has 279 career tackles and nine interceptions in 49 games with New York and helps to fill perhaps the biggest void on Green Bay’s roster. McKinney is an incredibly versatile athlete who can play the position from deep center field like Minkah Fitzpatrick, or sneak into the tackle box to help stop the run.

They could probably still use a draft pick or two to add insurance in the secondary, especially because McKinney has dealt with injury concerns during his four years in the league. The good news is that safety is the deepest position of this free agency class, so they’re perfectly capable of adding a depth piece—or another starter—before the draft process really starts to ramp up.

Offensive Line Additions

Last but certainly not least—championships are won in the trenches, after all—the Packers will need to improve their offensive line. This comes as a no-brainer to any Green Bay fan who saw once-hopeful seasons derailed following injuries to Aaron Rodgers, and the team will need to keep Jordan Love clean if they believe he’s the quarterback of the future. They did an excellent job of that in 2023, as their 30 sacks allowed were one of the lowest margins in the league, but turnover on-line means the team will have to adjust.

Investing in the running backs is one way to do so, as the addition of Jacobs will help take the onus off Love to carry the team… especially because both Jones and A.J. Dillon struggled mightily last year, Love’s first year as the starter. Right now, the club has roughly $33 million in cap space, although that number will take a hit once McKinney’s contract becomes official. That means they have a bit of space to add another starter on the offensive line, although they may be best suited waiting until the draft, when they can lock in a future starter for pennies on the dollar with a cheap rookie deal.

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