Last week, the New England Patriots shipped their former first-round wideout N’Keal Harry to the Chicago Bears for a 2024 seventh-round pick. As NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport described it, it was an upside move. As for the Green Bay Packers’ arch-rivals, it’s far from the first such move they’ve made. Chicago added Equanimeous St. Brown, Byron Pringle, Dante Pettis, and Tajae Sharpe on cheap one-year deals. They also drafted Tennessee standout Velus Jones Jr. in Round 3. Behind Darnell Mooney, they’re almost sure to find a guy or two who can step up and make some plays for Justin Fields. Even if they don’t, they didn’t give up much to take that chance.
The Packers found themselves in a similar position this spring when Davante Adams forced his way to Las Vegas. But they didn’t seem interested in Chicago’s kitchen-sink approach, even as the market for receivers exploded after Christian Kirk signed a mammoth deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. They added a veteran mystery box in Sammy Watkins and a young project in Christian Watson to a corps led by Allen Lazard.
Still, why wouldn’t they be interested in someone like Harry?
Receivers were flying all over the place on draft night. The Philadelphia Eagles traded for A.J. Brown, Marquise Brown landed with the Arizona Cardinals, and five young wideouts were selected in Round 1. Yet none of them ended up in green and gold. The Packers have championship-caliber personnel on defense, in the backfield, trenches, and under center. So you’d think they would be interested in hedging their bets on the likes of Lazard, Watkins, Randall Cobb, and Amari Rodgers. They wouldn’t want lackluster playmaking on the outside to threaten an otherwise promising season.
Green Bay has certainly overcome its share of financial turmoil this offseason. But it’s July, and they’ve got just over $16 million in cap space, the fifth-highest in the league. After multiple teams’ more aggressive and ultimately superior “all-in” approaches brought titles to their cities, it’s hard to imagine Brian Gutekunst and Co. won’t be looking to make a move. Julio Jones is still on the market, and he should be relatively affordable and come with serious upside. Jalen Reagor is a sort of N’Keal Harry equivalent.
The Eagles took Reagor 21st overall in the 2020 draft, just five selections ahead of Jordan Love. In three seasons, he’s struggled to get in a rhythm and has become a pretty maligned individual on the streets of Philadelphia. After Howie Roseman and Nick Sirianni added Brown and Zach Pascal, Reagor’s future with the team is more ambiguous than ever. He may not have fit in the City of Brotherly Love. But as far as we can see, he’s still got the physical traits that made him a highly coveted prospect only three years ago.
With preseason games just over a couple of weeks away, now is the time to bring in a high-upside piece or two. When Chicago made that deal for Harry, they bought a mystery box. He could contain anything from a mountain of untapped potential to the same drops and underwhelming play we saw from him in New England. But they didn’t have to give up anything of value to find out.
Obviously, we could see Lazard shine as the new Mike Evans in Adams’ absence. In that case, I’ll be eating enough crow to put them on the endangered species list. But what if he doesn’t? What if Watkins is on IR by Week 3, Watson doesn’t seem ready to start, and Lazard can’t be a 1,000-yard receiver by himself? By letting MVS walk and declining to pull the trigger on a trade for Tyreek Hill or Brown, the Packers have made it clear that they believe the E-ticket stars of this exploding wideout market aren’t worth it. Still, that doesn’t mean they have to stand pat.
As Rodgers prepares to find 4,000 passing yards wherever he can in a push for a third-straight MVP award, why not increase the odds that he and Matt LaFleur can find a dude in their first season together without Adams? LaFleur has been adamant that the organization will do whatever it takes to get over the hump. With a stout defense and a Hall of Fame quarterback, there’s no reason to leave $16 million in the bank and play roulette with some rookies and relatively unproven vets. They should go out and turn over every stone in hopes of finding your ticket to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2011.
Green Bay hasn’t ever been the type of team to go out and get a Julio Jones or Odell Beckham. But, in the last decade, they haven’t been the type of team to go out and win in the playoffs either. It’s time to shake things up a bit, and bringing in X-factors like Harry, Pringle, and Pettis – or even one of those premium mystery boxes in Jones or Beckham – doesn’t do any harm and could go a long way toward getting Rodgers back to the Big Dance for the first time since 2011.