Packers’ 2024 Free Agents, Targets and Draft Needs After NFL Playoff Loss

Packers’ 2024 Free Agents, Targets and Draft Needs After NFL Playoff Loss

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    Packers head coach Matt LaFleur

    Packers head coach Matt LaFleurJohn Fisher/Getty Images

    From the outside, the Green Bay Packers didn’t carry the highest expectations into the 2023 season. Green Bay had the youngest roster in the league and was coming off an eight-win season with future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.

    With Rodgers traded to the New York Jets in the offseason, this season was largely viewed as an evaluation exercise for quarterback Jordan Love.

    However, Love was playing like one of the best signal-callers in the league by the end of the season, Green Bay’s young receiving corps finally gelled, and the Packers got enough timely defense to become a factor in the NFC playoff race.

    With a Week 18 win over the Chicago Bears, the Packers clinched a winning record and a wild-card berth. With a decisive wild-card win over the Dallas Cowboys, they established themselves as a postseason threat.

    Now that Green Bay’s surprising run has ended with a 24-21 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional round, head coach Matt LaFleur and general manager Brian Gutekunst must focus on building on the team’s 2023 success. Here’s an early look at what’s ahead for the Packers in the 2024 offseason.

Free Agents

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    Packers G Jon Runyan

    Packers G Jon RunyanStacy Revere/Getty Images

    Unrestricted Free Agents

    TE Tyler Davis

    TE Josiah Deguara

    RB A.J. Dillon

    S Johnathan Ford

    OT Yosh Nijman

    CB Kelsean Nixon

    S Jonathan Owens

    G Jon Runyan

    S Darnell Savage

    S Christian Uphoff

    LB Eric Wilson

    Restricted/Exclusive-Rights Free Agents

    S Zayne Anderson

    OT Caleb Jones

    WR Bo Melton

    S Benny Rapp III

    CB Robert Rochell

    RB Patrick Taylor

    P Daniel Whelan

    The Packers only have a handful of key contributors slated to hit the open market. Guard Jon Runyan, who has started all but one game over the last three seasons, is perhaps the most important.

    Safety Jonathan Owens has also spent more time in the starting lineup than not over the past two years. Both he, Runyan and starting safety Darnell Savage should be heavily prioritized this offseason, but with such a young roster—and most players under contract—Green Bay shouldn’t struggle to keep its core together.

    Punter Daniel Whelan will be an exclusive rights free agent and should return. Running back AJ Dillon has been a serviceable No. 2 behind Aaron Jones but probably won’t be a free-agent priority.

    The bigger unknown is how many veteran cuts the Packers will make before the start of the new league year. Green Bay is projected to have just $8.4 million in cap space, and it does have a few potential cap casualties to monitor.

    The most obvious is offensive tackle David Bakhtiari. Knee issues have limited him to only 13 games over the past three seasons, and he’s set to carry a massive $40 million cap hit. Releasing Bakhtiari would create $21 million in cap space.

    Expect Gutekunst to release or restructure the contract of a few veterans in order to generate salary and continue building the team’s young foundation.

Potential Free-Agent/Trade Targets

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    Browns LB Anthony Walker Jr.

    Browns LB Anthony Walker Jr. Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

    Gutekunst hasn’t made a habit of chasing bit-name players in free agency, so we can expect the Packers to be more active in the second and third waves. Continuing to build depth in the defensive front seven should be a priority, as Green Bay’s run defense remains a weakness.

    The Packers finished the regular season ranked 28th in rushing yards allowed and 23rd in yards per carry allowed.

    Were the Packers to get aggressive, players like defensive tackle DaQuan Jones and linebacker Patrick Queen would become ideal free-agent targets. However, potential bargain free agents like defensive lineman Dorance Armstrong and linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. are far more realistic.

    Safeties like Jeremy Chinn and Jordan Whitehead could land on Green Bay’s radar, depending on what happens with Savage and Owens. With Bakhtiari likely out, Green Bay may also seek tackle help.

    Rasheed Walker was serviceable this past season but far from elite. He was responsible for nine penalties and six sacks allowed, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Unfortunately, the 2024 tackle market is largely underwhelming.

    The Packers aren’t strong candidates for a blockbuster trade, though if a top-tier player becomes available, Gutekunst might consider it. A player on an expiring contract, like cornerback Jonathan Jones or wide receiver Mike Williams, could heavily interest the Packers.

    Green Bay has done a tremendous job of building receiver depth over the past two offseasons, but it still lacks a true No. 1 receiver. The Packers probably trust the guys they have to develop, but adding a receiver shouldn’t be ruled out.

    The Packers want to see Love replicate the success he had over the second half of the 2023 season. Expect every avenue toward achieving that to be explored.

Draft Targets

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    Notre Dame OT Joe Alt

    Notre Dame OT Joe AltBrandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images

    Because of Bakhtiari’s uncertain situation, offensive tackle is a logical position for Green Bay to target on opening night.

    It wouldn’t be a shock to see the Packers get aggressive and trade up for a top tackle prospect like Notre Dame’s Joe Alt.

    “While he isn’t the most powerful blocker and will concede some initial ground in his anchor, Alt has virtually every other tool and skill to become an immediate impact starter at left tackle with the runway to continue ascending and cement his status as a foundational piece of a roster,” Brandon Thorn of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.

    Again, protecting and supporting Love should now be at the top of Green Bay’s priority list. However, that doesn’t mean that Green Bay will finally add a pass-catcher in Round 1 if a tackle isn’t available.

    The 2024 class is expected to be very deep at the receiver position, so if Green Bay does add to its young receiver room, it will probably happen on Day 2 at the earliest.

    While the Packers just added pass-rusher Lukas Van Ness in the first round last year, this is another position that could be targeted in the first round. Pass-rusher Preston Smith is under contract through 2026 but is 31 and another potential cap casualty.

    Releasing Smith with a post-June 1 designation would save $12.4 million in cap space.

    If the Packers can’t find a tackle in the first round, edge-defenders like Utah’s Jonah Elliss and Washington’s Bralen Trice should be on their radar.

    A safety like Miami’s Kamren Kinchens could also enter the mix.

    With Dillon entering free agency and Jones entering the final year of his contract, running backs like Florida State’s Trey Benson and Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen should also be considered.

    The Packers are currently set to have eight draft selections, including two in the second round and two in the third round—via the Rodgers and Rasul Douglas trades.

    *Cap, contract and free-agent status information via Spotrac. Draft order information via Tankathon.

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