The Green Bay Packers have won the last three NFC North titles. But no Super Bowl appearance over that span. How can the franchise get over that hump?
It’s a franchise that as free agency approaches (March 16) is in no real position to make a huge impact on the open market. And that would be pretty much business as usual for the Green Bay Packers, who as a team are busy these days restructuring contracts (via Spotrac) – for example, Aaron Jones, David Bakhtiari and Kenny Clark – in an attempt to get under the salary cap.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the club, winners of the NFC North these past three seasons, won’t be taking a look at who could help their team get over the hump and get back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2010.
Given Green Bay’s current financial situation, perhaps this is a “wish list” for general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur.
5. PK Younghoe Koo (Atlanta Falcons)
University of Colorado kicker Mason Crosby was a sixth-round pick by the Packers back in 2007. He’s the franchise’s all-time leading scorer with 1,806 points. That total ranks 14th in NFL history and his 370 field goals are the 17th-most in league annals.
But 2021 was a somewhat forgettable season for the 15-year veteran. He connected on just 73.5 percent of his field goal attempts (25-of-34) – the second-worst of his career. Four of his misses came between 30-39 yards and he also failed on a pair of PAT attempts. And he had a field goal blocked just before halftime in the divisional playoff loss to the 49ers.
After beginning his career with the Chargers in 2017, Younghoe Koo has spent the past three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. For his career, he’s connected on 90.0 percent of his field goal attempts (90-of-100) and missed only four PATs. Could the Packers make what might be an unpopular move?
4. DT Al Woods (Seattle Seahawks)
This won’t be the only time the Packers’ defensive front will be addressed in this piece.
One thing that has been quite noticeable in recent years, regardless of the defensive system and coordinator, has been the team’s struggles against opposing ground games and vs. the league’s more physical offensive fronts.
New defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who made his debut with the team in 2021, had this team playing well for most of the season. But there were still lapses and the team has shown that it can still be overpowered at times.
For instance, even though the team did not give up an offensive touchdown in the 13-10 playoff loss to the 49ers at Lambeau Field, San Francisco’s physical style eventually wore down Matt LaFleur’s club. In other words, the Packers aren’t necessarily built to succeed in a street fight.
Veteran defender Al Woods isn’t necessarily a big name and has made the rounds when it comes to the league. He’s actually played for five different teams but opted out in 2020 (COVID-19). He was a member of the Seahawks this past season and via Pro Football Focus (subscription required) he was the fourth-ranked run defender in terms of interior defensive linemen.
3. TE Kyle Rudolph (Released by New York Giants)
In 2021, fourth-year tight end Robert Tonyan played for the restricted free-agent tender of $3.384 million. He went on to start five of the team’s first eight contests, totaling 18 receptions for 204 yards and a pair of scores. But in that eighth game at Arizona, he tore his ACL and was lost for the remainder of the season.
One year earlier, the former Indiana State product had a breakout year for Matt LaFleur’s squad. He played in all 16 games and made eight starts. The 6’2”, 237-pound target finished with 52 grabs for 586 yards and an impressive 11 touchdowns. He added eight receptions for 82 yards and one TD in the playoff split with the Rams and Buccaneers.
Combine the fact that Tonyan is coming off an injury and the fact that he can become an unrestricted free agent later this month and the Packers could be in the market for some tight end help.
Veteran Kyle Rudolph was recently released by the New York Giants, which means he can be signed immediately by the club. Before joining Big Blue in 2021, he spent 10 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. He totaled 453 receptions for 4,488 and 48 scores and earned Pro Bowl invites in 2012 and ’17.
2. WR Demarcus Robinson (Kansas City Chiefs)
Packers’ general manager Brian Gutekunst certainly has some work to do when it comes to reinforcing the Green Bay wide receiving corps. Two-time All-Pro Davante Adams, as well as four-year veterans Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown, are all slated to become unrestricted free agents later this month.
It is indeed possible that the club puts the “franchise” tag on Adams…and with good reason. Over the past two seasons, he’s been nothing short of sensational. In 30 regular-season contests (all starts), he totaled an imposing 238 receptions for 2,927 yards and 29 scores.
Elsewhere, veteran Randall Cobb was reacquired by the Packers via trade last offseason. And last April, Gutekunst used a third-round pick on Amari Rodgers.
If the Packers do move on from Valdes-Scantling and/or St. Brown, Kansas City Chiefs’ wideout Demarcus Robinson could be an appealing addition. The six-year pro doesn’t have overwhelming career numbers, which is somewhat understandable considering Andy Reid’s team features stars in tight end Travis Kelce and speedster Tyreek Hill.
In a half-dozen campaigns with the Chiefs (and he didn’t catch a pass as a rookie in 2016), Robinson has totaled a modest 145 grabs for 1,679 yards and 14 scores. He could make for an intriguing addition to the Green Bay offense.
1. DE Calais Campbell (Baltimore Ravens)
He would add some much to the team in terms of performance and savvy. Veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell has played for three teams during his 14 NFL seasons and has made playoff appearances with all three franchises.
A second-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2008, he was a rookie when that team reached Super Bowl XLIII. He spent nine seasons in the desert, racking up 56.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, three interceptions and eight fumble recoveries. The former Miami Hurricane signed with the Jaguars in 2016 and the clubs got within one win of Super Bowl LII in his second season with the club. In 2020, he was dealt to the Ravens.
All told, there have been 93.5 sacks, 14 forced fumbles and a dozen fumble recoveries. Campbell has also knocked down 55 passes. And he has the versatility to play either inside or outside up front. He’s been named to six Pro Bowls and earned All-Pro honors with Jacksonville in 2017. And he’s a solid run defender.
The Packers have not been able to get over the hump for more than a decade when it comes to getting back to the Super Bowl. One reason has been the lack of a consistent defense. Could Campbell wind up being a difference maker?