Receiver Davante Adams (No. 4), quarterback Aaron Rodgers (No. 9), outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith (No. 19) and center Corey Linsley (No. 26) — who all departed Green Bay in the last two years — landed on PFF’s list.
Linsley left in free agency following an All-Pro 2020 season, Smith was released in a cap-saving move following the 2021 season, Adams was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders for a first- and second-round pick and Rodgers was traded to the New York Jets for a second-round pick, a conditional 2024 pick and a swap of first-round and Day 3 picks.
Contractual or money problems played a role in the departure of all four players.
The Packers have only three players over the age of 30 on the roster and did not have a current player make PFF’s list. Left tackle David Bakhtiari was an honorable mention pick. The only other options were outside linebacker Preston Smith and punter Pat O’Donnell. Bakhtiari remains an elite left tackle when healthy but likely got dinged for his injury history over the last two seasons.
How did the Packers replace elite veterans?
Josh Myers was drafted in the second round of the 2021 draft and has been the preferred starter at center over the last two seasons. 2022 fourth-round pick Zach Tom is another option at center entering 2023.
2019 first-round pick Rashan Gary moved into Smith’s starting spot and became an elite disruptor, while Lukas Van Ness is a 2023 first-round pick to develop behind the veterans at edge rusher.
The Packers used one of the draft picks acquired in the Adams trade to move up in the second round of the 2022 draft to take Christian Watson, who scored nine touchdowns during his rookie season and is entering 2023 as the unquestioned No. 1 receiver in Green Bay.
And, of course, Jordan Love was selected with the 26th overall pick in the 2020 draft. He sat behind Rodgers for three seasons and will now start in 2023.
All great teams need elite veteran players. Replacing them is one of the biggest team-building challenges in football. Whether or not the Packers remain one of the NFL’s model franchises will depend on how well Matt LaFleur’s team rebounds from the experience and talent drain of the last few years.