The new league year is underway in the NFL. The Packers' 2018 season did not meet expectations for both the fans and the organization. A third-place finish in the NFC North is not the norm in the Aaron Rodgers era. The Packers fired head coach Mike McCarthy during the season. Recently hired head coach Matt Lafleur is now in command in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He and General Manager Brian Gutekunst are already making changes for the team, signing free agents this offseason to bolster their defense. The Packers are moving forward and 2019 is off to a good start. With the NFL Draft around the corner, the Packers are primed to build a contender.
The Packers signed Za'Darius Smith to a four-year $66 million deal. Last year, the 26-year-old led the Ravens in sacks with eight and a half sacks in 2018. A young pass rusher makes Green Bay look serious on defense. There is no shortage of talented quarterbacks in the NFC, from Drew Brees to Cam Newton. It has been years since the Packers had a formidable pass rush.
The Packers also signed Preston Smith from Washington. two young outside linebackers are just what the Packers needed. Gutekunst did what the previous regime refused to do. He addressed the team's defensive needs through free agency. The two Smiths can create a pass rush that has been all but absent in Green Bay.
The Packers have released Nick Perry after seven seasons with the team. Perry never lived up to his first-round draft pick status. Clay Matthews is also expected to leave town after 10 years in Green Bay. Matthews leads the franchise in all-time sacks. He may be missed, but it is time for the Packers to bring in some fresh blood. This free agency period feels different with the addition of two young outside linebackers. Matthews and Perry make way for Smith and Smith in 2019.
Former Chicago Bear, Adrian Amos has also signed a contract with the Packers. The Packers traded safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix during 2018. The lack of safety hurt them throughout the rest of the season. The addition of Amos makes the secondary much stronger than it was when the offseason began. The signing also weakens the Bears defense, which was 3rd overall in the league in 2018. It never hurts to weaken a division rival, especially Chicago.
These free agent signings would not have happened under former GM Ted Thompson. Gutekunst and Lafleur just showed they are serious about winning in Green Bay. A new look defense is a great start for 2019. The Packers also have 10 draft picks this year. They are in a unique position to make headlines this offseason. Amos, Smith, and Smith are excellent signings and each of them strengthens a defense that has struggled for years. A strong pass rush and secondary are essential in a passing league. A strong draft class for the Packers in 2019 is next on the to-do list.