By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
GREEN BAY, Wis. – It has been an emotional week for the Packers’ fans during their team’s current off-season makeover.
Packers’ GM Gutekunst releases WR, adds TE while search for CB continues
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It has been high-fives one minute and furrowed brows the next.
It has been an up-and-down ride that is still rattling and rolling along its merry (and occasionally not-so-merry) way throughout free agency, the draft and into the regular season.
Much of the fans’ fussing and fretting is rooted in reality. That would be the reality that the Packers, and in particular first-year GM Brian Gutekunst, face a significant challenge.
The Packers aren’t in need of a simple refurbishing. They’re in need of a full-blown remodeling that’s just shy of a rebuild.
The Packers’ fans revel in the euphoria of signing Jimmy Graham only to be subdued by word of Jordy Nelson’s release.
They bask in the addition of Muhammad Wilkerson only to be disheartened by word that the Chicago Bears, as expected, matched the Packers’ offer sheet to Kyle Fuller. The Bears had five days to match; they took what seemed like five minutes.
They realize that Graham’s presence is apt to re-establish the Packers’ offense among the NFL’s most explosive. And they recognize that Wilkerson’s talent and experience are likely to bring a much-needed tenor and toughness to the front seven.
Still, they worry, as Packers’ fans are won’t to do.
I can’t say that I blame them.
It’s reflected in their reaction to recent events.
They see moves that, in the past, would’ve called for cartwheels but now merely elicit a, “Yeah, but what about X, Y and Z?”
Or, as in Green Bay’s case, the letters “C” and “B.”
The most glaring hole is at cornerback, where the Packers have second-year pro Kevin King, oft-injured and inconsistent Quinten Rollins, unheralded Josh Hawkins and the receiver-turned-cornerback Herb Waters.
PS: Waters is coming off a back injury.
Perhaps Gutekunst will augment the position by adding a slew of stop-gap veterans. Maybe players such as Davon House (again), Tramon Williams (again) and/or Brashaud Breeland if/when he gets healthy from a reported ATV accident (he failed Carolina’s physical and is a free agent) can lend a hand or two.
Tyronne Mathieu and Rashaad Melvin – veteran cornerbacks who might’ve filled the Packers’ void – have signed elsewhere.
The top cornerbacks are all gone, although I still give high marks to Gutekunst for signing Fuller to an offer sheet. The fact that he also engineered the Damarious Randall trade is a bonus.
DeShone Kizer is going to be a starting-caliber quarterback some day, and the Packers’ leapfrogged 25 spots in the draft. Plus, they got rid of a player it appeared that the head coach really didn’t care to have on the roster.
The good news is Green Bay still has the fringes of free agency, as well as the upcoming draft, to add more cornerbacks.
A pass rusher at 14, a cornerback in the late-first round (combining the 45th pick and others to move up), and a receiver at 101 would make a lot of sense.
Clearly, second-year pro Josh Jones will have an expanded role and the Packers may wish to re-sign Morgan Burnett once the veteran safety gets realistic about his market value.
Meantime, fans should be excited about the offense’s prospects with a healthy Rodgers throwing to Graham, who is far and away the most talented tight end he’s played with.
Graham, at 6-7, 266, is a monster.
He caught 10 touchdown passes in the red zone last year. He uses his great size to shield defenders, and his great hands to pull in the football. He is the tight end that Packers’ fans hoped Martellus Bennett would be a year ago.
Fortunately, Graham is no Bennett. He is much better.
The Packers’ running game should benefit from Graham’s presence. The massive tight end is a willing blocker, so long as he’s also heavily included in the passing game. Some suggest that’s a problem. I say what’s wrong with a player wanting to make a major impact on his team’s fortunes?
Graham is a difference-maker. So is Davante Adams.
Aaron Jones might be. Randall Cobb once was.
If both stay healthy they could be big-play weapons. The combination of Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery as the team’s primary runner (Williams) and No. 1 receiver out of the backfield (Montgomery) in established roles has great potential.
The offensive line remains anchored by David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga, Corey Linsley and Lane Taylor. Justin McCray, Adam Pankey, Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy are all decent options.
Now, it’s time to shake the shrubs for cornerbacks.
The Packers’ fans are in need of reassurance as this most critical position, and an infusion of anybody who isn’t a “nobody” would be welcome.