The Green Bay Packers have the youngest roster in the NFL and it’s not by accident.
General manager Brian Gunekunst parted ways with Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams and it almost seemed liked those two major moves sparked a rebuild focused on talented young players, that could still keep the team competitive but build toward the future.
So far, it’s seemed to work to perfection.
While there are obvious holes on the 2023 Green Bay Packers — particularly on defense — there is more young talent on both sides of the ball then there has been in a long time.
Offensively, it’s been amazing to see Jordan Love thrive in his first season as the starting quarterback, but the Packers drafted well and landed players that could contribute immediately.
Jayden Reed looks to be the next star wide receiver, while Christian Watson has thrived when healthy in his second pro season. Luke Musgrave looks like he can be a top-tier tight end, while Tucker Kraft has stepped up in his absence. The corps of wide receivers may be young, but there’s depth. Players like Romeo Doubs, Dontayvion Wicks and even Malik Heath have all stepped up when they have had their number called.
It’s been impressive to see, and rare for a NFL team to thrive with such a young roster. Defensively, there are a few players who are aging like De’Vondre Campbell, who likely won’t be back in 2024. At this point, it’s hard to see Jaire Alexander returning either.
The Team will have a decision to make with Preston Smith, who is still producing at a high level with 45 tackles and seven sacks.
According to Over The Cap, Smith’s cap numbers over the next three seasons are $16.51 million, $17.51 million, and $18.21 million, and he turns 31 next month. Releasing Smith in the offseason would only save the Packers $2.52 million, leaving them with a dead cap hit of just under $14 million. However, the important part is that Smith’s contract would come off the books in 2025.
Smith is playing at a high level. The Packers will likely need to move on for financial reasons, but he should have no trouble finding a new team
Another fan favorite who could be moved is Kenny Clark. The two-time Pro Bowler has put together yet another solid campaign in 2023 with 42 tackles and 6.5 sacks, but as Green Bay Packers have seen time and time again, he lacks the help up front to turn the defense into a run-stuffing unit that also creates consistent pass rush.
Clark is owed a chunk of change in 2024, so it will be interesting to see what the team decides to do with the defensive staple.
On the bright side, it appears some of the young Packers defensive pieces are starting to make a a difference. Devontae Wyatt isn’t dominant yet, but he has 33 tackles, four sacks a fumble recovery and 3.5 tackles for loss, a major upgrade from his rookie campaign.
Quay Walker has found his groove in his second season out of Georgia and currently leads the team in tackles (103) and recorded an interception he returned for a touchdown earlier this season.
The secondary will have some holes to fill especially if Alexander is moved this offseason. The veteran safety tandem of Jonathan Owens and Rudy Ford appear to be solid, but there are major questions at cornerback. Keisean Nixon has struggled in coverage this season, while Corey Ballantine has showed promise when thrown into the fire but hasn’t proven himself has a long-term answer as a starter.
Former Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers Could Recruit Several Former Teammates
It’s become abundantly clear Aaron Rodgers has a ton of say with his new team. Last season, he convinced the Jets to bring in Randall Cobb and Marquez Valdez-Scantling and there are reports he’s attempting to reunite with his favorite target of all time, Davante Adams, this offseason.
But according to Rich Cimini who covers the New York Jets for ESPN, Rodgers could make a push for a bevy of his former Green Bay Packers teammates to join him in the Big Apple this offseason.
One of the biggest priorities for the Jets this offseason will be to rebuild the offensive line to better support Rodgers.
Cimini included Packers offensive lineman David Bakhtiari as a possible target calling him “one of Rodgers’ closest friends.”
Bakhtiari still has another year left on his $92 million contract but Cimini said he is “likely” going to be released this offseason.
When healthy he has been one of the best offensive linemen in football. He earned first-team All-Pro honors twice in 2018 and 2020. Bakhtiari also was nominated as a second-team All-Pro in 2016, 2017, and 2019.
The problem is he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Over the last three years, the veteran hog molly has missed over 42 games due to injuries.
Both of the Jets starting offensive tackles from the 2023 season opener are scheduled to reach the open market in Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton. Bakhtiari could plug in as a starter or at the very least be competent depth for the Jets next year.
Rodgers Could Push For Even More Ex Packers
While Breece Hall is the clear-cut starting running back for the New York Jets, there’s a duo of current Packers ball-carriers who will be available this offseason and could be the perfect change of pace backs to relieve Hall.
Cimini said Aaron Jones, who Rodgers is a big fan of, could be a “cut candidate” with the Packers because of his “hefty cap charge
AJ Dillon, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March. Either player could provide a veteran presence behind Hall to pair along with rookie Israel Abanikanda who has shown flashes in New York.
Other players he listed as potential depth options include Packers interior offensive lineman Jon Runyan and Chicago Bears tight end Robert Tonyan “an old friend from the Green Bay Packers
It’s clear Aaron Rodgers will have a say in personnel decisions this offseason — and even without him in 2023 — this team didn’t look capable of making a playoff run even if their new franchise QB was healthy.
It will be interesting to see if Rodgers is able to sway the New York Jets front office to bring in some of his favorite old teammates to bolster the roster for 2024.