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Jimmy Graham returns, but Packers still need top-shelf TE help

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Jimmy Graham returns, but Packers still need top-shelf TE help

Don't be swayed by any shred of news that may or may not have surfaced this week -- the Green Bay Packers still need to invest in the tight end position.

Doing so may not require testing the free agency waters, which has become a tired practice at this point and one the Packers are certainly fluent in.

Jared Cook.

Martellus Bennett.

Lance Kendricks.

Marcedes Lewis.

Jimmy Graham? The jury is still out.

This week, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported that the Packers are preparing for the upcoming offseason frenzy with the "belief" that Graham will be back in 2019. They're going to pick up his $5 million dollar roster bonus in March and allow him to return for another season to hopefully mesh with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The two weren't able to do so to the degree in which they were expected last season, connecting for 53 completions, just 631 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Graham's final numbers stand at 55 catches for 636 yards, but that's because Rodgers was knocked out of the season finale with a concussion and backup quarterback DeShone Kizer only found Graham twice for five yards.

You could argue Lewis, a pending free agent, should also return at a reasonable cost given his gross misusage in his lone season with the Packers. He wasn't a factor in neither the passing game or as a run blocker, but that likely wasn't because he was incapable -- the offense in which he played in simply didn't allow him to be.

As of right now, the only tight end on the Packers' roster under contract will be Graham and undrafted second-year player Robert Tonyan. The cupboard is extraordinarily bare for a team who has swung and missed on several free agent acquisitions at the position in the last three years.

Maybe, for once, free agency isn't the avenue the Packers should be venturing down?

In a class loaded with talent at a position the Packers are coincidentally lacking at the moment, the time couldn't be more precise for a move in the direction of one this year's next young, play-making dynamos at the tight end spot. Players the likes of which Rodgers hasn't had at his disposal since the Packers spent a third-round pick on Jermichael Finley in 2008.

Graham, who spent most of his 2018 season nursing a lingering knee injury and a broken thumb that handicapped his ability to catch the ball towards the latter stages of the year, would make a quality second-string addition to an offense sporting someone such as T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant as its starter.

The two Hawkeyes have been mocked all across the league to various teams, but the combination of EDGE and tight end with the Packers' No. 12 and No. 30 overall picks seems to be reoccurring.

The Packers could follow in the steps of the San Francisco 49ers and find the next best Iowa product as they did in George Kittle, or they could hope someone such as Alabama's Irv Smith Jr. falls into the second round. Sans the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' decision to draft O.J. Howard in 2017, which seems too early to truly judge, most Alabama tight ends don't find heaps of success at the professional level.

In a new, redesigned offense under head coach Matt LaFleur, the Packers will be able to fully incorporate the tight end position into their plans. One of the biggest knocks during the final years of Mike McCarthy's tenure as head coach was his inability to assume an imaginative role to a degree that saw any tight end get extensive looks.

Was that because a single year was never enough for guys like Cook, Bennett or Graham to mesh with the offense and quarterback? Or because it was truly career suicide to play in Green Bay as a tight end?

Now that McCarthy's successor is engineering the on-field operations, it doesn't matter. A big, athletic body that can vertically stretch the field or even get yards after the catch would be a significant asset to a team whose offense has lacked anything of the sort since the previously mentioned Finley era.

Whether the Packers seek premier tight end help via the draft or free agency, or whether they simply add a body or two behind Graham who will enter the season as the team's starter -- they need to do so. Choosing not to would be a blatant display of incompetence.

__________________________

Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (66) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

The TKstinator's picture

Top shelf help at tight end is welcome, along with top shelf help at safety, guard, tackle, edge rusher,...

Zachary Jacobson's picture

It sure is a good thing they have more than one pick.

The TKstinator's picture

Good thing indeed!

Coldworld's picture

I see the germination of the same over expectations generated last year by the arrival of physically talented rookie WRs.

Whomever we bring in via the draft will be a rookie. The chances of them leading the offense in any way are minimal however talented. Our best hope is a reasonably substantial contribution at best.

If we are going to return to a scheme that used TEs in a way that allows them to succeed (can’t fathom last year’s usage for any of the group), then we will need experience alongside youth.

