For the first time in over a decade, the Green Bay Packers are not the favorite to win the NFC North, nor the Vikings’ chief rival for the division title. It’s also the first time in over two decades that a future Hall of Fame quarterback won’t lead the Packers. But this off-season isn’t only about the departure of Aaron Rodgers for the Packers, there are other changes as well- most of them not for the better.
Green Bay Packers
After three consecutive 13-win seasons and three NFC North division titles since Matt LaFluer became head coach of the Packers- and back-to-back MVP season by Aaron Rodgers- the Packers went out with a wimper last season- Aaron Rodgers’ last in Green Bay. They finished 8-9, narrowly missing the post-season and underperforming expectations.
The Packers went from at or near top-ten rankings on both offense and defense in 2021 but took a step backward to league average in both last season. Losing ED Rashan Gary for the last half of the season didn’t help defensively, while the loss of Davante Adams was a major blow to the Packers offense. Aaron Rodgers was also showing his age.
2023 Roster Changes
Clearly the move from Aaron Rodgers to Jordan Love is going to have an impact on the Packers offense this season. Expectations for Love don’t appear to be very high. The Packers front office had to make a decision on Love’s 5th-year option. They opted for a one-year extension rather than exercise the $20.272 million option. The one-year extension provides $13.5 million guaranteed, with incentives that could reach a maximum of $22.5 million. It also includes three void years. The nature of the extension- a prove-it deal that could easily be a bridge to a new quarterback- suggests a lukewarm view of Love by the Packers’ brass. The fact that the Packers were able to get a 2024 second-round pick that could turn into a first-round pick if Rodgers plays 65% of the snaps this season for the Jets, also suggests the Packers are wanting to maximize draft capital available next season- most likely to draft a quarterback. Love didn’t choose to bet on himself by declining the deal either.
Be that as it may, over the last two seasons the Packers have moved on from all the starting veteran receivers- including tight ends- on their roster. They’ll be rolling with second-year men WR Christian Watson and WR Romeo Doubs, and rookies WR Jayden Reed, TE Luke Musgrave and TE Tucker Kraft. The latter three were second- and third-round picks. Overall, it’s as clean a slate for a passing offense as you’re likely to see on any NFL team for the Packers this season. They do return top RB Aaron Jones, and All-Pro LT David Bakhtiari, who presumably will be healthy to start the season for the first time since 2020. He’s missed at least six games in each of the last three seasons. Elgdon Jenkins should also be healthy to start the season- most likely at left guard.
Overall, however, the Packers offensive line has slowly declined over the years as they’ve been forced to move on from good players they couldn’t afford to extend. It’s still better than most in pass protection, but not as good as it once was.
Defensively, the only impact player they added was first-round pick Lukas Van Ness, who’ll likely rotate as an edge rusher with Preston Smith and Rashan Gary.
The Packers did next to nothing in free agency acquisitions this off-season, as the Aaron Rodgers trade impacted their salary cap ($40 million dead cap hit) and they were forced to restructure a handful of contracts- converting base salaries and roster bonuses to signing bonuses and adding void years to push more cap hit to future years.
And besides the losses to the receiving corps, the Packers also moved on from S Adrian Amos, DT Dean Lowry (who signed with the Vikings), DT Jaren Reed, and K Mason Crosby, adding Daniel Carlson’s brother Anders as their new kicker.
Overall, the losses significantly outweigh the gains on the Packers’ roster this off-season.
Above is the Packers’ projected roster according to PFF. Again these aren’t always 100% correct, but usually pretty close. I’d expect Elgdon Jenkins at left guard, but otherwise it looks about right- at least for now. There are a lot of question marks offensively for the Packers, and after last season a few more defensively too.
Scheme and Coaching Changes
One other notable loss for the Packers is defensive backs coach Jerry Gray. As you may remember, Gray was the Vikings defensive backs coach when Mike Zimmer was first hired, and remained so for five seasons after which he left to join the Packers following the 2019 season. The Vikings were transitioning at defensive back in 2020, which accounted for some of the decline after Gray left, but they’ve struggled ever since developing defensive backs. After Gray arrived in Green Bay, Jaire Alexander and Adrian Amos jumped in PFF grade. A year later the Packers acquired Rasul Douglas and got career years out of him when he’d not been good at previous stops, while Eric Stokes had a good rookie year. Some of those players have declined or are no longer on the team, but the loss of Gray could bring a further decline in the Packers defensive secondary- which has been a strength in previous years.
The Packers are otherwise maintaining both coordinators so I don’t expect big changes in scheme, at least defensively.
Offensively, the change from Rodgers to Love at quarterback could bring a more structured offense, which Matt LaFluer used prior to Green Bay but didn’t fit with Rodgers under center. That could result in more play-action and under-center snaps compared to shotgun, and less improvisation. The Packers will also lose Rodgers’ ability as a field general, which is a significant, if intangible, loss as he may have been the best in that role of any quarterback.
The Packers had the 6th fewest injuries as measured by Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost (AGL) measure last season, down from 17th the previous year. That ranking is unlikely to be sustained for a second season with regression to the mean.
The Packers were near the middle of the pack in both turnovers and takeaways last season, so I don’t expect big changes due to an outlier from last season in that category.
And in other luck factors, the Packers were mildly lucky last season, with an estimated +0.17 impact on their win total- so not much of an outlier there either.
Strength of Schedule
The Packers had the 15th easiest schedule last season and are forecast to have the 14th easiest schedule this season, based on projected wins for teams on their schedule. That’s not a big difference and I doubt that will have much of an impact compared to last season.
There is no doubt the Packers roster suffered a significant blow with the loss of Aaron Rodgers, even an Aaron Rodgers that was clearly past his prime last season. But the loss of Rodgers comes on top of the loss of Davante Adams the previous year, and basically the rest of their veteran receivers from two years ago, so the Packers will have a very green offense- at least at the skill positions- this season.
Defensively there is little impactful change to the roster, although the loss of defensive backs Jerry Gray could have a bit of an impact. But looking at all the changes and estimating their impact on the Packers win total this season compared to last, I break it down as follows:
- Roster changes: net negative (-3)
- Scheme and coaching changes: net negative (-0.5)
- Regression to the mean in AGLs: net negative (-0.5)
- Regression to the mean in turnovers: neutral (+0)
- Regression to the mean in other luck factors: neutral (+0)
- Strength of schedule: neutral (+0)
Given the Packers 8-9 record last season and factoring in a net loss of four games due to the changes from last season, that projects to a 4-13 record for the Packers this season. This is well below the over/under number for the Packers of 7.5 wins, but it’s pretty difficult to see how all the roster changes will amount to only one or no fewer wins this season compared to last season for the Packers.
4-13 may not be such a bad thing for Packers fans, as it would set them up well to draft one of the top QBs in next year’s draft.
How many wins will the Green Bay Packers have this season?
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10 or more
4 or fewer