Brian Gutekunst

Packers To Prioritize Tight End In Free Agency?

Packers new general manager Brian Gutekunst has many routes he could potentially take in his first offseason at the helm. Making a splash at tight end in free agency is one of the possibilities according to USA Today’s Pete Dougherty"<strong

Going after a big name at tight end isn’t unfamiliar territory for the Packers, who swung and miss on their signing of Martellus Bennett in 2017. The team had some success with Jared Cook in recent years, but have lacked a consistent, big-bodied pass catcher at the position for years.

One name that Dougherty thinks should be on the team’s radar is Jimmy Graham, who is unlikely to return to the Seahawks in 2018. The veteran tight end secured his fifth Pro Bowl selection after tallying 57 receptions and 10 touchdowns in 2017.

Adding Graham to a receiver corps that includes Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb would give the team arguably the best pass-catching group in the NFL. Throw in the fact they would also have Aaron Rodgers slinging them the ball and Green Bay’s offense could be a matchup nightmare for defenses.

Graham was the NFL’s top-paid tight end the last four years with average annual salary valued at $10MM. He will almost assuredly not command that type of money after four underwhelming seasons in Seattle by Graham’s standards. A return to a pass-happy attack, however, could see the former Saints great reemerge as an elite option at the position.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Vikings, Cards, Packers, 49ers

For the first time all season, the Vikings will have all three of their quarterbacks healthy when they host New Orleans on Sunday. Even with the return of Sam Bradford and the health of Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum “is the guy” reports Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.

This should come as no surprise, as Keenum has been among the league’s top signal-callers since taking over for Bradford early in the season. The question, however, will be if the team wants to have all three suit up on Sunday. Florio’s sources say that won’t be determined until right before kickoff. Florio thinks untimely concussion evaluations could play into the decision.

Regardless of the decision, Keenum will have as long a leash as possible as the starter. The sixth-year quarterback enjoyed a breakout campaign, throwing for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns while posting a stellar 98.3 passer rating. It is unknown at this time if Bradford will leapfrog Bridgewater for the backup role.

Here is more from around the NFC:

  • Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is the perfect candidate for the Cardinals head-coaching vacancy, AZ Central’s Dan Bickley writes. Bickley notes Shurmur’s ability to get the most out of his quarterback as the underlying factor. He also thinks the hiring of Shurmur would ensure the return of Larry Fitzgerald. The hiring, however, would go in opposition to former head coach Bruce Arians’ wishes that defensive coordinator James Bettcher get the job.
  • Packers head coach Mike McCarthy reportedly met with team president and CEO Mark Murphy and expressed concerns Russ Ball wouldn’t be aggressive in free agency, USA Today’s Pete Dougherty reports. The meeting in theory caused Murphy to not promote Ball to general manager after Ted Thompson left the spot. Dougherty has doubts that the meeting had any impact on the situation. He also laid out another theory that Murphy preferred Brian Gutekunst all along for the job.
  • There is confidence on both sides that the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo will strike a deal, NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco writes. If the sides don’t reach an agreement, it’s almost a guarantee that the quarterback will be franchised. After leading the Niners to wins in each of his first five starts, Jimmy G is a safe bet to be the QB in San Francisco for a long time.

Packers Rumors: Wolf, Gutekunst, FA

An offer for a prominent Packers job is on the table for Eliot Wolf, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (on Twitter), but it’s uncertain he accepts it at this point. Before the sides can progress on a deal, the 35-year-old exec must determine if he wants to stay in Green Bay. Wolf was bypassed for this job after withdrawing his name from consideration for the 49ers’ GM position last year, and the Browns are expected to pursue him. Wolf worked with John Dorsey for several years before Dorsey became the Chiefs’ GM in 2013. New Green Bay GM Brian Gutekunst said Monday (via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com) he wants Wolf to remain on staff but acknowledged executive has other opportunities.

Here’s more from Green Bay and the latest from the North divisions.

