5 things learned at the 2022 NFL Annual Meetings - Day 1

Packers’ vacancy in the slot creates added possibilities for Jaire Alexander

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CB Jaire Alexander

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst addressed the Green Bay media from the 2022 NFL Annual Meeting at the Breakers Palm Beach Monday afternoon.

Here are five things we learned from Gutekunst's media session:

1. The Packers want to use Jaire Alexander's ability to 'do everything' to the defense's advantage.

Green Bay has ample talent and flexibility at cornerback after re-signing Rasul Douglas earlier this month, but Chandon Sullivan's departure in free agency does create some questions about which defensive back will man the slot in sub-packages.

The Packers aren't committing to any one specific player at the moment, but Gutekunst hinted that this could be an opportunity for the defense to get even more creative with how they use Alexander.

The 25-year-old cornerback has built an All-Pro resume on the perimeter, locking down one side of the defense for the past four seasons. However, Green Bay did slide him inside in the team's NFC Divisional playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers this past January, Alexander's first game back since sustaining a significant shoulder injury against Pittsburgh in Week 4.

Gutekunst doesn't anticipate the shoulder being an issue for Alexander moving forward and believes the 5-foot-10, 196-pound cornerback could be a potential option inside if the situation calls for it.

"With Ja, he's going to go where some of the receivers are going to go," Gutekunst said. "He's going to follow some of those guys in different packages. He can do everything. It's a nice luxury for us to have."

Alexander remains a candidate for a contract extension after the team exercised his fifth-year option for 2022. Gutekunst said: "We'd love for that to happen. Certainly, we've been in communication with his representation and we will continue to be as we go through the year."

The other big piece to the secondary puzzle was retaining Douglas, who stepped up in Alexander's stead after being signed off Arizona's practice squad on Oct. 6.

The sixth-year veteran wound up leading Green Bay with five interceptions (two returned for touchdowns). Gutekunst also believes Douglas has the tools to play inside depending on which direction the coaching staff wants to go.

"He's obviously very physical in the run game, which is an important part of playing nickel," Gutekunst said. "He's a taller, bigger corner, which obviously sometimes those quicker slot receivers can give those guys problems, but his instincts and his ability to anticipate make up for a little bit of that.

"Quite frankly, our entire corner group that we have right now probably could play both inside and out."

2. Replacing Davante Adams won't fall on a single player.

At the top of the list of difficult decisions the Packers made this offseason was trading their five-time Pro Bowl receiver to the Las Vegas Raiders in exchange for 2022 first- and second-round draft picks.

It was not a move Gutekunst made in haste, but ultimately it was one the Packers felt was in the best interest of both the organization and Adams, who reunites with former college quarterback Derek Carr in Las Vegas.

"To lose a player of his caliber and what he's done for the organization, those are hard decisions and a hard thing to move on from," Gutekunst said. "But at the same time, I think once we got through the discussions with Davante after the season, this was what was best for the organization and Davante moving forward."

Replacing Adams' production won't fall on the shoulders of a specific player or position, including any rookie receiver(s) Green Bay might add with its 11 selections in this year's NFL Draft.

The Packers also re-signed tight end Robert Tonyan, whom Gutekunst said is making progress in his return from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he sustained last October in Arizona.

Despite the injury, the 28-year-old Tonyan is just one season removed from tying Green Bay's team record for single-season TDs by a tight end (11).

"I don't necessarily have a real timetable on that but he's ahead of schedule," Gutekunst said. "We won't close the door on anything early if it's possible. But at the same time, you guys know how important he's going to be to our offense. So, we'll be cautious as we go through that, too, to make sure he's available for the whole year."

3. The Packers aren't opposing to using multiple picks on one position…including perhaps receiver.

As history has shown, Green Bay will use multiple picks on the same position when the situation warrants.

The Packers' most famous example came in 1999, when former GM Ron Wolf used his first three draft picks on cornerbacks Antuan Edwards, Fred Vinson and Mike McKenzie.

In Ted Thompson's last draft, the former Green Bay GM drafted Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays on the third day of the 2017 NFL Draft. A year later, Gutekunst unearthed fifth-rounder Marquez Valdes-Scantling under the same Day 3 circumstances.

It's possible Gutekunst goes that route with their wideouts again. The Packers currently have five receivers under contract for next season, including former Pro Bowler Randall Cobb. They also placed a restricted tender on fourth-year veteran Allen Lazard.

With so many players returning to college last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's draft is considered especially deep in the early rounds. CBS Sports currently ranks 13 receivers among its top 100 prospects.

"My history and even with Ted's history, I don't think we've ever shied away from taking multiple players at one position in a draft," Gutekunst said. "So certainly if the right players are there, we wouldn't shy away from that."

4. The Packers were thrilled to reward De'Vondre Campbell's effort.

Green Bay checked off perhaps its biggest offseason box when it re-signed its All-Pro inside linebacker on March 17.

Campbell bided his time last spring, waiting for the right opportunity before signing with the Packers during the final week of the offseason program.

It worked out well for both sides. As the key defensive communicator, Campbell established a new career high with 145 tackles and was one of only three players in the league with multiple INTs, sacks and forced fumbles.

"Really excited to see his growth from Year 1 to Year 2," Gutekunst said. "What a story that is, him coming in when he did. Not only to a new team but taking over a little bit of a new position at the 'Mike' (linebacker), making calls and things like that, and watching him just explode onto the scene. He was such a big difference for our football team, so we're excited to have him for Year 2."

5. Green Bay has wasted no time addressing special teams.

Hiring former Raiders interim head coach/special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia was only the beginning for the Packers' plans to revitalize their special-teams unit.

Over the past two weeks, Green Bay has signed punter Pat O'Donnell and cornerback Keisean Nixon, who was a three-year contributor on Bisaccia's special teams in Las Vegas.

O'Donnell is the first punter the Packers have signed in unrestricted free agency in 20 years. The selling point for Gutekunst was O'Donnell's consistency during his seven seasons with the Chicago Bears, both as a punter and holder.

"Certainly, we have to be better than we were last year," said Gutekunst of Green Bay's special teams. "We came to the guy that we thought was best for the (punting) job. Corey (Bojorquez) did a great job for us last year coming in at the last minute as he did, but we just thought this was a little bit more consistency for us, and holding was a big part of it."

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