The Green Bay Packers promoted a series of workouts this week, which included two wide receivers. Those tests are common in the NFL. Teams use them regularly to see how players are physically, athletically, and in some sense, what they can offer on the field. So it’s not smart to overreact to a couple of names who probably won’t have any relevance for the Packers moving forward. However, those two wide receivers show how Green Bay has divided goals. They are still trying to maximize Aaron Rodgers‘ window and simultaneously thinking about the future.
The wide receivers were veteran Geronimo Allison and rookie Danny Davis.
Allison is an example of when Packers management put appeasing Rodgers above the franchises’ best interests. Not that the wide receiver isn’t minimally competent or that he didn’t have good moments for Green Bay. He is and did. However, the only reason to consider a 28-year-old wide receiver with such small production over the last four years is that he knows Rodgers and Matt LaFleur’s system. Allison played for the Packers between 2016 and 2019 — including one year under LaFleur.
After the 2019 season, Allison signed with the Detroit Lions, opted out of the 2020 season for COVID-related reasons, and had no catches in 2021. This year, he spent three offseason and training camp months with the Atlanta Falcons, but they cut him before the regular season.
If the Packers were still in contention, Allison could have made sense. After all, he would join Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb as the only wide receivers with previous experience playing with Rodgers. But the Packers are 4-7, and it’s unlikely they will make the playoffs. Therefore, there’s little reason to justify considering him as an option.
Conversely, Danny Davis is the kind of player that makes sense for the Packers right now. The former Wisconsin Badger is a rookie and was part of the team’s training camp roster. He played well in the preseason. He had two receptions, 45 yards, and a pair of touchdowns in the preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers.
The Packers only waived him because of an ankle injury. No other team claimed him, so Davis reverted to Green Bay’s injury reserve, and they released him with an injury settlement. But the settlement and the league-mandated three extra weeks have passed. Therefore, the Packers have the option to sign Davis again.
In 2018, the Packers used the games after they were officially eliminated from the playoffs to test new players and gain leverage for the future. That’s when Brian Gutekunst signed Allen Lazard from the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad, and that’s also how they should approach the final six games of this season.
The Packers have already missed some opportunities to think long-term. The lack of action at the trade deadline was the most obvious one. They should have been sellers; playoff hopes were already slim at that moment. But, even now, it is still possible to find something positive in these final games to carry into the future.
Giving young players more playing time is one option that the Packers have indicated a willingness to explore. For example, Sammy Watkins is not listed as a starter anymore. But there are also other avenues to explore. Undrafted free agents and even young players from other teams’ practice squads are a good way to find talent. They should get ahead of franchises that are still trying to win this year and can’t make those kinds of moves.
History of finding talent in the margins
When Brian Gutekunst showed a willingness to find affordable talent, he has done it pretty successfully so far. In 2018, he signed Bashaud Breeland on the street to reinforce the cornerback group in addition to Lazard. In 2019, he added swing tackle Jared Veldheer and returner Tyler Ervin during the season, and they slotted into productive roles.
Last year, Gutekunst signed De’Vondre Campbell in July and Rasul Douglas in the middle of the season, and both eventually received long-term extensions. Even in 2022, the general manager made several low-key additions that have paid off: Keisean Nixon, Rudy Ford, and Eric Wilson are the best examples.
If scouting is Gutekunst’s calling card, and the track record supports that notion, it’s time for the Packers’ general manager to use it correctly and establish a long-term plan. Aaron Rodgers is great, and the idea of trying to give him the best chance to get another ring makes total sense. But that won’t happen this year, and maybe never, so it’s time to put the franchise ahead of its Hall of Fame quarterback.