Green Bay Packers

What Should the Packers Do With Allen Lazard?

Photo Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason, the Green Bay Packers‘ three best wide receivers are free agents. And while Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are unrestricted, Allen Lazard is restricted, making it easier for the team to keep him. Although Lazard has been in the NFL since 2018, he accrued only three seasons (2019, 2020, and 2021) because he spent most of his rookie season on Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad.

Therefore, the Packers have to apply a restricted free-agent tender to have the preference to keep Lazard. If that happens and another team signs an offer sheet with the receiver, Green Bay has the option to match the offer or receive the corresponding compensation. That’s why it is important to analyze which tender the Packers should use.

Lazard is originally an undrafted player, so there’s no sense to use an original-round tender. The rights-of-first-refusal tender is smarter because it’s cheaper and has the same effect. It would cost the Packers $2.43 million, according to the projection made by Over The Cap. If another team makes an offer to Lazard, the Packers would be able to match it. But if they don’t, there is no compensation.

The most likely scenario is using a second-round tender. It would demand the Packers to spend $3.99 million, but it basically guarantees Lazard would play in Green Bay next year. In this case, if the player signs an offer sheet with another team, the Packers can match it or receive a second-round pick in exchange, which would probably be the wiser decision. Realistically, no team is expected to give up a second-round pick plus the money necessary to sign Lazard. Therefore, he would probably sign the tender and play with the Packers for one more year, returning to the market next offseason as an unrestricted free agent.

The third possible tender is the first-round one. The value is $5.56 million and would yield the Packers a high pick if another team is that interested in Lazard. But that’s a significant cap figure, and there is little reason to apply it.

Long-term deal

There’s another plausible scenario for the Packers and Lazard: a long-term extension. If Green Bay wants to lock in Lazard for the foreseeable future, not just next season, the team can offer a three- or four-year contract and spread the money to future years. It would be a good alternative to Lazard himself. He would have more money guaranteed and isn’t expected to generate that much interest in the open market as his fellow Packers receivers.

According to the Spotrac market valuation, Lazard could receive a three-year, $23.2 million contract ($7.7 million average per season). The comparable players are Nelson Agholor, Keelan Cole, Sammy Watkins, and Kendrick Bourne. It’s a high value, though. And with Green Bay’s delicate cap situation, it might be better to apply the RFA tender.

The best path

A long-term extension is too expensive for a guy with limited receiving production, even if he is a willing and effective blocker. Therefore, the best way to approach it is to give Lazard the second-round tender. This way, the Packers will almost certainly be able to retain him in 2022 and have one more year of data before making a long-term commitment. If another team wants Lazard that badly, the Packers can certainly use a second-round pick.

Even with the tender, there’s also an avenue to lower Lazard’s cap hit in 2022. It’s something the Packers did last season with Robert Tonyan.

After signing the tender, it’s possible to restructure the deal as any other non-rookie-scale deal. The team can pay only around $1 million in base salary, the veteran minimum, and convert the remaining value ($2.99 million) to a signing bonus, adding up to four void years. In this case, the Packers open up $2.38 million in cap space for 2022, which would hit only the 2023 cap. Lazard’s 2022 figure would stay around $1.6 million, a reasonable cap hit for a good role player.

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