Given the financials we have with existing contracts, Graham is likely our most rational option. As to Lewis, I have no idea why he was essentially unused: if he still has anything in the tank bring him back too while keeping Tonyan and drafting with an eye on Graham’s replacement in 2020.

Kendrick’s wasn’t bad in his HB role, but is the HB role really one we want to persist with? Wouldn’t a blocking first FB type who could catch as an outlet be a better objective?

The TKstinator's picture

T412, is that you?

carlos's picture

Agree with you Cold world. I’m not a fan of Kendrick. I get thumbs down when I make that statement. I would like some basic routes for a first year TE and let him grow as he progresses along. Start out good routes and catch the ball. Work on blocking and getting stronger. A good blocking fullback who can catch passes would be really nice.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I prefer top shelf stuff. I mean, I don't drink all that much so I can afford to splurge a little.

carlos's picture

Cheap ice beer works for me, but can be a gut killer. lol

NitschkeFan's picture

Nooooo! If this report is accurate and Grahamn comes back at that ridiculous salary then perhaps despite some dramatic changes, we are going to get the same old Packers. Ugly news.

Small sliver of a silver lining, I don't recall hearing about a nagging knee injury. Again if true, maybe that accounts for him running in cement all season (but what about the worst blocking we've,ever seen?)

Zachary Jacobson's picture

He was on the injury report almost every week. A lot of it was just for maintenance/precaution purposes, but he's been dealing with it since camp.

HankScorpio's picture

That's one of the ways Father Time defeats players. As they age, they tend to have a harder time staying healthy. Eventually that robs them of their athleticism. And Father Time wins again.

If the report is true, Gute is betting $9 mil that Graham can beat Father Time. That's a fool's bet. But it's not his money so what does he care if he blows it?

carlos's picture

Unless you’re Tom Brady Hank.

dobber's picture

Some vets never practice mid-week.

Coldworld's picture

Last year it seemed like they were trying to use him as a deep threat. Moreover, he was seldom targeted when he did cross the middle under 15 yards.

Not sure that’s Father Time, rather a profound miscasting of even a younger Graham. He still notched 600+ yards.

Use him properly and maybe we might get some payback for the contract is what it is.

4thand1's picture

Isn't it strange how big Mike said how he needed TE's and a running game but didn't produce either? Or failed to use what he had (A Jones). He had Cooks , but he and Ted let him walk for the bum MB. His play calling was so out of touch and vanilla the whole league knew it. It is any wonder why teams weren't beating down his door for a HCing job? Any change should be welcome and give the Pack an edge with some new innovation in play calling. I think AR wanted JG to stay one more year also. Could it be his conversations with the new HC are why JG is staying?

Coldworld's picture

In recent years yes. Not sure what happened in MMS mind because he used to. Wondered that myself.

carlos's picture

The Lions said they knew the play the Packers would run the second they lined up. I live in the UP of Michigan and there’s more Packer fans thanLion fans. Horrible around here when the Lions kick our butt. I live on Lake Superior by Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore park. A total white out blizzard at the moment.

albert999's picture

Joke
move on? doesn’t look like it to me.
Can’t wait to see the other dead weight their going to keep and lose the season before it starts

EddieLeeIvory's picture

How many good ex-Packers are out there?

Lawrence Guy will be starting in another Super Bowl. That's not one everyone thinks of.....

sam1's picture

Think Cook could/would be considered if he wanted back here?

Jared's picture

It’s interesting that out of all the FA TE’s we had, Jared Cook was the most productive. He’s a FA this year and could be had for a lot less $ than Jimmy!

dblbogey's picture

I agree about Cook. The problem with cutting Graham is $7 million in dead money.

HankScorpio's picture

That kind of thinking shows a fundamental lack of understanding of how to use the salary cap. Once you reach the point where dead money acceleration results in a net reduction of salary cap, dead money protection goes out the window.

Dead money is bad but chasing that with more money on bad players is even worse, They way to avoid bad dead money is to not sign bad contracts in the first place. Once they are signed, that die is cast. That $7 mil is on the books whether or not Graham is on the team. In the here and now, the choice is whether to make that original mistake worse or cut your losses asap. If the reports that Graham will be retained are true, Gute is intent on compounding his mistake by making another. That's bad GM work.

Lare's picture

Not if Graham comes back and has a great year under the new system.

