It became pretty clear right after the end of the season that the Green Bay Packers were going to have to eventually trade Davante Adams. That was the word from general manager Brian Gutekunst when he met with reporters for the first time since the blockbuster trade that sent the two-time All-Pro to Las Vegas earlier this month.
“Not really during the season, it was more after the season as we got through some things and had discussions afterwards,” Gutekunst said Monday at the NFL owners meetings in Florida. “I think Davante deserved a lot of respect as we went through this process and we felt we gave that to him. We were very straight forward, open and honest with the communication part of it. As we got through it into free agency, and we were moving on with that cap number, I think the best thing for the organization was to move on.”
Adams had reportedly made clear that he would not play on the franchise tag, which the Packers had placed on him before the start of free agency. It was eating up roughly $20 million of salary cap space and there wasn’t a contract the team could offer him to make him change his mind about wanting to play for the Raiders. So, with his own free agents to worry about, Gutekunst made the move.
“I talk about the dominoes all the time,” Gutekunst said. “And there were some dominoes that were important to us that if we continued down the road we were, it was going to be difficult to put the team we wanted to put around Aaron (Rodgers) and everybody.”
Without moving on from Adams, Gutekunst said the re-signings of cornerback Rasul Douglas, linebacker De’Vondre Campbell and others may not have been possible. It also has the team roughly $15 to $16 million under the salary cap.
“I think we have more flexibility now than we would have but we’re not footloose and fancy free with that,” Gutekunst said. “At the same time, I think we have some flexibility that if the right player is there we could acquire him and I don’t feel like we have too many restrictions there.”
In addition to the salary cap space gained in the trade, Gutekunst got a solid return in terms of draft picks. Las Vegas sent its first-round pick (No. 22) and second-round pick (No. 53) back to Green Bay, which gives the Packers four picks in the first 59 of April’s NFL Draft. Though they haven’t drafted a wide receiver in the first two rounds since taking Adams in the second in 2014, it could be the way they restock their wide receiver room.
“You never really replace a guy like Davante Adams,” Gutekunst said. “It’s going to be more cumulative in how the whole team steps up and plays. We can add to that. Getting the two picks and having four picks in the top 59, I think, gives us a little ammunition to try to make a difference there a little bit.”
Staying in the division
Four of Green Bay’s free agents didn’t have to go far to find new teams. Offensive lineman Lucas Patrick and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown signed with Chicago, while linebacker Za’Darius Smith and cornerback Chandon Sullivan signed with Minnesota. That comes a year after running back Jamaal Williams signed with Detroit and two years after tight end Jimmy Graham ended up with Chicago.
“It seems like since I’ve been in Green Bay we’ve seen this a lot,” Gutekunst said. “We take it as a compliment in a certain way. But at the same time you never want to see your good players lining up against you. That’s never a fun thing. Certainly not for us, not for our fans. But it’s just kind of part of it. When you have success you’re not going to be able to keep everybody and players are going to go to teams that line up against you.”
The team’s rivals in the division have a history of signing former Packers going all the way back to Brett Favre and Greg Jennings ending up with the Vikings, Josh Sitton and Edger Bennett signing with the Bears and TJ Lang ending up with the Lions.
Re-signing Jaire Alexander
Green Bay’s Pro Bowl cornerback is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is due for a new deal. It’s likely to be a big one and one that would make Alexander the highest-paid cornerback in the league.
“We’d love to,” Gutekunst said when asked if he hoped a deal could get done before the season. “We’ll see how that goes. He’s such a big part of what we’re doing. He’s been such a good player for us since the day he arrived. We’d love for that to happen. Certainly we’ve been in communication with his representation and we will continue to be as we go through the year.”
Alexander had a great 2020 season that he capped with a pair of interceptions in the NFC title game against Tampa Bay. He was off to another very good season in 2021 before a shoulder injury in Week 4 sidelined him for the rest of the regular season. The Louisville product returned for the playoff game but was limited to just eight snaps.