When Brian Gutekunst was introduced as the Packers’ general manager back in January, he vowed to be “in on every conversation” in terms of player acquisition. That people fixated on that more than anything else said that day came as no surprise given the team’s stingy approach to free agency under Ted Thompson’s leadership, and nearly 10 months later, Gutekunst has proven he’s not afraid to walk the walk.
Within two months of taking the job, Gutekunst signed Muhammad Wilkerson, Jimmy Graham and Tramon Williams in free agency, with Marcedes Lewis joining the team a couple months later. In the midst of all that, the rookie GM acquired DeShone Kizer from the Browns in a deal that included former first-round draft pick Damarious Randall. Add to the mix the drafting and signing of rookies Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, and you’d be hard-pressed to say Gutkekunst hasn’t stuck to his commitment to finding talent through every possible avenue.
Despite the addition of talent, however, it’s important to note that one of Gutekunst’s first personnel moves after being named GM was actually the subtraction of one of the most beloved and productive players in Packers’ history, wide receiver Jordy Nelson. The move was, of course, unpopular among the fan base and, not surprisingly, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but Gutekunst didn’t shy away from pulling the trigger.
In the days and weeks following his promotion, Gutekunst also said he was here to win and win now, and though that never got as much play as his player acquisition promise, it was just as emphatic a statement, and the release of Nelson should have indicated that Gutekunst wouldn’t flinch if he felt moving on from certain players was in the best interest of the team’s success.
That was further proven on Tuesday, when the Packers made two deals just before the league’s trading deadline, first sending Ty Montgomery to Baltimore for a seventh-round pick in 2020 and then shipping Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Redskins for a fourth-rounder in 2019.
Make no mistake—the decisions behind letting Jordy Nelson go in free agency and trading away two players in the last years of their respective deals stemmed from very different circumstances. But the end goal is the same: assemble the most productive, cohesive locker room possible for the good of the team.
The media firestorm surrounding Ty Montgomery’s alleged sideline tantrum and subsequent fumble on a kickoff return almost certainly set off immediate alarm bells in the Packers’ offices on Monday. First, it was players and coaches anonymously alluding to Montgomery’s childish behavior and saying he decided to return the kick out of selfishness. Then, Montgomery’s public denial and disappointment over his colleagues’ anonymity. Right or wrong, Gutekunst wasn’t going to stand by and watch the issue make waves among the team.
Clinton-Dix’s situation is a bit different. Over the past week, his name was thrown around quite a bit in trade speculation, and his comments earlier in the season seemed to indicate he didn’t think he was long for Green Bay.
Speaking to WTMJ’s Greg Matzek on Tuesday after the trade went down, Clinton-Dix said, “Going into my fifth year, there wasn’t a deal on the table. There wasn’t even talk. I knew my time was coming to an end, or felt like it was coming to an end.”
To be honest, the Packers were right not to put a deal on the table if they felt Clinton-Dix needed to prove himself as an indispensable member of the defense. Instead, he played like a guy who knew he would be out the door after this season. Week after week of half-hearted effort only made his eventual departure inevitable, only now the Packers have a 2019 draft pick instead of whatever compensatory 2020 pick they would have received when Clinton-Dix signed with another team in free agency during the coming offseason.
The Packers now have two vacant roster spots to fill, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how they’ll do it. Of course, the prominent concern is who will step in to Clinton-Dix’s safety spot, while Montgomery’s departure might actually be celebrated, as it frees up more snaps for Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. One thing is for certain—executives rarely make moves without knowing what they’re going to do next, and when the Packers take the field in Foxboro Sunday night, they’ll do it with the 53 men Gutekunst feels give them the best chance to win.
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