HankScorpio's picture

After watching 2018, I think needing Graham in place for a great year from the TE is rather unlikely. If ML can coax a great year out of a TE that can't run or block, he can do the same with a TE that can't run or block that costs less and is not named Jimmy Graham.

As much as we hate it, Father Time remains undefeated. The Seahawks concluded he defeated Graham in 2017. So they let him walk. Gute didn't get the memo and signed him to a ridiculous deal. It was a high risk roll of the dice that came up snake eyes.

Old School's picture

I think that you'd have to define "great year".

In 2018, Graham had one of the best seasons of any Packer TE of the last 25 years. 55 receptions for over 600 yards. With a broken hand and everything else that was going on with the team. If that's coming up snake eyes then I'll take it.

So what's the expectation? One of the top two or three TEs in the league in yards/receptions/TDs? Is that what it would take? Or would he still be lacking?

The TKstinator's picture

@Jared: Is that you, Mr. Cook? Speaking in the third person like the Rock? If so, I smell what you’re cooking!

Coldworld's picture

That one catch I think skews our memory of Cook. I listen to the “could-have-been” comments. Cook was injured a lot and had a couple of impact plays. I wanted to keep him too, but largely on promise for the following season not actual achievement.

Rossonero's picture

While I wasn't thrilled with Graham's performance in 2018, part of it can be chalked up to several things:

1. Rodgers was not 100%
2. The O-line wasn't as good as it has been
3. Graham himself wasn't 100% with nagging injuries
4. McCarthy's stale offense

Jimmy G is worth a 2nd look in LaFleur's offense. If he stinks again in 2019, then cut him this time next year.

Considering our lack of depth at TE, cutting Graham, Lewis and Kendricks would result in us completely starting over at TE. We still have $40M in cap space, so it's not like we're terribly hurting. Plus, letting guys like Cobb and Matthews go will erase any concerns about having to continue paying them the large salaries they were collecting.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I agree and well said. On #3: "Graham himself wasn't 100% with nagging injuries," I don't know if it is a chronic thing that isn't going to get better or something that will improve. GB should have a pretty good idea.

Coldworld's picture

I think it was a sign of desperation that he played in some of those games. Really makes me wonder about why Lewis Tonyan and Kendricks weren’t given more of a role (in Kedricks’ case as a true TE). Perhaps because we were using him as a derp threat? A mess! Therefore analysis of performance is very difficult not just for injury impact.

Rossonero's picture

Thanks Reynoldo. Fingers crossed he's 100% healthy in 2019, especially that finger of his that he broke.

HankScorpio's picture

If Rodgers is more healthy, the o-line plays better and ML has a non-stale offense, it helps any TE as much as it helps Graham.

stockholder's picture

1. Rodgers has been off since 2016. The production and draft picks have not responded. Adams got better is all. And Clark and alexander could only help. 2. The offensive line has holes. This should have been fixed before Graham got signed. Were now facing a new coach, with players that aren't productive. It's time to take some risks. Let the FAs go. Graham stays for now. Fix the Right Guard and don't stop. The Wrs must change again. How many years do we have to wait on these Wrs? Dump Cobb, Allison, and Davis. Either MVS stays on his feet or Good Bye, Either Moore starts catching the Ball, or good bye. Either the guys run 4.5 and can catch the ball or their gone. Draft again. The Tes must change. Good bye to Kendricks and Lewis. I want production. Graham will give me that. But the spreading of the field must happen. If a Te can't run 4.6 forget him. He'll only get slower. Are CM3 and Perry productive. No. But why draft an edge if the guy runs 4.8? And Takes years. And what about Ryan? Wilkerson doesn't work for me either. This team hasn't been right since 2016. Gute needs to let the FAs go. All of them! Nick Perry stays and they honor his contract. People won't like it. But CM3 is done here and I thank him.

Rossonero's picture

Regarding the draft....

I'd use caution when spending a 1st rounder on a TE unless scouts see something truly special in Fant or Hockenson.

