Packers' offseason of changes timeline: When, why and what it all means
After finishing 7-9 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008, big changes are coming to the Green Bay Packers this offseason.
From the front office to the coaching staff, free agency, the NFL Draft and more, there will be plenty to keep track of in 2018. Follow all the major Green Bay news, why it happened and what it means, with this Packers offseason timeline.
The timeline is in chronological order; scroll to the bottom for the latest updates.
Davante Adams signed
When: Dec. 29, 2017
Why: Adams emerged as the Packers' No. 1 wide receiver this season, leading the team in catches (74), yards (885) and touchdowns (10). He developed a unique chemistry with Brett Hundley, as the backup quarterback's only real playmaker. During the season, Aaron Rodgers publicly lobbied for Green Bay to re-sign Adams, who was in the last year of his rookie contract, saying, "He's making a lot of money this year; hopefully we pay him sooner rather than later." Ted Thompson did just that, signing Adams to a reported four-year deal for $58 million, with $32 million guaranteed and an $18 million bonus.
What it means: The Packers simply had to keep Adams, their most dangerous down-field weapon and a player who is just entering his prime. However, the team now has three receivers making more than $10 million annually. Randall Cobb has one season remaining on his four-year, $40 million deal, and Jordy Nelson has one year left on a four-year, $39 million contract; one or both of them might have to take a pay cut or risk being released.
Corey Linsley signed
When: Dec. 30, 2017
Why: One day after re-signing Adams, the Packers locked up their dependable, ironman center. Linsley, the only Packer to play every offensive snap this season, received a three-year contract extension worth $25.5 million, including a reported $8 million signing bonus. Linsley is a linchpin of the offensive line, and his performance didn't drop off when Hundley took over for Rodgers.
What it means: While the right side of Green Bay's offensive line contains a couple of question marks – veteran guard Jahri Evans was on a one-year contract and could retire, while oft-injured tackle Bryan Bulaga tore his ACL in November – the team is set at center, left guard and left tackle. The Packers need to improve their depth across the line, but Linsley was one of two remaining starters – along with safety Morgan Burnett – on an expiring contract, and extending him was a priority. The team might soon look to re-sign Rodgers, who's under contract through 2019 but is now the seventh-highest paid quarterback in the league.
Dom Capers fired
When: Dec. 31, 2017
Why: The Packers' defense ranked 22nd in 2017, the sixth time it finished in the league's bottom half in the past seven years. A season after having the second-worst passing defense in the NFL, Green Bay was No. 23 in that category in 2017. Capers' scheme is not easy to learn, and every year GM Ted Thompson threw him young, unproven (and often non-impact) players instead of free-agent defenders, which certainly didn't help the coordinator. Injuries to rookies like Kevin King, Montravious Adams and Vince Biegel, as well as veterans Ahmad Brooks and Nick Perry, and the usual attrition in the deficient defensive backfield also hurt. But for a team whose defense hasn't been good in years, and after a disappointing season when heads were going to roll, Capers' dismissal wasn't a surprise – especially when McCarthy, who's only fired three coordinators in 12 years, said in December, "We have to be honest about the patterns of negativity and positivity."
What it means: For the first time since 2009, someone new will be in charge of the defense. Who might it be and how might it look? Former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio runs a similar system to Capers, and Packers assistants Joe Whitt and Darren Perry would probably be at the top of the in-house candidate list. Green Bay could also hire someone to run a base 4-3 defense, which might be a better fit for a team that's struggled to generate much of a pass rush recently. Along with Capers, Packers inside linebackers coach Scott McCurley and defensive line coach Mike Trgovac also were let go.
Ted Thompson reassigned
When: Jan. 2, 2018
Why: The Packers announced that Thompson, Green Bay's general manager since 2005, would transition to a new role as senior adviser to football operations and that the search for a new GM would begin immediately. The news came as a surprise, even though public opinion had shifted over the previous few seasons, as Thompson continued largely to eschew free agency, while his track record in the draft became less successful. After last offseason, when Green Bay let a slew of free agents leave – including T.J. Lang, JC Tretter, Jared Cook, Julius Peppers and Micah Hyde – and did little to replace them, the chorus of Thompson grumbling grew louder. This year, problems on defense, lack of depth at offensive line and Brett Hundley's poor play revealed that the Packers' roster wasn't nearly at the level it was supposed to be.
What it means: Thompson will remain in the front office, continuing to scout for the team and perhaps helping identify and even aid his successor. As for who that could be, Green Bay will look at internal and external candidates, including Packers personnel evaluators Eliot Wolf and Brian Gutekunst, their vice president of football administration Russ Ball, former team scout Reggie McKenzie and outsiders like Eric DeCosta (Ravens), George Paton (Vikings), Joe Douglas (Eagles) and Omar Khan (Steelers). Given the Packers have no meddling owner and one of the best quarterbacks in the game, they should have a strong list of potential hires. Choosing the best man for the GM job will be Mark Murphy's biggest decision yet.
