If the Green Bay Packers still want a high profile wide receiver or cornerback in free agency, it will take some work.
Technically, the Packers signed all their big free agents before the free-agency period began — all the signings just happened to be from their own team. David Bakhtiari, Kenny Clark, and Aaron Jones have now all re-signed. In reality, the team has already signed the best available tackle, running back, and one of the top defensive players.
Green Bay and Wide Receivers
The Packers usually rely on draft picks and practice squad talent to fill out their wide-receiving corps.
Last year, they did things a little differenty and signed Devin Funchess in free agency and Tavon Austin halfway through the season. Funchess ended up opting out before the season began. Austin was rarely used, and basically played on special teams.
This year’s draft has another great group of wide receivers available, but you can’t guarantee any of those players will become a true No. 2 receiver their first year. A player like Hilton or Green automatically upgrades your offense.
Funchess is back with the Packers and has restructured his contract to help the salary cap issues, but he will still be coming off a lost season. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is mostly a boom-or-bust deep threat. Allen Lazard is a true talent, but the injury bug is starting to hit too often. All three receivers are great weapons for Rodgers, but the point is to have the best team possible on the field to win the whole thing.
Money will be the real issue, but let’s also look at stats for Hilton and Green.
T.Y. Hilton Contract and Stats
The nine-year Indianapolis Colts veteran has been generating a lot of buzz this offseason. While his receptions and total yards dipped over the last few seasons, the 31-year-old receiver usually averages five to six scores a year.
During the 2020 season, Hilton had 56 receptions for 762 yards and five touchdowns. He basically outperformed MVS and Lazard in 2020 for individual stats. MVS had one more touchdown but fewer yards and receptions.
The roadblock to bringing him to Green Bay is money. Hilton just came off of a 5-year, $65 million contract. He made $14.5 million alone in 2020. There is no way the team could come even close to that this year. They could do a 2-year, $11 million contract and have his second year bear most of the burden, but that would still be pushing it. I doubt he would take a veteran minimum right now.
Offense really wasn’t the issue for the Packers in 2020, but finding open receivers at crucial times was definitely a struggle in important games. A veteran receiver like Hilton can help with that. He’s a big-name guy who can add at least five touchdowns to your season.
A.J. Green Contract and Stats
Green, like Hilton, will be entering his 10th season of play. It will technically be his 11th season, but was out the entire 2019 season with an ankle injury. He has also only played for one team his entire career, the Cincinnati Bengals.
Last year wasn’t great for Green. After the Bengals drafted Joe Burrow, many expected their veteran star receiver to bounce back and have a great year. Instead, Green had career lows in total yards and touchdowns. He also had 47 receptions, which was only one more than his career low 46 in 2018.
Green made even more than Hilton in 2020 — just over $18 million after the team used the franchise tag on him.
During the 2020 season, you could almost tell a fresh start would be good for Green. It is hard to tell whether he has lost a step or speed, or that his time in Cincinnati was just one year too long. Green has been linked to teams like Green Bay, the Baltimore Ravens, and New England Patriots. Both of those other teams have way more cap space for players like Green and Hilton, and Green joining Cam Newton in New England almost makes too much sense.
So How Can It Happen?
At this point, the only way either of these receivers wear green and gold next season is if they take a veteran minimum deal. I could also see a two-year deal, but most of that money would have to come in the second year or with a signing bonus.
Signing Jones made it difficult to bring in other bigger name free agents. They also gained one of the best backs in the league for four more years. He could have more receiving yards and touchdowns than Hilton and Green next season. He’s a special player.
While it would be great to see either man in a Packers uniform, it is probably not in the cards unless they come at a discount, hoping to play with Rodgers and win a Super Bowl ring.