Green Bay Packers

KC’s Release Of MVS Further Supports Green Bay’s WR Strategy

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Around this time in each of the past four years, respectively, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Treylon Burks, Rashod Bateman, and Tee Higgins were all expected to be Green Bay Packers. Instead, Brian Gutekunst went with a corner, linebacker, pair of defensive linemen, and, of course, a quarterback. Not too long ago, much was made about how Higgins reportedly believed that it was him that Green Bay was trading up for back in 2020. It’s funny how aggressively the tide has turned on that notion after Jordan Love emphatically introduced himself to the NFL down the stretch of the 2023 season.

If there’s one thing to know about the Packers, when the rest of the league zigs, they zag – or at least, they stay true to their core philosophy. We know about their unique approach to quarterback and how well it works. As first-round quarterbacks are forced onto the field earlier and earlier, Gutekunst acted it just as Ted Thompson did in 2005, shocking everyone and having to wait nearly four years to be proven right. The sound bytes are looking like they will continue to be outrageous to look back upon. But another unique aspect of Green Bay’s philosophy is quietly aging well: their valuation of the wide receiver position.

Each year, they are implored to address what is externally perceived to be a major need with premium draft capital. Each year, they decline to do so. They were maligned for not providing Aaron Rodgers with more help, particularly a WR2 to play alongside Davante Adams. But while they have maintained their stubbornness into the dawn of the Jordan Love era, they have quietly assembled one of the league’s most promising young receiving groups. There is no Adams equivalent — at least, not yet. But they have four guys who can play and a couple more who have flashed, each with their own specialization.

  • Jayden Reed, a second-round rookie out of Michigan State, was nothing short of electric in his first campaign. Matt LaFleur took advantage of his dynamism laterally and vertically en route to a 10-touchdown, 912-yard campaign.
  • Dontayvion Wicks, a fellow rookie, was drafted in the fifth round, although it was pretty hard to tell. He was crafty, didn’t make many mistakes, and was reliable on third down. Wicks looks to be firmly in the mix, with room to grow.
  • Romeo Doubs, the fourth-rounder out of Nevada, is the contested-catch guy. He sometimes faded into the background but emerged prominently come playoff time.
  • And let’s not forget about Christian Watson, the deep threat. If his hamstrings can keep up, his ceiling is the highest of them all.

The strategy of mining late-round gems at the position is hardly new. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, a fifth-round pick, and Allen Lazard, a former undrafted free agent they picked up off the street, were the mainstays of the old guard alongside Adams. They were role players in LaFleur’s offense. The Packers also used Lazard in the blocking game due to his frame and Valdes-Scantling playing the mercurial downfield scorcher. Their productivity in Titletown earned each of them a lucrative second contract. MVS inked a three-year, $30 million deal with Kansas City, and Lazard was part of the cavalry that followed Rodgers to New York, landing four years and $40 million.

Green Bay’s decision to let homegrown talent walk was not highly scrutinized. Still, it was curious, given that it left them preposterously thin at the position. Not too long after, they have been proven correct. Valdes-Scantling and Lazard have been massive flops, given the average annual value of their contracts. Kansas City released MVS earlier this week.

Looking at who they have ended up with instead, it’s arguable that the Packers have been proven correct not only in letting them leave without much of a fight but also in their contrarian point of view on the value of the wide receiver position. They have declined to use first-round picks and salary cap space on the open market to address the position. Instead, they’ve allocated as much of it as possible on what they believe to be the premium positions on defense – edge rusher and cornerback being the headliners.

It is widely believed that the uncertainty surrounding Rodgers was the first domino that led to Adams’s departure. But even before that, it became an uphill climb to retain the league’s top receiver when Christian Kirk, who was viewed as relatively unspectacular at the time, signed a long-term deal in Jacksonville for $18 million a year. The demand for wideout potential has gone nuclear. The Packers have stood pat in the face of full-court pressure. With all the aforementioned talent on rookie deals through 2025, they’re poised to reap the benefits.

I’ll leave you with this: Watson, Doubs, Reed, Wicks, and rookie tight-end duo Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft have a combined 2024 cap hit of approximately $11 million. Lazard, a healthy scratch last December, will count for $13 million. If that isn’t emblematic of an organization one step ahead of the rest, I don’t know what is.

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Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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