Despite in-flux roster, Brian Gutekunst, Packers feel ‘really feel good about where we are’
GREEN BAY — Eight wide receivers. Four tight ends. Three quarterbacks. Zero fullbacks. Only two running backs. Only four outside linebackers.
Brian Gutekunst’s first 53-man roster doesn’t break down the way he likely envisioned it when he took over as the Green Bay Packers’ general manager in January — or like any other roster put together during those 100 seasons the organization is celebrating this year.
But, Gutekunst insisted Sunday afternoon, it is a merit-based crew, made up of players who earned their keep — regardless of position — this summer. That said, Gutekunst acknowledged the roster could change between now and his team’s regular-season opener against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field next Sunday night.
“That’s the thing about our roster right now — nothing’s set in stone. It’s still fluid, and it will be all season,” Gutekunst said one day after releasing 32 players, waiving/injured three others and shifting running back Aaron Jones to the reserve/suspended list to get down to the NFL-mandated 53-player limit. “That’s just kind of the way it is in the NFL.
“(We feel) really feel good about where we are right now and where we’re heading. I look forward to the regular season.”
That may be true, but you don’t often see eight wide receivers (veterans Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison; returner Trevor Davis; rookie draft picks J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown; and UW-Whitewater alum Jake Kumerow) on a roster, or only two running backs (Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery) a week before the first game that counts in the standings.
“It’s a puzzle,” said Gutekunst, who brought back eight of the players he released as members of the practice squad Sunday. “There’s 53 (players) you can keep on the active roster and then you can keep (10) on the practice squad. That’s a little bit more the way we look at it. And as we were going through, we were just trying to keep the best 53 that would be available for this week’s game.
“Again, it’s a fluid situation that changes day by day.”
The most mystifying position is running back, where the Packers waived Joel Bouagnon, LeShun Daniels and Bronson Hill and waived/injured Devante Mays, a 2017 seventh-round pick who re-injured his hamstring in the preseason finale at Kansas City last Thursday night after missing nearly all of camp. Also cut were fullbacks Aaron Ripkowski and Joe Kerridge.
Bouagnon and Kerridge were re-signed to the practice squad Sunday, but as of now, it’s only Williams and the oft-injured Montgomery on the roster. The Packers have known about Jones’ two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy for months, but none of the young backs in camp were deemed worthy of an initial roster spot.
“That’s maybe still in the works a little bit, but the two that we kept, we like,” Gutekunst said. “Aaron going on suspension, that’s not a great thing for us. That kind of put us in that spot. But that may be a little bit of an evolving position for us, as well.”
Gutekunst also intimated the Packers put in a handful of waiver claims but were not awarded any players. After their 7-9 finish a year ago, the Packers were 14th in waiver claim priority.
“Sometimes it’s tough when you’re in the middle of the pack to the back of the pack, but we were active in it,” Gutekunst said. “It just didn’t turn out that way.”
Curiously, after saying prior to cuts that he felt he had more than 53 players deserving of roster spots, none of the players Gutekunst released were claimed by other teams, though a handful landed on practice squads around the league, including ex-University of Wisconsin outside linebacker Vince Biegel, who ended up with the New Orleans Saints.
The Packers reportedly were fielding trade offers for Davis, and if they want to add a running back before next Sunday’s game, they’ll have to make room on the roster to do so. For now, though, Gutekunst said he has no problem with having eight receivers on the roster — believed to be the most the team has ever kept coming out of camp.
“I thought we had a really competitive receiver room this year. I think everybody had a chance to make plays, and for the most part, they did,” Gutekunst said. “I think it’s a really good room and we’re expecting them to help us. But it was really just a matter of quality.”