Changes to Packers' coaching staff and roster come into view
The Green Bay Packers' 2021 season has ended, but that doesn't mean the conversations around the team have ceased. The ongoing coach-hiring cycle will continue to shape how the Packers look in 2022 as will myriad roster decisions the front office has to make in the coming weeks and months. The Leap will cover every facet of the offseason to keep you as informed as possible.
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How might the Packers offense change under the new-look coaching staff?
Jason B. Hirschhorn: Certainly, the Packers offense will reflect more than just the coaching staff, as the identity of the guy under center will have an outsized influence. If Aaron Rodgers plays for Green Bay next season — and that remains unclear despite recent reports of the team's "cautious optimism" for a return — the offense probably won't deviate from any core principles, instead changing slightly on the margins to stay ahead of the curve.
But the loss of Luke Getsy and the promotion of Adam Stenavich to offensive coordinator could have a larger impact should Rodgers depart. Stenavich already put his stamp on certain parts of the offensive game plans, building some of the designer run plays that head coach Matt LaFleur praised during this past season. With more time for focus on those elements in his new role, Stenavich could push a more dynamic version of the ground attack, likely a necessary approach given where Jordan Love currently stands in his development.
And while LaFleur designated Getsy to focus on third-down situations, the new Chicago Bears OC likely also contributed meaningfully to the Packers' run-pass options. A disciple of Joe Moorhead, Getsy has plenty of experience as a player and coach working in an RPO-heavy scheme. Green Bay leaned on RPOs often the past three seasons, and while LaFleur and other members of the staff have worked in offenses that called them, Getsy's influence on those calls probably went underappreciated by the public.
Peter Bukowski: If are assuming the quarterback is not changing, it would follow that the 2022 Packers more closely resembles the 2020 Packers offense. Adam Stenavich came to Green Bay from San Francisco in the Kyle Shanahan tree system, whereas Nathaniel Hackett and Luke Getsy each coached under more traditional West Coast archetypes in the NFL. That’s the offense Aaron Rodgers is most comfortable running, but he looked pretty damn calm in ‘20 when the team leaned into pre-snap motion, heavy personnel, play-action, and pre-determined, schemed-up route concepts.
Beyond the stereotypes of an offensive line coach wanting to run the ball, that type of schematic alignment with the head coach matters when it comes to game-planning. The Packers also happen to have the personnel to be a more physical offensive team, particularly if the core group can get healthy with David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins.
What’s more, this past season, teams tried to dare the Packers to run with two-shell safety looks and Green Bay wasn’t good enough in the trenches to get teams to reconsider. If they want to find more single-high safety defenses, they have to improve that area of the team, even after manufacturing some ways in the passing game to attack those coverages.
As the Packers switch to offseason mode, what area of the roster requires the most attention?
JBH: Even if Davante Adams plays for the Packers in 2022, the team needs to invest draft capital into the receiving corps. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Robert Tonyan could all depart this offseason, and the offense needs to develop another top-end receiver to diversify the passing game.
After a decade as perhaps the most reliable team when it comes to drafting wideouts, the Packers have largely avoided using premium selections at the position since taking Adams in the second round in 2014. Since then, the front office has used only two top-100 picks on wide receivers — 2015's Ty Montgomery (later converted to running back) and 2021's Amari Rodgers — leaving the receiving corps top-heavy. Green Bay doesn't necessarily need to use a first-rounder at the position to replenish, but it shouldn't wait until the end of Day 2 or later given the situation.
PB: The speed on offense when Marquez Valdes-Scantling compared to when he wasn’t out there, consistently showed up on tape. Teams just were not scared of anyone else on the Packers getting deep, especially once they bracketed Davante Adams. Finding a player who is either A.) capable of winning over the top or B.) capable of winning underneath after the catch, would go a long way to manufacturing the kind of offense this team needs to do exactly what I mentioned above when it comes to attacking these two-safety looks.
Defensively, Green Bay faces financial challenges to bring back players like De’Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas, but perhaps more importantly, the team has to figure out the best place for Darnell Savage. And if it’s not safety in a defense that plays so much with split safeties, then where is it and who is playing safety?
I was surprised that a team that wanted to play as much three-safety defense as Joe Barry and the Packers did in 2021 didn’t look more aggressively to add a player at that group. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone like Kevin King is converted there full-time (It would cost less to give him the minimum and keep him than cut him in 2022), and Savage winds up as the Star with Eric Stokes and Jaire Alexander on the outside.
What we're seeing/hearing
JBH: The past week has given rise to a lot of bad salary-cap takes on the internet, including some from those who should know better. Yes, the Packers currently project $50 million and change over the cap, and that will require the team to make some sacrifices in order to come into compliance before the March 16 deadline.
That said, the situation isn't nearly as dire as some have suggested.
As Peter and I have detailed, the Packers have plenty of ways to move current financial commitments into future years and create space in 2022. They could do so while retaining Rodgers and Adams while also re-signing a decent amount of their pending free agents. Some significant contributors won't return, but that doesn't mean the front office will have gutted the roster.
Just as importantly, the league-wide financial situation will change in a major way a year from now. At that time, the new television money will kick into the salary-cap calculation. Sources have told The Leap that the cap should rise as high as $265 million in 2023, the biggest year-over-year increase over the past decade. Even if the number falls somewhat below that, the Packers won't have to kick the financial can down the road again in a major way after this offseason.
PB: When it comes to the cap, listen to a man who did it in Green Bay for a decade. Andrew Brandt called for calm last week, his version of the front office R-E-L-A-X, insisting the Packers have a plan, considering they’ve known for almost a year this reality was coming. They knew a year ago when they did these deals, they’d be in this position now. So now what? Well … we still don’t quite know that answer.
Still, it’s easy to hear, “Oh, the Packers are in cap hell and they are going to have to rebuild,” and think that sounds like something to worry about when in reality, the cap mechanisms to at least get back to even, aren’t that onerous.
In fact, Matt LaFleur spoke about that plan last week and according to Ian Rapoport, he helped lay out that plan with Aaron Rodgers after the team lost to the 49ers. Both Jason and I have written about why a rebuild isn’t necessary or imminent. Ignore the people trying to rile you up for clicks.
PB: Some will insist the Packers didn’t go all-in this year and that’s why they came up short. Quite the contrary: they went all-in and demonstrated why that can be a fleeting high to chase. It would be easy to forget now the financial shenanigans Russ Ball employed to get this team to come back, reworking deals for veterans like Billy Turner, Adrian Amos, Mason Crosby, David Bakhtiari and ultimately Aaron Rodgers just to get this team back to even on the cap. Remember, De’Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas were bargain low-pay vet signings, not big swings. But they worked out incredibly well.
What’s more, the Packers couldn’t have even offered Odell Beckham Jr. the contract he goes ( or the deal the Panthers eventually gave Stephon Gilmore) because they had to bring back so many players, or re-work their deals.
As I mentioned above, this team is in a financially precarious situation and though it’s not without remedies, the Packers will have to lose a core piece or two and draft well if they intend to improve off the 2021 version of this squad.
Green Bay had a chance to beat the 49ers, a team that beat the Rams twice in the regular season including just a few weeks ago when OBJ and Von Miller were fully up to speed. They didn’t. Because the best team doesn’t always win. Just ask the Chiefs. The Packers and Chiefs were the Super Bowl favorites heading into the playoffs and neither team will even be in the big game, much less win it.