GREEN BAY — Under the Green Bay Packers’ previous general manager, the compensatory pick equation was relatively simple: Lose a free agent one spring, get a draft pick from the NFL the next.
The arithmetic was so straightforward because GM Ted Thompson almost always neglected the other factor: How many free agents from other teams that you sign to yours.
But with Brian Gutekunst now in charge of the Packers’ personnel department — and far more willing to use veteran free agency as a tool to improve his team — the math will be more complicated going forward. And that’s one reason why Gutekunst decided to deal former Pro Bowl safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at Tuesday’s trade deadline, getting a 2019 fourth-round pick for him from the Washington Redskins.
Even one prominent player on the Packers’ roster had to be reminded Wednesday that the compensatory pick equation is a two-way street, that the players you lose in free agency and the players you sign factor into the determination of which picks you’re awarded. Since the process of awarding compensatory picks began in 1994, the Packers have been awarded 42 picks, the second-most in the NFL.
“That certainly factors in as far as the compensatory process. That’s never a guarantee. There’s a lot of factors that go into that,” Gutekunst said Wednesday morning in a news conference called expressly to discuss the deals that sent Clinton-Dix to Washington and running back Ty Montgomery to Baltimore.
According to the NFL Network, the Packers got a 2020 conditional seventh-round pick from the Ravens for Montgomery, which means they may never see that pick if Montgomery doesn’t meet certain roster or playing-time conditions.
“Considering that we’d like to be active in free agency, and obviously if we’re active in free agency that affects the compensatory process, (trading Clinton-Dix) was an opportunity to get a very valuable pick next year in 2019 that obviously there’s no conditions on him. It’s a fourth-round pick. … In this particular case we felt good about it.”
The NFL awarded the Packers four compensatory picks in the draft this year, but after signing unrestricted free agents Jimmy Graham and Tramon Williams in the spring while losing safety Morgan Burnett, special teams/wide receiver Jeff Janis and tight end Richard Rodgers, they aren’t expected to get a compensatory pick in next year’s draft.
Had the Packers held onto Clinton-Dix and let him walk as a free agent after the season, his contract and performance with his next team would have been put into the compensatory pick equation. Both are variables since the play of Clinton-Dix, who was playing on a $5.9 million fifth-year option after being the Packers’ first-round pick in 2014, has been up-and-down for the last season and a half.
To be clear, though, that was just one reason Gutekunst made the deal, which he discussed with coach Mike McCarthy and others before making.
“It’s constant communication. Any of the personnel moves that I’m considering making is something I talk openly daily with Mike (about),” Gutekunst said. “How it will affect their planning going forward, specifically in the middle of a season those conversations are constant between me and Mike and the rest of the coaching staff. They have to make some decisions, but they’re well aware of any decisions I’m about to make.”
McCarthy made it clear Clinton-Dix’s departure will mean opportunities for myriad players, and that his snaps won’t be taken by only one player.
Safeties Jermaine Whitehead, who has been playing in sub packages, and Josh Jones, who has been limited to special teams, are among those whose playing time could increase. The Packers could also use cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Bashaud Breeland in hybrid cornerback/safety roles as well.
“You’ve seen us play now on defense, we have multiple personnel groups,” McCarthy said. “So I think it’s most important to players that now have opportunities. I mean, there’s more opportunities there to play, particularly safety and the other positions as far as how we move people around. So I’m excited to see how these guys step up and take advantage of their opportunity.”
Asked specifically about Jones, who played over 700 snaps as a rookie on defense but only four this season, McCarthy said Jones “has done some good things on special teams. He’s one of those guys that needs to take advantage of this opportunity.”
The Packers filled one hole on the roster, promoting running back Tra Carson from the practice squad. The team added running back Lavon Coleman to the practice squad to take Carson’s place.
Carson joined the Packers’ practice squad on Oct. 9 after being waived/injured by Cincinnati. Before that, the Packers had carried ex-Dallas Cowboys running back Darius Jackson on their 53-man roster while Aaron Jones was serving a two-game NFL suspension, and had Joel Bouagnon on the practice squad. Bouagnon had been with the Packers throughout the offseason and training camp.
Coleman, a rookie out of the University of Washington, has spent time this season on the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad after being cut by the Houston Texans at the end of training camp.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (knee) took part in his first Wednesday-style practice since injuring his knee in the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against Chicago. He was listed as limited. … Outside linebacker Nick Perry (ankle) and Whitehead (back) did not practice …The Patriots listed 15 players on their injury report after a walkthrough following Monday night’s win over Buffalo. … Former Packers GM Tom Braatz died Wednesday at age 85. Braatz was known for drafting offensive lineman Tony Mandarich in 1989 but also picked a host of good players during his time in Green Bay, including all-pro safety LeRoy Butler. … Clinton-Dix met with reporters in Washington Wednesday and told them he was eager to get to work with his new team. “I played the cards I was dealt. The Redskins took a chance on me. I’m so excited to be here,” Clinton-Dix said. “I’m ready to put on a show. I’m ready to have fun doing it.”