I've seen more TEs taken that early bust than turn out to be great TEs. Consider the following recent examples that have enough data on them to be evaluated:

** = Pro Bowler

2013: Tyler Eifert, (1st round, 21st overall)**
2013: Zach Ertz (2nd round, 35th overall)**
2013: Gavin Escobar (2nd round, 47th overall)
2013: Vance Mcdonald (2nd round, 55th overall)
2013; Travis Kelce (3rd round, 63rd overall)**
2013: Jordan Reed (3rd round, 85th overall)**

2014: Eric Ebron (1st round, 10th overall)**
2014: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (2nd round, 38th overall)
2014: Jace Amaro, (2nd round, 49th overall)
2014: Troy Niklas, (2nd round, 52nd overall)
2014: C.J. Fiedorowidz (3rd round, 65th overall)
2014: Richard Rodgers (3rd round, 98th overall)
2014: Crockett Gilmore (3rd round, 99th overall)

2015: Maxx Williams (2nd round, 55th overall)
2015: Clive Walford (3rd round, 68th overall)
2015: Tyler Kroft, (3rd round, 85th overall)
2015: Jeff Heureman (3rd round, 92nd overall)

2016: Hunter Henry (2nd round, 35th overall)
2016: Austin Hooper (3rd round, 82nd overall)
2016: Nick Vannett (3rd round, 94th overall)
2016: Tyler Higbee (4th round, 110th overall)

So of the 21 TEs taken from the 2013-2016 drafts in rounds 1-4 (I got most of them, not all), only five were Pro Bowl TEs. Even after you shake that out, you could argue that Ebron was a bust in Detroit after 4 years of futility, and Reed can be good when healthy, but can't stay on the field. Same for Eifert.

So when it's all said 'n done, there's really only two game-breaking, elite TEs left: Kelce and Ertz.

My point: The TE position is SO shallow. 5 of 21 is a measly 23% success rate. For the only two elite TEs, it's even worse -- a 90% failure rate / 10% success rate. Ouch.

Lots of hype being written about Fant and Hockensen right now. I'm confident the scouts will do their jobs and not buy into the click bait hype of TEs at pick #30 unless one of these guys blows up at their Pro Day and/or the Combine. I'd still wait until the 2nd round at the earliest to pull the trigger on one of them.

wildbill's picture

Nice research and a valid point made. Use that 30th on something other than a TE as decent ones can be had in the middle rounds.

Swisch's picture

Good stuff, Rossonero. Thanks for the research.
Would it be fair to say that even the good tight ends tend to take a couple of years to become stars?
If so, this may be good news as far as hoping that Tonyan may still develop into a solid contributor or even better.
However, perhaps this doesn't project well for any rookies we draft as far as impact during the next season or two. How many of the players on this list were important contributors as rookies?
Also, do young tight ends tend to progress faster as receivers or as blockers? Should we keep Lewis for blocking?
Jared Cook as a free agent signing will be 32 going into next season. How do tight ends tend to fare at that age? Does Cook look exceptionally spry going forward over the next couple of years? Any other veteran tight ends worth considering?
In any case, let's not overlook the offensive line and edge rushers.

Coldworld's picture

At some point we do need to get off this rollercoaster of relying on older free agent TEs. Now is the chance to sign and develop one behind the current group. But I emphasize develop: not look for a 2019 star.

Rossonero's picture

You're welcome, Swisch. Most rookie TEs do not make the dramatic impact that fans hope for. At least history doesn't show it.

Gronk might be the only outlier: his rookie year, he had 42 catches for 546 yards with 10 TDs. Yards and catches were so-so, but his red zone presence was an omen for things to come. Gronk was a 2nd rounder.

Kelce went on IR his rookie year and barely played, so 2014 basically was his rookie year. He did have an immediate impact: 67 catches, 862 yards with 5 TDs.

Ertz didn't do much his rookie year: 36 catches, 469 yards and 4 TDs. His 2nd year he progressed to 58 catches, 702 yards and 3 TDs. He kept getting better from then on as we know.

How fast TEs progress depends on their talent and how the team wants to utilize them. Graham's not known for his blocking, he's basically a big WR. Learning the NFL route tree is like grad school for a TE or WR. Most of the route concepts in college are a lot more simple. Takes at least a year to learn it all, which is why most WRs don't make a huge splash their rookie year either (there is data to back up that too).

Cook is probably near the end of his road. I wouldn't sign him to anything more than a 2 year deal.

