The most important thing the Green Bay Packers can do this offseason is to find an edge rusher. Most Packers fans can agree to that, and if you take a look at almost any comment section concerning the team, they all pretty much say the same thing. They all believe that the Packers should use their No. 14 overall draft pick to grab a talented defensive end. This is not a recipe for success.

The reason is that it is difficult for first year players of any kind to make a real impact in the NFL, especially edge rushers. For example, J.J. Watt, largely considered to be the best defensive player in the NFL, only produced 5.5 sacks his rookie season. Jadeveon Clowney, a former No. 1 overall pick because of his monstrous ability to get to the quarterback, was injured his whole first season and then in his second only produced 4.5 sacks. These are not impressive numbers, especially for players considered among the best pass rushers in the game.

Of course, these players ended up having much more success later on in their careers, but the Packers don’t necessarily have that luxury. Aaron Rodgers is 34 years old and has now suffered and recovered from two serious collar-bone injuries in the last five years. I fully expect him to keep playing and playing well for at least a few more seasons, but everyone ages at different times and it can be hard to discern when a player is about to have their big decline. While Tom Brady somehow has managed to avoid that for another year, he is by far the exception. Some may forget that Peyton Manning’s record setting passing season was only set apart from his atrocious, albeit Super Bowl winning season by just two years. When he began declining it happened very quickly.

All of that to say, the Packers need the best team they can possibly have now. They do not have the timetable to wait three or so years for talented rookies at key positions to develop into stars. Their window for winning a fifth Super Bowl is winding down and fans got a glimpse into what the team looks like without Rodgers at the helm and it is downright ugly. To give themselves the best chance of winning, the Packers need to help their defense.

Packers fans remember vividly the last time the green and gold rolled all the way to the championship game and triumphed over the Steelers. The reason they were able to do that was a top 10 defense. That was the last time the Packers defense was ranked in the top ten for both yards and points allowed. Coincidence?

Regardless of what players they do or do not acquire on offense, Rodgers will make them one of the top units in the NFL if he keeps playing the way he does. That’s just the greatness of having him at quarterback. Without elite playmakers they won’t be the best, but they don’t have to be. They just need to be one of the better offenses in the NFL. However, the Packers defense has struggled mightily down the stretch and it always seems to cost them big games.

Now, just acquiring a pass rusher will not solve everything, but it will help significantly. The most important way to stop an offense in this pass heavy league is to get to the quarterback. It is that simple. No quarterback in the NFL can effectively pass and move the ball against a team that is pressuring him heavily on every drop back. Every quarterback needs rhythm and some degree of comfort to be able to have success. While good cornerbacks are great to have, every wide receiver can get free if given long enough. It is simply the nature of the game that gives that advantage of unpredictability to wideouts. Thus, it is essential to shorten that window of time so as to better protect them.

Assuming all this is true, is there any defensive end worth acquiring on the free agent market this upcoming spring? The answer is a resounding yes. While the top free agent at this position, Demarcus Lawrence of the Dallas Cowboys, is expected to get the franchise tag, the number two at this position is at cross roads with his team. While Ezekiel Ansah one of the top sackers in the year last season with 12, the Lions are still not sure they want to resign him. This is for a variety of reasons including injury problems. However, the fact of the matter is that he is in his prime at 28 years old and a proven pass rusher. Adding him to the Packers defense would instantly make them a team to be reckoned with in the passing game. Combine that with their solid rush defense and they might not quite be a top 10 defense yet, but they would be well on their way to becoming one.

This Packers defense has a lot of improving it needs to do. Whatever happens, their No. 14 overall pick should certainly be on a defensive player. However, the Packers need to be willing to spend big money on a key position that the Packers desperately need. If new Packers GM Brian Gutekunst is serious about being aggressive in free agency, he would do well to at least give Ansah  a serious look. If the Packers can make big changes on the defensive side of the ball, we could just be looking at the next Super Bowl Champions.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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