  • What could change for the Packers is their offseason approach. The Ted Thompson years involved scant free agency participation, but Gutekunst looks to have a more modern approach to player procurement. Gutekunst said the Packers will be active in free agency, at least participating in bidding for players they covet, and (via Silverstein, on Twitter) the new GM said this announcement excited the Packers’ staff. “We’re not going to leave any stone unturned in every avenue of player acquisition,” Gutekunst said, via Wes Hodkiewicz of Packers.com (Twitter link). “… Our foundation is going to be the draft, but [free agency] is an absolute must as an accessory piece. We’re not going to be able to sign every player, [but] we want to be in the know of everything that’s going on. We have to be prepared to pull the trigger.”
  • Gutekunst may not be making a change at head coach anytime soon. Signed last week to an extension that runs through 2019, Mike McCarthy doesn’t look to have lost any support as a result of this front office change. “We have a great relationship,” Gutekunst said today. “I have a ton of respect for him as a football coach and as a man.”
  • Team president Mark Murphy said (via Demovsky), however, if a decision is made to ultimately fire McCarthy, he will make it and be responsible for hiring his successor. Other than that, Murphy said he will not meddle in football decisions. Silverstein notes (via Twitter) the previous arrangement involved all football parties answering to Thompson whereas this one could leave some uncertainty with Gutekunst, McCarthy and Russ Ball each reporting to Murphy. Ball has been given a title bump and now has a more direct line to Murphy.
  • McCarthy’s comments last week about the next GM being a “good fit” may have been a shot at Thompson’s free agency-phobic tendencies, Silverstein writes, adding they also may have induced the Packers to contact the Seahawks about a John Schneider interview. While Seattle blocked that move, Silverstein notes McCarthy’s comments may have prompted Murphy to hire Gutekunst in order to see the team take a more proactive approach to stocking the roster in free agency. Silverstein writes Ball was expected to approach free agency like Thompson, his mentor, so this decision could be interpreted as McCarthy getting his way. While Gutekunst worked under Thompson throughout the latter’s tenure, Silverstein writes that other execs who received opportunities elsewhere — Schneider, Dorsey and Reggie McKenzie — were not shy about signing free agents.

Russ Ball To Remain With Packers

The Packers promoted Brian Gutekunst to GM and continued their in-house approach to football operations, but this will result in a change in how their front office is structured.

Without Ted Thompson in the fold, Gutekunst won’t be the only person reporting directly to team president Mark Murphy. Fellow GM candidate Russ Ball will be staying with the Packers and will now join Gutekunst and Mike McCarthy in reporting directly to Murphy, Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report reports (on Twitter).

Ball will also receive a new title and a raise, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports. The 10-year Packers exec is now the franchise’s executive vice president/director of football operations, although Demovsky adds the cap guru’s duties will remain largely the same — negotiating contracts, being in charge of the cap and overseeing other departments.

Fellow GM candidate Eliot Wolf not being mentioned in this troika that now reports to Murphy could signal his imminent exit from Green Bay. The sought-after GM interviewee figures to have opportunities elsewhere, with reported interest coming from the John Dorsey-led Browns, if he so chooses.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers To Hire Brian Gutekunst As GM

The Packers are promoting their director of player personnel, Brian Gutekunst, to general manager, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that it will be a five-year deal for Gutekunst.

Brian Gutekunst (vertical)

Gutekunst is highly respected in scouting circles, and Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com writes that Gutekunst is the most well-rounded scout in Green Bay’s personnel department. Demovsky adds that Gutekunst dazzled Packers’ brass in his recent interview with the club.

Green Bay elected to hire Gutekunst, who has a strong personnel background, as opposed to fellow internal candidate Russ Ball, who is more of a salary cap guru (despite the fact that Ball was seen as the frontrunner throughout much of this process). In addition to Ball, the team also interviewed director of football operations Eliot Wolf, who for years was seen as the heir apparent to longtime GM Ted Thompson. Thompson, of course, stepped down to a different role within the organization at the beginning of the month, thereby triggering the team’s search for a replacement. It will be interesting to see what will become of Wolf and Ball now.

The Packers also expressed interest in Vikings assistant GM George Paton — though Minnesota denied Green Bay’s request to interview Paton — Seahawks GM John Schneider, and Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta. But in Gutekunst, they get an executive who was been with the club for 19 years — he started his Packers tenure as a collegiate scout — and who appears ready for his chance to run a franchise. Indeed, he had an excellent interview with the 49ers last offseason and nearly became San Francisco’s GM.

As Ed Werder tweets, an internal hiring like this one may be good news for Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, whose long-term future with the team could be bolstered with Gutekunst’s promotion.

Gutekunst was scheduled to interview with the Texans for Houston’s GM job today. Per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter), Gutekunst did travel to Houston yesterday and had dinner with Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, but Green Bay never gave him the chance to interview with with the Texans.

The Texans, meanwhile, are likely to hire Bills VP of player personnel Brian Gaine as their next GM, according to multiple sources.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans To Interview Packers’ Brian Gutekunst

Brian Gutekunst interviewed about the Packers’ sudden GM vacancy earlier this week, and he’ll make a trip outside of Green Bay to meet about another opening soon.

The Texans will interview Gutekunst on Sunday in Houston, Mark Berman of Fox 26 tweets.

Houston has already scheduled an interview with Bills exec Brian Gaine, who is viewed as the early favorite, but Gutekunst — currently the Packers’ player personnel director — has been a popular target over the past two offseasons. He was also mentioned as a Texans candidate once Rick Smith’s leave of absence opened this position to outsiders.

Gutekunst may also be fighting an uphill battle in Green Bay, with Russ Ball viewed by some as the favorite to succeed Ted Thompson. This occurring could certainly prompt Gutekunst to look elsewhere for a job, and the Texans are going to evaluate him this weekend.

The Packers exec interviewed with the 49ers and Bills last year for their GM openings. He withdrew from consideration for the San Francisco job.

