GREEN BAY – Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst covered a number of pertinent topics in multiple media sessions Tuesday.
Via Zoom, he addressed the full Green Bay media corps for a little over 15 minutes, and then he spoke separately with the team’s beat writers for nearly half an hour.
Here are 10 things learned from those sessions with the Packers GM:
1. Just because the Packers haven’t pulled out the franchise tag in 11 years doesn’t mean they won’t use it on RB Aaron Jones.
The Packers last used the franchise tag on defensive lineman Ryan Pickett in 2010, but Gutekunst stressed that the application drought is “not a philosophical thing to avoid it.”
With Jones such an integral part of the Packers’ offense, a long-term deal not yet reached, and the one-year franchise salary for running backs projected at a palatable $8 million, Gutekunst suggested tagging Jones is definitely on the table.
“We certainly could,” he said. “I think it’s something we’re working through.
“I do think there’s usually better ways to go about it, but if that becomes what is in the best interest of the Packers, I think we’ll do that.”
The deadline to apply the tag is March 9, six days before the free agency negotiating window opens. Tagging Jones would allow the Packers to keep him for at least another year and/or buy more time to work out a long-term contract, or potentially trade him for a draft pick higher than a future compensatory selection.
2. Inevitably, the salary cap is foremost on Gutekunst’s mind right now.
As the Packers continue working to get under the projected lower salary cap for 2021 due to the pandemic-related revenue losses of 2020, they’ve restructured David Bakhtiari’s contract and released Christian Kirksey and Rick Wagner.
More transactions along both lines sound imminent.
As for restructures, Gutekunst said the Packers have contacted multiple veterans to explore options.
“We’ve reached out to a number of players … working with those guys to find solutions to this cap issue,” he said. “I’m appreciative of those guys. I think everybody wants to try to put the best football team out there in ’21 that we can.”
He did not name anyone who might be released but said there are “a lot of moves to make still.”
3. Some of the Packers’ pending decisions will burden future salary caps to try to win now, but the hope is to strike a balance.
Regarding free agency, which is expected to see a lot more veterans available than normal due to widespread cap maneuvers, Gutekunst acknowledged the Packers may not have the chance to do much.
If a good fit emerges, they’re likely to create cap space as they go along rather than clear so much room in advance that the next couple of years become overly compromised.
“While we have our eyes on ’21, and that’s what’s most important, ’22 and ’23 are factors as well,” he said. “If a player becomes available that we weren’t expecting or will require us to make more room, we’ll go down that route. But at the same time, there’s some danger in pushing everything into ’22 or ’23.”
Even with the league’s new TV deals pending, Gutekunst anticipates this year’s league-wide cap crunch could continue into next year as well.
But the Packers will be pushing money out this year to try to win now, because Gutekunst believes the opportunity is there.
“We have a really good football team,” he said. “I think the core of our football team is going to be really strong the next few years, and we want to give ourselves every chance to compete for championships within that time.”
4. The Packers don’t want to lose C Corey Linsley, but they understand he’s in line for a hefty contract.
The 2020 first-team All-Pro center has said publicly he doesn’t expect to be back, though he’d never close the door on Green Bay. Gutekunst echoed the Packers aren’t closing the door, either, but he’s not sure yet “what’s possible and what’s not” with Linsley.
“There’s a lot of pieces to this puzzle we’re trying to put together,” Gutekunst said. “Finding a way to bring him back would be ideal, but at the level of compensation he’s at, he’s earned that.”