Mike McCarthy extended
When: Midseason, 2017
Why: While the news broke just two days after the Packers' season ended, McCarthy apparently received his one-year contract extension earlier in the year. The deal keeps him in Green Bay through 2019, since he was already under contract for the 2018 season. McCarthy has been one of the most successful Packers coaches; since Vince Lombardi stepped down in 1967, McCarthy's .633 regular-season winning percentage is second-best in franchise history, behind only Mike Holmgren's .670. It's unclear exactly when McCarthy got the extension – possibly before Rodgers' injury – but it's hard to argue the 2017 collapse was entirely the head coach's fault, given he lost his star quarterback and the defense was poor.
What it means: Amid an offseason of major changes, the Packers will have the same head coach, and McCarthy will have the confidence and freedom to fill out his staff and focus on winning games. He needs to hire a defensive coordinator, and there are also openings on offense, with receivers coach becoming the offensive coordinator at Mississippi State and others potentially leaving too. Perhaps, with the glaring underlying problems exposed in 2017, McCarthy and the Packers will be able to build a better team going forward.
Joe Philbin hired
When: Jan. 7, 2018
Why: Mike McCarthy stripped offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett of that title, and the longtime assistant reportedly was looking for new jobs elsewhere. Philbin, who spent nine seasons in Green Bay, including five as offensive coordinator, left to become the head coach of the Dolphins from 2012-15, before serving as the Colts' OC the past two years. The 56-year-old Philbin was appealing for his familiarity and fit with the Packers and McCarthy, plus he was one of Aaron Rodgers' favorite assistants in Green Bay.
What it means: McCarthy is in charge of the Packers offense and will still call the plays, but bringing back Philbin gives him a trusted lieutenant who is well-liked and respected around the organization. Bennett, who turned down the position of wide receivers coach after Luke Getsy left to become the offensive coordinator at Mississippi State, is gone, as is quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, who let his contract expire. With all the coaching turnover, having Philbin back lends some stability to the staff.
Brian Gutekunst named GM
When: Jan. 8
Why: Hiring Gutekunst extended esteemed former GM Ron Wolf's scouting-tree lineage in Green Bay and ensures the Packers retain an experienced personnel man with a background in football evaluation, as they look to quickly retool their roster. Gutekunst, 44, was hired by Wolf as a scout in 1998 and has been promoted multiple times, spending the last two seasons as director of player personnel. He replaced Ted Thompson, who transitioned to an advisory role.
What it means: Gutekunst will have full control over the roster, and at his introductory press conference said he will utilize every avenue available for roster-building, indicating more of an inclination toward free agency than his predecessor had. The Packers chose Gutekunst over in-house candidates Russ Ball and Eliot Wolf, the latter of whom felt spurned and followed fellow former Packers executive Alonzo Highsmith to Cleveland for a personnel job under GM John Dorsey.
Russ Ball promoted to VP
When: Jan. 8
Why: Ball was considered by some as the favorite for the GM job because of his closeness with Ted Thompson. But in making Ball the executive vice president/director of football operations instead, the Packers were able to double down on his non-scouting skills and better divide the responsibilities of the front office. Since joining Green Bay in 2008, Ball has worked in the role of the vice president of football administration/player finance, though in recent years he committed to watching videotape with Thompson and learning more about talent evaluation to improve as a GM candidate.
What it means: As he did in his previous role, Ball will continue to manage the Packers' salary cap and serve as the chief contract negotiator, while also overseeing several areas in football operations. By promoting Brian Gutekunst and Ball to replace Thompson, the Packers effectively keep two executives who have worked closely together for nearly a decade in their own lanes while not overextending either with many new and unfamiliar duties. They've got a football scout as their general manager, as they've had since 1991, and they've got a finance guy in charge of administration. Both Gutekunst and Ball, along with Mike McCarthy, will report to team president Mark Murphy.
Mike Pettine hired as DC
When: Jan. 10
Why: After interviewing multiple internal candidates (assistants Winston Moss, Darren Perry and Joe Whitt) for the job and losing out on a few external options, Mike McCarthy hired the former Browns head coach to be his defensive coordinator. The 51-year-old Pettine, who went 10-22 in two seasons as Cleveland's coach, was a well-regarded defensive coordinator for the Jets (2009-12) and Bills (2013) under Rex Ryan. His New York defenses ranked first, third, fifth and eighth, and his unit in Buffalo was 10th.
What it means: Pettine's 3-4 defense is similar to Dom Capers', with its press man cornerbacks and lots of different blitzes, which should provide some continuity to a unit that struggled the past two seasons. Pettine's scheme is considered relatively complicated and requires defenders who are smart and versatile, so expect Brian Gutekunst to sign some veteran free agents, rather than relying solely on rookies and young players, to bolster the defense.
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