Despite questions about the future at QB, the Packers boast a talented young roster built to win now and into the future
Aaron Rodgers’ struggles in 2022 provided critics an easy pathway to play the hindsight game: The Packers should have traded Rodgers when they had the chance before giving him an enormous new contract that potentially handicaps their financial flexibility. Others will argue Green Bay wasn’t built to win in ‘22 and therefore the Packers should have merely cut bait when they had the chance. But that misses two important factors. The first is the Rodgers contract was signed with the intention of being more than a one-year deal. The second is the Packers roster was not only good enough to be better than they played in ‘22 but is set up well moving forward for whoever plays under center in Green Bay.
It’s fair to wonder how truly talented the roster is, particularly as the defense failed to improve despite possessing what most considered to be talent. Still, the Packers ‘23 roster boasts plenty of what we can call pedigree, and that young core has plenty of runway to keep competing for a long time.
The irony of the criticisms around how Brian Gutekunst handled the 2022 offseason is that he didn’t do enough to help the eam in the near term, thinking instead about the long view. Meanwhile, Quay Walker started Day 1, Zach Tom had to start half the season, and Christian Watson played like an All-Rookie caliber player all season, while re-signing players like Rasul Douglas and De’Vondre Campbell helped stabilize a defense going through a bit of an identity crisis.
Given the draft class, this team has a chance to be much better next season than they were this past season in terms of the way we think about the overall health of the roster. In fact, the best players on this team are almost exclusively young.
Here are the guys who currently cost more than $10 million on the cap in ‘23:
Aaron Rodgers - 39 years old
David Bakhtiari - 31 years old
Kenny Clark - 27 years old
Jaire Alexander - 25 years old
Aaron Jones - 28 years old
Preston Smith - 30 years old
The guy at the top of that list may not actually be on the team in ‘23 and that’s essential to the point. Think of the names not on this list: Rashan Gary, Elgton Jenkins (though his contract will start hitting in a major way the following season), Rasul Douglas, Eric Stokes, AJ Dillon, and then one of the best rookie classes the Packers have had since the B.J. Raji, Clay Matthews draft. The core in Green Bay is relatively young.
This isn’t new either. In 2021, the Packers were 28th in what Football Outsiders called snap-adjusted age. In other words how young is a team relative to who is actually getting snaps? That 1-seed Packers team was one of the youngest teams in the league even with a quarterback approaching 40. While FBO hasn’t come out with the 2022 numbers, the Packers roster was the 12th youngest in the league overall last season with Rodgers’ age no doubt pushing the team’s average north in a powerful way.