Only Hall of Fame TEs like Shannon Sharpe and Tony Gonzalez kept up good-to-great levels of production past age 32. Gronk is still 29, but given his extensive injury history, he would struggle badly to put up elite numbers 3 years from now.

Bottom line -- I'd tread carefully with Cook, but his chemistry with Rodgers was unmistakeable. He's worth a look, but I would not overpay.

Swisch's picture

Thanks for the great info and insight, Rossonero. It's good learning.
Based on your post, I'm wondering if Dash's idea of signing Jeff Janis as a potential tight end may be worth a try. Another outside possibility is Jake Kumerow.
My thinking is that if Graham isn't exactly a beast as a blocker, then why not consider some more athletic guys at tight end -- at least in certain situations.
Perhaps Janis or Kumerow is willing and able to throw a block as well as Graham, but can give linebackers in coverage fits with their speed and athleticism. If linebackers are getting smaller and faster, maybe it would be good to have at least one or two tight ends who are smaller and faster.
Also, it may be a good idea to keep Marcedes Lewis as a blocker.
In any case, it makes a lot of sense to draft a tight end in April even if he may take a couple of years to pan out.
The question is how high in the draft. It seems a matter of considering both BPA and need.
I just hope we don't skimp on offensive linemen and on edge rushers -- regardless of when we take them in the draft (which may also depend on any acquisitions in free agency).

Rossonero's picture

Janis couldn't even get a roster spot in Cleveland and was cut on August 31st, with little to no interest from other teams. I'd say his career is probably over.

I'd be more in favor of keeping Mercedes Lewis and actually using him, since McCarthy barely did. However, after his comments about the Rodgers and McCarthy drama, I doubt he'll be re-signed. His career is also probably nearly over considering he'll be 35 in May.

The TE role in any offense really depends on the coach and his preferences. Some TEs are merely an extra O-lineman, while others are the Jimmy Graham type and more like a big bodied WR for pass-catching situations.

I agree that we still need to draft a TE, but the 2nd round is the absolute earliest we should do so. I wouldn't expect much from a rookie TE in 2019, but if Graham stinks again, then we can cut him in 2020 and hopefully the draft pick we spent on a TE will bear fruit in 2020.

I have a hard time believing any of the FA edge rushers like Clowney or Ford will actually be able to walk in free agency and even be considered by the Packers. They're both on teams with QBs still on their rookie contracts, so both the Texans and Chiefs will throw money at them both.

We definitely need O-line help. I'd rather spend one of the 1st rd picks on an O-lineman...not a sexy pick, but goodness knows we need the help.

HankScorpio's picture

"Most rookie TEs do not make the dramatic impact that fans hope for. At least history doesn't show it."

That's not a peculiarity of TE. Almost every positional group would be similar.

Outside the scope of your list of TEs is another Iowa TE named George Kittle. All 32 teams missed the boat on him as he slid to the 5th. I'd love to have a guy like him with the 30th pick. Or Kelce. Or Ertz. Or Greg Olson. Or Gronk. Or Jimmy Graham (Saints version). On and on it goes. Sure, not every TE drafted is that good. Same holds for every other position.

Finding a guy that can play is the whole challenge of the draft.

Rossonero's picture

That's a fair statement Hank. I was focusing on the TE position because many of these mock drafts keep having the Packers spend not just the 30th pick, but even the 12th pick on a TE in other drafts. That's absurd.

However, I'd argue that RB, O-line and LB are positions where instant impacts can be made. We've seen numerous rookie RBs set the league on fire in recent years (Gurley, Hunt, Lacy, etc.) and elite O-lineman turn weak teams into powerhouses (look at what the Colts did in one draft).

Agreed on Kittle. Here was NFL.com's original assessment of him, and why he was viewed as a 4th rounder in this write-up. Iowa does have a penchant for turning out very good football players (i.e. Micah Hyde, Mike Daniels, and hopefully Josh Jackson):

Strengths
Has broad shoulders and waist with a durable frame. Plays in pro-style attack and approaches blocking like an offensive lineman. Comes off the ball with good pad level and strikes with leverage and hands inside opponent's frame. Blocks with good technique and has footwork to get to reach blocks and combos. Hands are confident and sure with just one drop against 48 catches. Able to make sudden body adjustments to poorly thrown balls. Flashes vertical speed to become a seam worker. Physical runner after the catch with more wiggle than you would expect.

