GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Keep 'em or cut 'em? Restructure some contracts? Let some free agents walk? Fill some holes via the draft and free agency?
Those are the questions and decisions the Green Bay Packers face this offseason.
And that’s regardless of who plays quarterback for them in 2023.
Some of those issues are tied to whether it’s Aaron Rodgers or Jordan Love, and some of those decisions can’t be made until general manager Brian Gutekunst and coach Matt LaFleur know the quarterback path moving forward.
That’s why it’s imperative for Rodgers to let the team know of his intentions before the free agency negotiating window opens March 13.
“There hasn’t been a deadline," Packers president Mark Murphy said last week. "We both realize, though, the sooner the decision is made, the better.”
Last offseason, Rodgers announced his return on March 8. A similar timeline would suffice this time around if the decision is simply to return or retire. A trade, whether requested by Rodgers or initiated by the team, would take more time to sort out.
In the meantime, here’s a look at what the Packers have and what they need at every position:
What they have: Rodgers, for now, along with starter-in-waiting Love. The only other quarterback on the roster is Danny Etling, who spent all of last season on the practice squad.
What they need: An answer from Rodgers, obviously. The Packers also must decide by early May whether to exercise Love’s fifth-year option for 2024 that would make his pay for that season $20.27 million. If Rodgers moves on and Love takes over, the Packers will need at least one more quarterback. When Rodgers replaced Favre in 2008, the Packers drafted two QBs: Brian Brohm in the second round and Matt Flynn in the seventh.
What they have: A productive duo returning in Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon but questions about how to properly use them. LaFleur tried putting them on the field together at times, doing it for 102 snaps last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. But ultimately, some games Jones was the featured back and other games it was Dillon. The only other backs on the roster are Patrick Taylor and Tyler Goodson.
What they need: To restructure Jones’ contract. He has a $7 million roster bonus due in March plus a base salary of $8.1 million for 2023. If nothing else, they will need to turn the roster bonus into a signing bonus in order to spread out the salary-cap hit. There are already two voidable years (2025 and 2026) with which to spread out cap charges.
What they have: Two -- and perhaps three -- up-and-coming playmakers. Rookies Romeo Doubs (fourth-rounder) and Christian Watson (second-rounder) each had their share of highlights, and Samori Toure (seventh-rounder) showed promise last season. Doubs and Watson were on the field together for just 94 snaps in large part due to injuries -- Watson early in the season and Doubs later on.
What they need: A veteran presence. Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard will be free agents next month. Cobb, 32, might be nearing retirement, and Lazard is looking for a big payday that the Packers might not be willing to grant. Rodgers might want assurances that one or both will be back before he decides to return.
What they have: Only one tight end, Josiah Deguara, with any experience, and he totaled just 13 catches, 114 yards and no touchdowns last season. There are no other veterans under contract for 2023.
What they need: A playmaker. Or two. Perhaps that’s re-signing Robert Tonyan, who caught a career-high 53 passes last season in his return from the 2021 torn ACL. But even if Tonyan and blocking tight end Marcedes Lewis are back, the Packers need more from this position. Tyler Davis, a restricted free agent, showed promise early on but never factored.
What they have: Questions about David Bakhtiari. If he’s healthy, he’s still one of the best left tackles in the league. Next to him is Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins, third-year center Josh Myers and the ultra-consistent Jon Runyan. They also have a promising second-year player in Zach Tom, who played both guard and tackle last season.
What they need: One more starter, whether that’s at right guard or right tackle. But first, Bakhtiari might have to restructure his contract -- and simply converting a $9.5 million March roster bonus into a signing bonus might not be enough -- and then the Packers can figure out if they can keep restricted free agent tackle Yosh Nijman. They also need answers about 2022 third-round tackle Sean Rhyan, who didn’t play a single snap on offense as a rookie.
What they have: A star in nose tackle Kenny Clark and a pair of prospects in 2022 first-round pick tackle Devonte Wyatt and 2021 fifth-round tackle T.J. Slaton. Wyatt and Slaton showed promise late last season. Tackle Johnathan Ford, a seventh-round pick last year, was inactive for every game as a rookie.
What they need: Affordable replacements for veteran ends Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed, who will become free agents in March.
What they have: Two returning starters in De’Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker and a solid backup in Isaiah McDuffie, who also was a heavy contributor on special teams.
What they need: Campbell to return to his 2021 form and Walker to learn from his rookie mistakes. Campbell was an All-Pro two years ago but battled injuries and inconsistency last season, and Walker got thrown out of two games. Re-signing restricted free agent Krys Barnes would be a good idea.
What they have: Preston Smith and a lot of questions. Rashan Gary was off to a monster start with 6 sacks in as many games to start last season before tearing his right ACL in Week 9. Kingsley Enagbare came on late and finished with 3 sacks. Jonathan Garvin has shown flashes but never on a consistent basis.
What they need: A high-impact draft pick or a proven veteran free agent. And that’s even if Gary can return to form.
What they have: Former first-round pick Darnell Savage and a lot of questions. Tariq Carpenter, a seventh-round pick in 2022, was a special teams regular but played just 16 snaps on defense as a rookie. Innis Gaines played slightly more, but his 44 snaps on defense last season aren’t enough to go on.
What they need: Savage to play closer to the line of scrimmage -- whether that’s in the nickel or at strong safety -- to help him return to his 2020-21 form. And then find a free safety who can cover. Re-signing reliable veteran Adrian Amos is a luxury Gutekunst probably can’t afford.
What they have: Three returning starters in Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas and Eric Stokes (presuming he comes back from his season-ending right knee and ankle injuries).
What they need: Defensive coordinator Joe Barry to use Alexander like he did during the second half of last season, when Alexander was finally free to match up against the opponents’ No. 1 receiver. It would help if someone such as 2021 fifth-round pick Shemar Jean-Charles emerged.
What they have: Punter Pat O’Donnell and snapper Jack Coco are under contract, but kicker Mason Crosby is not. Neither is kick returner Keisean Nixon. The only kicker under contract is Parker White, who has never played in a regular-season game.
What they need: To re-sign Nixon. He’s headed for a much bigger payday than his $965,000 minimum salary from last season, when he was named first-team All-Pro as a kick returner, but he’s worth it. They’ll also need a kicker as reliable as Crosby if they don’t bring back the 38-year-old, who is the team’s career scoring leader.