GREEN BAY, Wis. — Last season, only one team devoted more salary-cap space to the receiver position than the Green Bay Packers.
Using $26.67 million in cap space on receivers, second only to Tampa Bay’s $30.03 million, didn’t translate into across-the-board production, however.
Other than Davante Adams, who narrowly missed the Packers’ single-season receptions record, no other consistent threat emerged.
General manager Brian Gutekunst wants to try a different approach this season.
With Randall Cobb‘s $12.7 million cap charge from last year off the books and not a single receiver added in veteran free agency or the draft, the Packers dropped to No. 24 in the NFL when it comes to salary-cap space used by receivers. They’re at $18.65 million in cap space devoted to the position, and Adams accounts for $10.818 million of that.
The Packers’ receivers account for just 9.75 percent of their salary cap, down from 16.5 percent last season.
That’s what happens when there’s no true No. 2 receiver on the roster.
Instead, Gutekunst and first-year coach Matt LaFleur appear content to watch a collection of former undrafted players (led by Geronimo Allison and Jake Kumerow) along with last year’s trio of third-day draft picks (underachieving fourth-round pick J’Mon Moore, fifth-rounder Marquez Valdes-Scantling and sixth-rounder Equanimeous St. Brown) fight for the spot.
“I’m really content with the three guys we drafted last year,” Gutekunst said after he opted against a receiver in the draft. “I think they have huge upsides. I thought they took really good steps last year. Obviously, Geronimo coming back, he’s kind of a veteran guy stepping into that role, and I do like some of our guys that are kind of competing for some spots there as well. It’s not like we wouldn’t add one if we thought the right guy was there, but I like that group.”
He likes it better than most outsiders thought, apparently. Mock draft after mock draft had the Packers paired with a receiver for one of their two first-round picks.
“I think there’s always holes that you think about,” LaFleur said after the draft. “One thing, there’s no doubt we’ve added a lot of key pieces moving forward, both in free agency and in the draft, not only on the defensive side of the ball, but I feel really good about a guy like [offensive lineman] Billy Turner and the three offensive players that we drafted.”
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As usual, Gutekunst will tweak the roster throughout the season, but the Packers are at the offseason limit of 90 following Monday’s moves. With that in mind, here is a position-by-position look at the roster, with players listed in their likely depth chart order. Rookies are denoted by asterisks.
With Cobb gone to Dallas in free agency, the Packers not only need a No. 2 receiver but also need one who can play in the slot.
Sternberger, a third-round pick, is one of only two offensive skill position players the Packers drafted or signed in veteran free agency.
Who’s the best fit for LaFleur’s outside-zone scheme? After Jones, it might be Dexter Williams, the sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame.
Will they even keep a fullback? Vitale is a muscle-packed blocker.
Kizer bombed in a couple of relief appearances last season. Boyle, with his rocket arm, will be an interesting one to watch this summer. Wilkins, signed as a post-draft free agent, put up big numbers at Arizona State.
David Bakhtiari (T), Bryan Bulaga (T), Corey Linsley (C), Turner (G/T), Lane Taylor (G), Elgton Jenkins*, Justin McCray (G), Jason Spriggs (T), Lucas Patrick (G), Cole Madison (G), Alex Light (G/T), Adam Pankey (G/T), Gerhard de Beer (T), Anthony Coyle (G), Yosh Nijman* (T), Larry Williams* (G)
Turner’s signing bonus ($9 million) says he will start. But where? Right guard seems most likely, with perhaps an eventual move to right tackle coming in 2020 when Bulaga’s contract runs out. Madison, a 2018 fifth-rounder who sat out all of his rookie season to address his mental health, is like a bonus draft pick this year.
Muhammad Wilkerson remains on the street, but his return seems less likely with the addition of Keke in the fifth round.
Fackrell, who led the team with 10.5 sacks last season, might be the Packers’ fourth-best pass-rusher this season behind the two Smiths signed in free agency and Gary, who was the 12th pick in the draft.
There’s an opening for a starter next to Martinez, and Summers, a seventh-round pick, has the speed to cover from that spot.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine needs Alexander and King to play together more often; they shared the field for only 200 snaps due to injuries, mostly to King. Williams moved back to his natural position after finishing last season at safety. Hollman, a sixth-round pick, has 4.36 speed.
This a total remake with Amos ($11 million signing bonus) arriving in free agency and Savage in the first round (No. 21 overall).
The Packers want competition for Crosby. For now, it’s Ficken, who kicked in four games for the Rams the past two seasons.