Weaknesses
Patterns are inconsistent and he rarely tilts defenders at the top of his routes. Could generate better separation with improved route leverage. Route breaks can be too easy to decipher. Plays fast but seems to be missing separation burst coming out of his breaks. Needs to work back to the ball harder in space. Allows defenders a pathway to the throw rather than sealing them out of the passing lane. Has tendency to keep weight too far forward as run blocker creating opportunity for defender to pull him off-balance.

Draft Projection Round 4

NFL Comparison Charles Clay

Bottom Line
H-back type who lacks the desired size for in-line blocking but certainly has the technique and willingness to do it. He has good hands and flashes an ability to challenge as a pass catcher on all three levels. Kittle has the athleticism and blocking ability to become an effective move tight end if paired in the right system.

jannes bjornson's picture

brent jones

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I just wrote that there are probably more quite good to elite QBs in the NFL than there are TEs. There are a couple of promising young TEs (Herndon, eg.) but time will tell on them. There is a difference though because a team really needs a good QB.

Ertz, Kelce, Kittle, Gronk, a couple who were injured. The next tier probably goes Reed (if healthy and has a QB), Cook, Ebron, Hooper, Njoku, McDonald, Graham, Engram, Burton, Reed, Hooper, Rudolph, but there is something missing in the next tier, either blocking or explosiveness.

Coldworld's picture

Do you think part of that is the recent trend to draft for immediate impact in a position that is actually quite nuanced?

Guam's picture

Excellent research Rossonero! Thank you for the diligent work.

I also would prefer us to draft a TE later and use our top three picks on other needs. I know we have drafted heavily for defense in the recent past, but this draft's strength is on defense and if you follow BPA, the top picks will likely again be tilted toward the defense.

Rossonero's picture

You're welcome Guam! I agree -- this level of hype about TEs reminds me of the year Maxx Williams was drafted. And you can see he hasn't amounted to much in Baltimore.

I hope Gutekunst sticks to his board. I will be curious to see how the TEs fare in the Sr. Bowl, Combine and Pro Days, but barring some new revelation, I have a real hard time spending a 1st rounder on one of these guys like Fant or Hockenson.

Lare's picture

I remember last year at this time everyone was raving about Mike Gesecki. He ended up with 22 receptions for 202 yards this last season.

Rossonero's picture

I hear you on that. I just can't get that excited about TEs....Gesicki was another guy who got over-hyped big time.

stockholder's picture

In 2006 we selected AJ Hawk. Vernon Davis TE, went one pick later. I see no AJHawk or Vernon Davis? I see slow guys people want on the edge. Are one of these three edge guys worth the @12 pick. Polite isn't going to run 4.5. Sweat is 23. Again no 4.5. Burns is light and tall. Nagata was picked later in 2006. I sure wouldn't want to give up an all-pro- for a iffy edge. With AJ Hawk being moved inside. Ryan,Morrison in doubt. Burks isn't the guy. Wouldn't White? Wilson? or Bush help more. I think Gute trades down.

carlos's picture

Good research Ross. Good potential TE’s are playing power forwards in the NBA.

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

Ross...
Phenomenal post!

It is just so maddening! You want to give Rodgers the necessary toys for a fantastic offense.

Starts with the OL. Following that I would love a quick and twitchy slot receiver (Tyler Murray) even before a high draft choice at TE. Offensive draft fantasy = 2 quality OL, good slot receiver (I like Tyler Murray for this role, KR, scat back and back-up QB), and TE. Focus on these spots and edge rusher in draft.

I am okay with our current WR corp and if we pick up a decent RB in FA or lower rounds we should be fine. Even at back-up QB I think the Pack has more talent than most believe.

Rossonero's picture

Couldn't agree more about the OL. You look at the playoff teams in the conference title games and all of them had good, if not great O-lines.

And when we had a great OL, Rodgers was at his finest. It's not to say that the line should give Rodgers 5-6 seconds each time (that's exhausting), but better protection to allow LaFleur's offense actually work. Without protection, none of LaFleur's concepts will ever bear fruit.

Bert's picture

Ok. Now that we have JG back who's gonna play TE?

