For the second time in three years, the Packers used two first-round picks to bolster their defense. Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt will join 2019 first-rounders Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage. The Georgia products are in line to join the 2019 draftees for multiple seasons.
The Packers are picking up the fifth-year options on Gary and Savage, per ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler and Rob Demovsky (Twitter links). Despite Gary qualifying for a lower-tier option on the new four-tier hierarchy, his 2023 price tag comes in much higher than Savage’s due to positional value. The former Michigan pass rusher will be tied to a $10.89MM salary next year. A three-year Packers starter eligible for the Tier 3 option price, Savage is now attached to a $7.9MM 2023 salary.
Gary’s increased 2021 playing time did not lead to his option cost climbing, due to the 2019 and ’20 seasons he spent largely as a backup behind Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. The Packers broke up their edge-rushing Smith tandem this offseason, cutting Za’Darius to leave Gary a clear path to a starting role. The 2019 No. 12 overall pick impressed in his first extended run as a starter, registering 9.5 sacks and 28 QB hits. During a season in which Za’Darius Smith missed 16 games, Gary became a key part of Green Bay’s defensive future.
Green Bay traded out of the 2018 first round, allowing New Orleans to select Marcus Davenport. This gave the Packers a 2019 first, which became Savage after the Packers traded up to No. 21 with the Seahawks. Savage became a Day 1 starter in Green Bay. He has started all 46 games he’s played — including 17 last season — to help the Packers to three consecutive playoff byes. While Pro Football Focus viewed Savage’s 2021 as a step back from his 2020 showing, the Maryland alum’s lower option price allowed for a sensible pickup.