INDIANAPOLIS––When the tight ends met the media on Thursday at the NFL Combine, it was inevitable they were asked about Packers with such uncertainty at the position in Green Bay.
Veterans Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless are scheduled to become free agents in just a few short weeks with the ability to sign with another team on March 8. And not only is Finley a free agent, his neck injury and subsequent spinal-fusion surgery only complicates matters. The Packers may be asked to choose between signing him or letting him walk before they're fully comfortable evaluating his medical condition.
While the potential of losing veterans looms, the Packers will be at the Combine this week evaluating the next class of tight ends. Among them is North Carolina's Eric Ebron, a player not unlike Finley that declared as an underclassman, has similar size, is part of the new breed of "move" tight ends in the NFL and is not lacking in confidence.
"I think why teams don't press me is because they can't," said Ebron. "I will not be pressed at the line of scrimmage. That's a prideful thing of mine. It'd be best to leave the play to cover y'alls back."
The Packers, who will be in need of a dynamic tight end if Finley leaves, are doing their due diligence on Ebron like they do with most players.
"I have a meeting with them (Thursday)," said Ebron.
If the Packers want an opportunity to select to Ebron, it's going to have to come in the first round. Considered perhaps the top tight end in this year's draft class, Ebron isn't likely going to last until Round 2.
Another top-ranked tight end is Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who's heavier and more capable of being a classic in-line tight end, but is criticized for having a motor that runs hot and cold.
Asked specifically about playing for the Packers, Seferian-Jenkins wouldn't mind coming to Titletown, but he's not closing the door on other teams either.
"You know, that would be great," said Seferian-Jenkins. "I just want to continue to keep playing football no matter where I end up. I just want to keep playing football and I'm very excited about the opportunity.''
One tight end that's not as highly regarded as players like Ebron and Seferian-Jenkins, but one that might catch the attention of Packers fans because of his name and university is Richard Rodgers. No, there's no relation to Aaron despite being coming from the California Golden Bears football program, although he wouldn't mind catching passes from the Packers quarterback.
For a player just looking to break into the NFL, however, Rodgers said, "It would be great to catch passes from any quarterback."
Any team investing a draft choice into Rodgers will be getting a player born and bred into football with his father Richard Sr. being the special teams coordinator for the Carolina Panthers.
Rodgers is still finding his ideal fit, having dropped significant weight his junior season to become more of a mobile tight end and entering into the draft as an underclassman.
Whenever and whoever the Packers select, they'll have the choice of a lot of underclassmen and a lot of good tight ends in general, at least in the opinion of the players themselves.
"I think we have a great tight end class," said Ebron. "This is one of the best tight end classes probably ever. "
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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