Win-Now Packers Would Be Taking Big Risk by Not Adding Vet WR in Free Agency

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2022

FILE - Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) spins a football in his fingers before an NFL divisional playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers, on Jan 22. 2022, in Green Bay, Wis. An underwhelming free agent class for quarterbacks is overshadowed by the possibility of multiple big names changing teams, most notably Aaron Rodgers. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps, File)
Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

Championships windows don't last forever. Despite what the last three decades may suggest, the Green Bay Packers understand that reality now more than ever.

The well-covered Aaron Rodgers saga created a startling run-up to the 2021 campaign and lingered into the offseason. Although he decided to return for another year, Rodgers having a long-term presence in Green Bay feels more hopeful than likely.

Given that, the Packers are aiming to take advantage of what could be Rodgers' final season. But their approach to the receiving corps has so far only led to questions.

Since free agency began in mid-March, star wideout Davante Adams pressed for and received a trade to the Las Vegas Raiders. Four-year starter Marquez Valdes-Scantling then bolted for the Kansas City Chiefs. Deep reserve Equanimeous St. Brown also headed to the Chicago Bears.

And the Packers have signed zero players at the position.

Now, free agency is not over. Big-name players Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones and Jarvis Landry remain on the market, though the conversation isn't as simple as "Just go sign someone, darn it!" Beckham has an ACL recovery to consider, and there's no guarantee any of them are interested in Green Bay or if the cash-strapped Packers can—or want to—maneuver the cap space necessary, either.

The latter note applies to possible trade targets, too. Short of landing an established wideout on a rookie dealwhich, in turn, means a big-money extension is loomingtheir flexibility to absorb a larger contract is considerably limited.

Context is vital. Nuance is important. The point isn't to suggest Green Bay might actually do nothing and it's time to panic!

Simultaneously, since the Packers haven't yet added a free-agent receiver, they're dangerously close to putting an uncomfortable amount of stock in rookies ahead of a win-now season.

The good news is Green Bay holds four top-64 picks (Nos. 22, 28, 53, 59). The challenge is, during the last 10 years, only 17 receivers picked 22nd or later have surpassed 800 yards as a rookie. Plus, a strong majority of them weren't expected to be the primary target right away.

But that might be the case for the Packers.

Morry Gash/Associated Press

Green Bay currently has Allen Lazardprovided he signs a contract tender, along with Malik TaylorRandall Cobb, Amari Rodgers, Juwann Winfree, Rico Gafford and Chris Blair.

Lazard caught 40 passes for 513 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021 and provided major value as a blocker. Cobb posted 28 catches for 375 yards and five scores in his return to the franchise. Green Bay absolutely can count on both of them to contribute in 2022.

Right now, everything else is an educated guess.

Amari Rodgers, a 2021 third-round pick, finished his rookie season with four catches. Winfree added another eight receptions, and Taylor managed just two. Gaffordwho inked a futures contract in Januarylast snared a pass during the 2019 season, and practice-squad player Chris Blair has zero NFL appearances.

In theory, all of them should improve. Yet soaring from near-zero production to even Valdes-Scantling's level of 26 catches, 430 yards and three touchdowns would be a legitimate win.

And the Packers, following the trade of Adams to Las Vegas, need a whole lot more than 430 yards.

It could work out, sure. Aaron Rodgers has consistently shown his ability to elevate the players around him. He is a four-time league MVP, after all. Plus, the Packers could find a gem at No. 22 like the rival Minnesota Vikings did in 2020 with Justin Jefferson or a 1,000-yard receiver in the second round like recent examples Michael Thomas (2016) and A.J. Brown (2019)—or even the third round, where the Charges found Keenan Allen in 2013.

That's an unfair level of expectation for a rookie, though.

Finding a single receiver to replace Adams is nearly impossible considering Green Bay's financial situation. Salary-cap constraints are a real complication for the team's depth, too.

Only adding a draft pick or two, however, would be a shocking gamble in the speed of both rookie impact and player development as Green Bay's Rodgers-led championship window tightens.


Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.


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