The Green Bay Packers once again failed to live up to the NFC’s No. 1 seed. They were unable to live up to the privilege of home-field advantage. They fell, losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs on a last-second field goal, 13-10.
Green Bay now enters a bitterly disappointing offseason much earlier than anticipated. The Packers were expected to be one of the genuine contenders for the Super Bowl. Instead, they’ll watch the 49ers play in the NFC Championship Game for the right to play in that contest.
Is there anything to look forward to at this point in Green Bay?
Time heals all wounds, and hope will spring eternal in training camp, but it’s going to be a long, cold winter for the Packers.
Biggest offseason questions
Is Aaron Rodgers going to be the quarterback next season, or are the Packers flying blind into the Jordan Love era? That’s really the only question that matters right now in Green Bay, and it will be interesting to see how the disappointment in the playoffs impacts the answer.
For his part, Rodgers admitted after the loss to the 49ers that he is anticipating initially taking some time, but then coming to a quick decision.
“I did not think we’d be talking about this after this game, but I’m gonna take some time and have conversations with the folks around here and then take some time away and make a decision obviously before free agency or anything kind of gets going on that front,” Rodgers said, via ESPN. “But it’s fresh right now. It’s a little shocking for sure.”
It seemed multiple times throughout the season that the mini-revolt that Rodgers staged this past offseason was old news. He seemed happy and engaged with the team and even admitted that things had improved between him, general manager Brian Gutekunst, and the front office.
Now is where the rubber meets the road for Green Bay, though.
Rodgers had a season worthy of his fourth MVP and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. He may not have a Tom Brady-esque career that goes well into his 40’s, but you’d have to anticipate he still has three-to-four strong years left in him.
With the Packers facing a tight cap crunch in 2022, an extension and restructuring of Rodgers’ contact could help clear some room.
That’s if he wants to play ball, because there’s also the very real possibility that Rodgers decides to retire or wants out of Green Bay and demands a trade.
That seemed unlikely before the loss to San Francisco. Still, maybe a change of scenery would be best for all involved, especially considering the fact that Rodgers appears wholly unable to get over the playoff hump and get back to the Super Bowl no matter what the Packers do.
Either way, this is the only offseason question that matters. Everything else will ebb and flow based on what happens with No. 12.
Top Free-Agency Decisions
Key Free Agents: Davante Adams (WR), Robert Tonyan Jr. (TE), De’Vondre Campbell (LB), Marquez Valdez-Scantling (WR), Rasul Douglas (CB), Allen Lazard, (WR)*UFA
The Packers have 23 free agents total this offseason, but none are more critical to the long-term future of the organization than Davante Adams. Ideally, the Packers would like to sign Adams to a long-term deal and be done with it. The issue for Green Bay is the aforementioned cap crunch. That, and the fact that Adams is going to want more money than any other wide receiver in NFL history.
Ian Rapoport reported in early January that the two sides are likely headed towards a franchise tag and that makes the most sense. It keeps Adams locked up for one more season and gives Green Bay time to work out its cap situation. Adams may not be happy with it, but he still should make roughly $22 million for one season of work.
Adam’s long-term future is the most important thing for the franchise outside of anything involving Rodgers, but the wide receiver room as a whole could get very interesting this offseason.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling is an intriguing free agent because there are few wide receivers in the NFL with his speed. When he’s on and healthy, he does provide the Packers with an excellent deep threat. The problem is, he’s had a hard time staying healthy, and he does have consistency problems. Green Bay could probably look to the draft to fill his role, especially considering the kind of money he may be asking for. Speaking of looking for money, Allen Lazard will be a restricted free agent and he’s earned himself a nice payday going from undrafted practice squad player to key cog in Green Bay offense. The Packers can match any offer sheets sent his way, but will they if the price goes too high?
Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell will no doubt be brought back. The Packers basically picked him up off the scrap heap, and he became an All-Pro linebacker this season. He’s a huge part of Joe Barry’s defensive scheme and became the heart and soul of the defense. Green Bay will likely want to reward him with a solid contract and hope he can be a leader in 2022 and beyond. Speaking of heart and soul, cornerback Rasul Douglas gave his to the Packers after they signed him off the Arizona Cardinals practice squad. He finished the season with five inteceptions, including two pick-sixes. He’s in line for a big payday because he came at such a bargain this season. Will the Packers have enough cap room to be able to pick up his bill?
Robert Tonyan Jr. had an 11 touchdown season in 2020, but was injured for much of 2021 and finished with only 204 yards and two touchdown catches. He is a fast and athletic tight end with soft hands, but the Packers did spend a third-round pick on Josiah Deguara in 2020, and he’s flashed some potential. The Packers could choose to save money on Tonyan and instead roll with Deguara in 2022.
2022 NFL Draft needs and potential targets
Top picks: First round (own), second round (own), third round (own)
Draft needs: WR, DT, EDGE, TE
With all the potential openings in Green Bay’s wide receiver room, this could finally be the year the Packers take a wide receiver in the first or second round.
Their only wide receiver draft pick in the last class, Amari Rodgers, seems to be trending more towards bust than productive NFL player, and if there was ever a time to infuse the roster with fresh talent at wideout, this would be it. That’s especailly true if Adams is franchise-tagged and his future past 2022 is unstable.
Defensive tackle also has to be a main priority for the Packers in this draft, so if they went that route in the first or second round, that would not be surprising.
Kenny Clark is a beast up front and T.J. Slaton has some real potential as a run-stuffing nose tackle, but depth and talent are two significant concerns in the middle of the defensive line. Kingsley Keke was supposed to be that guy, but he was randomly released a few days before the playoff loss to San Francisco for what ended up being a dispute with the coaching staff.
However it shakes out, Green Bay’s first two picks should be a wide receiver and a defensive tackle.
Players of interest would be defensive tackle Jordan Davis from Georgia or DeMarvin Leal from Texas A&M for defensive tackles. Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks, Alabama wideout Jameson Williams, Georgia wide receiver George Pickens, and USC wideout Drake London are all intriguing prospects as well.
1 player on each side of the ball who must step up in 2022
Left tackle David Bakhtiari did not end up playing in the Divisional Round loss to the 49ers which means he missed all but a few drives of the 2021 season recovering from an ACL injury he suffered the season before.
The Packers went from hoping that he’d make it back mid-season to hoping that he’d be ready to go in time for a playoff run. Neither scenario played out. Not having Bakhtiari out on the field at all this season was a huge dissapointment for Green Bay. The fact that he came back against Detroit for a half and gave it a go only to be shut down for the playoff loss…that’s just heartbreaking.
Whoever is the quarterback in 2021, the Packers will need Bakhtiari out there from day one playing at a Pro Bowl level.
The defense as a whole stepped up this season and proved to be one of the more opportunistic groups in football when all was said and done. Barry got some good things out of his squad in his first season and there are superstar building blocks, including rookie cornerback Eric Stokes and especailly edge rusher Rashan Gary.
One player who needs to step up is safety Darnell Savage, who is entering a contract year in 2022. He’s an extremely talented and athletic safety who plays a nice “center field”, but he only came away with two interecptions this season and had multiple others go right through his hands.
He needs to do better if he wants to earn another contract from Green Bay.