Packers Interview Russ Ball, Brian Gutekunst

With Ted Thompson out as general manager in Green Bay, the team has finished interviewing internal candidates regarding the vacant position. After the the Packers spoke with director of football operations Eliot Wolf yesterday, they just finished up talking to VP of football administration Russ Ball and director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst this afternoon, according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). Breer adds that the Packers will speak with their first external candidate for the position in former Bills GM Doug Whaley tomorrow.

Russ Ball (Vertical)

This is the first time that Green Bay is looking for a new leader of the team’s football operations in 13 years. There’s been a recent report that Ball is the favorite to become the next general manager for the Packers. However, there’s been speculation that should the job go to Ball, Wolf and Gutekunst would head to different teams. Although, should one of the two get the job the other would stay in the front office.

While Whaley is the lone person from outside the organization that ownership is scheduled to meet with at the moment, the Packers did get rejected from interviewing Vikings executive George Paton and still have their eye on scheduling a meeting with long time Ravens front office member Eric Decosta. However, Decosta seems like a longshot considering his willingness to stay as the “general manager in waiting” behind Ozzie Newsome.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Want To Interview Ravens’ Eric DeCosta

The Packers are seeking to interview Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta, according to Mike Florio of PFT. It’s not immediately clear whether a formal request has been submitted. If the Packers have in fact asked for a meeting, it’s not Ravens or DeCosta himself have consented. Joe Hortiz/Jon Harbaugh/Matt Elam/Ozzie Newsome/Eric DeCosta (Featured)

[RELATED: Packers Request Interview With George Paton, Vikings Say No]

In the past, DeCosta has turned down potential opportunities to become a GM elsewhere. He has been in the Ravens organization for more than 20 years and is widely viewed as the heir apparent to GM Ozzie Newsome.

For now, there are three known candidates for the Packers job, and they’re all in-house. Director of football operations Eliot Wolf interviewed on Thursday, Director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst has his interview today (per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, on Twitter), and VP of football administration Russ Ball should follow shortly thereafter. The Packers asked to interview Vikings exec George Paton, but the request was denied by their NFC North rivals.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Hope To Hire GM Next Week

The Packers are expected to start their GM interviews on Thursday with an eye on making a hire next week, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). They’ll likely start by interviewing their trio of internal candidates: Russ Ball, Eliot Wolf, and Brian GutekunstEliot Wolf

Ball, the team’s vice president of football administration, is said to have a strong rapport with Packers president Mark Murphy. Promoting him to the GM post would likely lead Wolf and Gutekunst to go elsewhere, but if either Wolf or Gutekunst gets the job, the other exec will likely stay in Green Bay. That could weigh heavily on the decision made by Packers president Mark Murphy, who will be working with search firm Korn Ferry to make the determination.

Wolf and Gutekunst have been in the running for GM jobs in each of the last few offseasons. If they decide to leave the nest, it would not be surprising to see both men running teams in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Notes: GM Search, Ball, Wolf, Evans

Now that the Packers have reassigned former general manager Ted Thompson (he’s now a senior advisor to football operations, the club announced today), Green Bay is searching for a new decision-maker atop its personnel department. Incumbent vice president of football administration Russ Ball is thought to be a candidate for the position and has a “close relationship” with Packers president Mark Murphy, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, but promoting Ball could cause other problems for Green Bay. If Ball (or an external candidate is hired), the Packers will likely lose fellow personnel men Eliot Wolf and Brian Gutekunst to other clubs, reports Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. However, if one of Wolf or Gutenkunst is promoted to GM, the other man will likely stay in Green Bay, per Silverstein.

Here’s more on the Packers:

  • While the Packers will utilize search firm Korn Ferry as they look for a new general manager, Murphy told reporters that he will make the final call on the club’s top personnel job (Twitter links via Jason Wilde of ESPN.com). Additionally, Green Bay’s next GM will have the power to fire the team’s head coach, an interesting development given that Mike McCarthy is currently signed through 2019. Murphy said “[McCarthy] will be our coach,” an indication that the new Packers general manager will be stuck with McCarthy for at least one campaign.
  • Green Bay’s decision to extend McCarthy’s contract will allow the longtime head coach more flexibility as he seeks to fill out his staff, writes Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. The most pressing decision for McCarthy will be to hire a new defensive coordinator following Dom Capers‘ firing, but the Packers will also see change on the offensive side of the ball. Luke Getsy, who’s served as Green Bay’s wide receivers coach for the past two seasons, is now Mississippi State’s offensive coordinator, per Demovsky.
  • The Packers have interest in re-signing veteran guard Jahri Evans, who will become a free agent in March, per Ryan Wood of PackersNews.com (Twitter link). Evans would likely need to accept less than the $2.25MM he earned in 2017, per Wood, and the 34-year-old offensive lineman would almost certainly ink a one-year pact. In his first season outside of New Orleans, Evans ranked as the No. 30 guard among 82 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.