From here, it looks like an upgrade.
But it’s still hard not to think they would have been better off paying the extra few million dollars to sign Sammy Watkins or Allen Robinson at receiver, and bringing in a starting tight end cheaper than Graham.
But both offered youth – each turns 25 this summer – and big-play ability. Watkins has the speed to stretch defenses, a career average of 15.9 yards per catch and 25 touchdown receptions despite playing with mostly subpar quarterbacks. Robinson had 14 touchdowns and a 17.5-yard average two years ago.
Lining up one of those two across from Davante Adams had the potential to keep defensive coordinators in the league up late at night.
Or maybe Gutekunst chose Graham at the $10 million he saved by cutting Nelson because he needed cap space for the offer sheet he presented Friday to cornerback Kyle Fuller, who had the Bears’ transition tag. But if that’s the case, the GM was saving the money for a Hail Mary, considering the Bears had far more cap room than the Packers. It predictably failed.
The Bears quickly matched so the Packers’ work was for naught. All they did was negotiate the contract for Chicago, and really they’re lucky the Bears didn’t keep them in limbo for the allowed five days. The Packers still have a couple of big holes at their top three cornerback spots, and not much left in free agency to pick over.
Gutekunst’s first week of free agency ends with Graham signed and Nelson cut on offense, and Muhammad Wilkerson added to the Packers’ defense.
Wilkerson, 28, was a bargain at $5 million plus incentives. Though he flamed out after signing a big contract with the New York Jets two years ago, he was talented enough to get 10 sacks in 2013 and 12 sacks in ’15. If he rekindles his fire, he, Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark could give the Packers one of the best rotations of inside rushers in the NFL.