GREEN BAY, Wis. -- One of the myriad reasons for the Green Bay Packers' successful -- if not surprising -- start has been the communication between first-year coach Matt LaFleur and second-year general manager Brian Gutekunst.
Gutekunst doesn’t have hiring and firing power over the head coach -- both report to team president Mark Murphy -- and it’s possible that structure has helped the early stages of their working relationship.
“We talk on a daily basis,” LaFleur said recently. “And we’re always looking for ways to improve our football team.”
Perhaps Gutekunst won’t think of LaFleur as being a pest if the coach sticks his head into the GM's office more often than usual before Tuesday’s trade deadline (4 p.m. ET).
LaFleur said he might do so.
“Probably,” he said with a smile.
If LaFleur thinks that even with a 7-1 record halfway through the regular-season schedule, the Packers’ roster needs significant enough help to warrant a trade, he isn't going to say so publicly.
“I will say I do have a lot of confidence in the guys that we have here,” LaFleur said between the Week 7 win against the Raiders and Sunday night’s win at Kansas City. “... I know every game it’s week to week, and you’re only as good as your last game, but we’re exploring all options.”
According to several people in personnel departments and coaching staffs around the league, Gutekunst and his staff of scouts have made exploratory phone calls. But what the sources don’t know is what Gutekunst thinks of his one-loss team.
“They haven’t let on whether they think they need another piece to make them a real [Super Bowl] contender,” one league executive said.
Said another personnel man: “Does Gutey think they’re [7-1] because the roster is that good, or does he think they’re, I don’t want to say lucky, but maybe a fortunate or opportunistic [7-1]?”
Gutekunst certainly wouldn’t let anyone know the answer because it could change the prices on the trade market.
One scout said he understood why the Packers might want to add a pass-catcher -- at tight end or receiver -- because “behind [Davante] Adams, there’s no one proven to be consistent enough.”
However, another scout added: “Rodgers makes undrafted guys look like midround picks. Look at [Jake] Kumerow. Look at [Allen] Lazard. Those guys have made enough plays since Adams went down.”
Rodgers himself might not know which scout is right.
“... It hasn’t been the prettiest the entire time. There’s been some pretty moments, though," he said when asked how the Packers have gone 4-0 while Adams has been sidelined with turf toe. "But I think we’ve given a lot of guys confidence. … So it’s a lot of guys really pitching in. I think the line has obviously played really well, but it’s given those guys a chance to gain some confidence. And at the same time, we’re excited about getting him back at some point.”
The Packers have not made an in-season move for other receivers: Mohamed Sanu went from the Falcons to the Patriots for a second-round pick, and Emmanuel Sanders and a fifth-round pick went from the Broncos to the 49ers for third- and fourth-round picks. Another option, Bengals veteran A.J. Green, hasn't played this season because of an ankle injury, and Cincinnati insists it won't trade him. Someone such as the Jets’ Robby Anderson could be a more realistic option.
The asking price for Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard, who is reportedly on the trade block, likely would scare away Gutekunst.
Perhaps Gutekunst could try to add some defensive help, specifically at inside linebacker, where depth was a problem even before Blake Martinez trudged through Sunday’s game against the Chiefs with a giant cast on his injured right hand and wrist.
But here’s another thing to consider: Gutekunst is going to need his full array of draft picks next spring because he almost certainly can’t afford another free-agent spending spree like this past offseason's. He’ll have to use high picks on a receiver, a tight end and possibly a starting tackle while fortifying other positions with quality depth.
And then there’s the chemistry question.
Even though the free agents Gutekunst brought in this season have meshed well and, by most accounts, enhanced the locker room, there’s risk of disrupting a good thing. Free agents such as Preston Smith, Za'Darius Smith, Adrian Amos and Billy Turner had the whole offseason to develop chemistry with returning players, and the vibe in the locker room has repeatedly been described as among the best it has been in years.
“We’re having a lot of fun. It’s a good locker room. Guys really enjoy each other,” Rodgers said Sunday in Kansas City. “Winning is a cure-all, but it’s fun when you’re winning with the right people. I think we’re winning, doing it the right way and really enjoying the people we’re able to go to work with.”