GREEN BAY (Wis.) — The news broke shortly after it was announced that All Pro cornerback had been named Jaire AlexanderHad agreed to a record contract extensionWith the Green Bay PackersOn Monday, one his teammates asked a rhetorical question via Twitter.
“What wins championships,” Packers outside linebacker Preston Smith posted.
Last season, defense was a force to be reckoned with. They finished ninth and held the championship. San Francisco 49ersIn January, the NFC Divisional playoff defeat was without an offensive touchdown.
It’s also how the Packers might have to win in the post-Aaron Rodgers era — whether that’s in a year or three.
What is the winner of championships?👀
— Preston Smith (@PrestonSmith94) May 16, 2022
Whatever the case, it seems like Brian Gutekunst, general manager, agrees with Smith.
Think about all the moves that he has made in order to protect this side of the ball.
Alexander was the highest-paid NFL defensive back with a $84 million four-year contract.
He used both his 2022 first-round draft selections (Nos. 22 and 28 on linebacker defensive players Quay WalkerProtective and offensive tackle Devonte Wyatt.
Retired defensive tackle Jarran ReedOn a 1-year deal worth $3.25M
Signed cornerback Rasul DouglasTo a three-year, $21 Million deal
Signed as a linebacker De'Vondre CampbellA five-year deal of $50 million.
Smith signed a four-year extension worth $52.5 million.
His 2021 first-round selection was used to select a defensive player. Cornerback Eric Stokes.
“I think we’re excited about it,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said recently of his defense. “But … you’ve got to recreate that magic that we finished with, and any year is never the same.”
Gutekunst left the outside linebacker position and moved on. Za'Darius SmithHe was released in March and that freed up salary-cap space to make other moves.
“I would say the expectations we have for our whole football team, but specifically our defense, is really high,” Gutekunst said last month after the draft. “I thought they played really well last year and they ended on a very high note, playing at a very high level. We’ve got some guys coming back who will be here for their second year and be important. It's great to see this group growing together. It’s a new season, and they’ve got to put in the work and the time and the chemistry and all the things that go with that, but I think the expectation level for that group is going to be high.”
Alexander is one the cornerstones in the group.
NFL Next Gen Stats reports that Alexander's completion percentage has been 55.5% in his career as the closest defender. It's the 8th-best NFL player with at least 250 targets to be the closest defender since 2018.
He was a great fit for the role of defensive coordinator Joe Barry. One of Barry’s featured spots on defense is what he calls the “Star” position, which is essentially the slot cornerback spot. Alexander’s shoulder injury that knocked him out after four games last season (he returned for the playoff game) prevented Barry from exploring that further. But with Alexander’s shoulder healed and his long-term future sewn up, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Barry move him around more.
“He can shadow, he can play on the outside and lock guys down, he can move inside, he can kind of do it all,” Gutekunst said earlier this offseason of Alexander. “So I imagine that might be a little bit game by game, but that’s probably something we’ll get to once we get down in the season.”
The Packers offense seems to be in flux following the trade of receiver Davante AdamsThe Raiders' defense is well-positioned.
Preston Smith stated last month that “the more playmakers we have on defense, the greater our chance” [it]We are going to be more successful.”