Last year, just about everyone was clamoring for the Green Bay Packers to select a wide receiver in the first round of the NFL Draft. If not the first round, somewhere very early. Instead, they took a quarterback and a running back in the first two rounds and ended up not selecting a wideout at all.
This offseason is littered with really good wide receivers who are unrestricted free agents, but the Packers will likely use the draft to address WR.
Everyone would love the idea of signing Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, Will Fuller, or another one of the top available receivers. The belief heading into the offseason after their NFC Championship loss to the San Francisco 49ers was that the Packers needed to add another weapon at wideout for Aaron Rodgers. They didn’t. Devin Funchess opted out, they didn’t draft anyone, and Rodgers put together a historic campaign that resulted in him being named MVP just a couple weeks ago.
Now, heading into the 2021 free agency period and with the draft looming a couple months out, there are clearly other areas the Packers need to address, but they have minimal flexibility to do so, at least at the moment.
Money will ultimately hold Green Bay back from signing one of the top free-agent receivers. Step 1 was taken a few days ago when David Bakhtiari restructured his contract, turning some of his roster bonus into a signing bonus that was spread thin over the coming years. It freed up around $8.3 million in cap space but still leaves the Packers well over the mark — about $20 million over. Even if they restructure other contracts (Za’Darius Smith, Aaron Rodgers, give Davante Adams an extension) and cut certain players (Preston Smith, Dean Lowry, Christian Kirksey) their money will likely be spent on more pressing needs.
Ideally Davante Adams is every bit as productive in 2021 as he was in 2020. This seems possible, given his talent, who is throwing him the ball, and their ability to compliment each other so well.
And it would be great if Marquez Valdes-Scantling took his game to another level. He finished this past season strong and was one of the most consistently productive players for the Packers in the NFC Championship.
Are there more layers to peel back on that onion with MVS? Who knows? The hope is that there is.
I lean towards saying Allen Lazard pretty much is who he is going forward, which is NOT a knock on Lazard at all. The dude went undrafted, bounced around the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad before earning an opportunity with Green Bay, and he took advantage of it. He’s a solid No. 3 or No. 4 on a depth chart, and plenty reliable. That’s where the wide receiver position stands for now with Green Bay because Funchess could be a cap casualty and Equanimeous St. Brown is who he is.
This takes us to the draft. This is the most logical route for the Packers to add talent and depth with an instant impact, meaning they will have to select a wide receiver early. Let’s assume they stay at 29. DeVonta Smith, Ja’Marr Chase, and Jaylen Waddle will certainly all be selected before then. There is a chance names like Rondale Moore and Minnesota’s own Rashod Bateman are still available at No. 29.
I bet Gophers fans would adore the idea of Bateman being selected by the Packers. Wow, just a perfect match.
Both Moore and Bateman project as wideouts who could be plugged in right away and contribute from the jump. They have different skill sets, but it’s safe to say if the Packers select a wide receiver in Round 1, there won’t be a single gripe from any green-and-gold faithful.
But if they don’t, there are a couple names to keep tabs on for Round 2. We will dive more into player profiles in the future, but a few notable second-rounders who could jump in and play right away include Amon-Ra St. Brown from USC (yes, EQ’s brother) and Tylan Wallace from Oklahoma State.
No matter what happens, the Packers are more likely to add to the wide receiver spot via the draft rather than free agency because of their cap situation.
The Packers need help at cornerback. It’s empty outside of Jaire Alexander. They could use depth at the offensive line if they don’t make a push to bring back Corey Linsley. They will likely take more cracks at bringing back Aaron Jones, and if that’s a swing and a miss, Jamaal Williams. Inside linebacker has been a need for years, although Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin showed promise.
The point is, the Packers would be wise to spend whatever money they can shake free on the aforementioned positions rather than paying No.1 wide receiver money for some of the big-name wideouts on the market. Address the wide receiver need early in the draft, scratch that itch, and everyone remains happy in the land of cheese.