Skip greenBayless's picture

Jeff Janis? He's still out there. How about a conversion?

Dash

Coldworld's picture

Got to approve the Janis love on principle if not rationality.

PAPackerbacker's picture

An edge rusher at #12 and a TE at #30 seems like a logical choice in the draft. Keeping Graham is a questionable move. But under a new system perhaps he will do better than last year. Graham looked slow and underachieving to me, but maybe with a new coach and different system his production will increase to justify that big salary. But he still lacks speed.

Coldworld's picture

As a deep threat receiver what do you, and what did MM expect? Even at 23 he was slow compared to classic wide outs. I have no idea what the thought process was.

Donster's picture

Graham has a bad knee. That's why he always didn't practice one day a week. He ran sloppy routes at times, and when Rodgers would get in trouble, many times I saw him basically just stop running. He is a vastly overpaid mistake that Gute made in his first season at GM. I think keeping him is as much Gute hoping to make his decision to sign him to finally produce dividends on the field like he had hoped. And the argument that it takes Graham a season to really learn the new offense, if true, isn't good because he has to learn another one for this season if he stays.

Re-sign Lewis, he will be cheap, and he will be reunited with Nathaniel Hackett, the Packers new OC, who was his coach in Jacksonville. He will be pivotal in the run game with his ability to block. Graham can't. Tonyan isn't much better yet. And a rookie will be a "who knows" until he actually plays this coming season.

lou's picture

Here are my comments in reference to Graham coming back, which is one of Gute's 3 questionable moves and the new organizational structure. It is early, things can change quickly in the NFL but those looking at Gute with rose colored glasses need to adjust the lenses until proven otherwise. the new Packer General Manager (or under the new corporate structure Player Personnel Director to be accurate) looks like he is trying to cover for a bad decision, Ron Wolf's greatest trait was recognizing mistakes and getting rid of them as soon as possible (Terrell Buckley). It is hard to believe how much money they gave Graham a guy who looks slower than Richard Rodgers the slow footed backup tight end they let go who now is with the Lions (3rd string). In addition he traded a CB (Randall) to Cleveland who even though he had attitude issues intercepted more passes than all of the Packers CB's combined last season for a QB (Kizer) who made Hundley look like Joe Montana in the pre-season. On top of that the highest offensive lineman he picked in last years draft (Cole Madison - Washington State) a Guard (Packers highest position of need on the offensive line) came to the OTA's and Mini-Camp but was a NO SHOW for the Pre-Season although not injured and to date the team will not give a reason for his not reporting. John Dorsey who built the Chief's (one off side penalty from this years Super Bowl) and Brown's turn around this season was begging for the GM job before Murphy's power play to take team control. Had Murphy given the job to Dorsey both Elliott Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith would still be running the scouting departments (both left to work with Dorsey in Cleveland).

Coldworld's picture

Watching games, Graham got deep and free more often than you apparently see as far as I can tell. He was either negated by the refs (classic being the Vikings tie) or dropped the ball—chiefly after having splint added. He looked a lot quicker than R Rodgers to me. Most of all though, images of him running normal TE routes open for 5 or so but no target.

TE use more than anything makes me in retrospect realize that MM had lost the plot in terms of offensive strategy (closely followed by RB use, but more fundamental I think).

lou's picture

I saw little separation with Graham, nothing but contested catch attempts downfield and even before the splint was on his hands were average at best with tight coverage. Agree on the RB use as receivers, two kids who played at WI with little fan fair have Super Bowl Rings catching out of the backfield, Clements and White.

Old School's picture

I'm showing him with 4 drops in about 90 targets. Not "bad hands" at all.

One of the best seasons for a TE in a Packer uniform over the last 25 years.

lou's picture

Check out the words "average" and "bad".

Qoojo's picture

I imagine that MLF can scheme him better than MM, and hopefully, the new scheme will have Rodgers looking for the open guy, instead holding the ball too long always preferring the deep long shot.

My question is about cap hit. How much of difference is the cap hit between paying the roster bonus vs. releasing? If there isn't much of difference, then it seems pretty simple decision to see if new coaching staff can utilize him better. Sure the packers are out $5 mil, but that's the cost of business if MLF believes right now that he can utilize him.

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