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Packers Should Consider Adding a Veteran Tight End

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Packers Should Consider Adding a Veteran Tight End

Brian Gutekunst’s first draft as a general manager has to be considered an overall success, filling giant holes in the defensive secondary, picking up an additional first-round pick for next year and increasing the top-to-bottom athleticism on the roster. But one position not addressed in the draft was tight end.

It’s impossible to make every position the priority on draft weekend, and it’s hard to question Gutekunst placing more emphasis on the Packers’ woeful pass defense, but many fans are still a bit uneasy about where the tight end position stands today.

Bringing in former superstar Jimmy Graham was a step in the right direction, but some questions still remain about what his role will be in Mike McCarthy’s offense. Graham has always spent a large number of snaps split out wide, acting more as a wide receiver. Given his unimpressive blocking abilities, this will likely be the best way to utilize his skills in green and gold as well. But after drafting three wide receivers this year—adding to a room that already had youngsters DeAngelo Yancey and Michael Clark—one has to wonder how playing time will be distributed for Graham.

The main advantage of a true tight end lies in versatility, helping both the run and pass games equally and allowing the offensive play-caller to be unpredictable. With former third-round pick Richard Rodgers moving on to Philadelphia, Lance Kendricks is the only experienced in-line tight end on the roster. And while it’s possible Emanuel Byrd or Robert Tonyan Jr. could take a leap this offseason, it may be wise to take a look at some of the veteran tight ends still unemployed in free agency.

While the splashy Martellus Bennett signing last year may have left a bad taste in the mouths of Packer fans, there remain a few low-risk options who could be occasional contributors or insurance policies against Jimmy Graham getting hurt.

Coby Fleener was in the news recently after being released just two years into his five-year, $36 million deal with the Saints. Fleener had posted four consecutive 50+ catch seasons in Indianapolis and New Orleans before an unproductive and injury-plagued 2017. While the Stanford product wouldn’t provide much value to the running game, he could add depth for the right price. Ladarius Green is a similar style player who was released by Pittsburgh after not living up to the four-year contract he signed a year ago.

Former first-rounder Marcedes Lewis, who will be 34 when the 2018 season kicks off, and Brent Celek, 33, are a couple of available veterans who have had long careers with the teams that drafted them. They’re both traditional in-line tight ends and are likely available for relatively low cost. And while both have been productive for much of their careers, neither has put up impressive numbers recently, and it’s fair to question how much is left in their respective tanks.

If none of those players piques the interest of the Packers front office, perhaps a wild card like Gary Barnidge might, an option detailed here.

None of these names is likely to move the needle a great deal with most fans, much like the Kendricks signing a year ago. But if one of these veterans is willing to sign a low-risk deal for the team, he may be just the fortification needed for a position group with as much uncertainty as any on the Packers’ roster.

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Matt Kelley is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter via @hustleandheart1

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (27) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

LambeauPlain's picture

Keith Jackson is the only vet TE signing for the Pack that worked out.

I hope Jimmy becomes the greatest TE FA signing of all time....shoot I hope he is Reggie White 2.0.

But I am hopeful Lance K can take a step up this year. Man, he was a devastating blocker for the Badgers and did a great job for the Rams. Then look to the young guys on the roster.

calabasa's picture

I would say Cook was a good signing during his season with the team.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

In hindsight they should have just paid Cook.

croatpackfan's picture

Cook asked much more from Packers. Packers offered him contract very similar to one he finally signed with Raiders. Cook believed he worth more than he is. That was the reason why Packers looked elsewhere...

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I'd prefer keeping 7 receivers.

Coldworld's picture

We have two vets. While one is clearly the starter, I don’t see any of those on the market making a significant difference worthy of the cap hit. If anything I’d like a TE who can block well as my third option alongside using Monty out of the backfield instead of a TE

If we bring in another impact FA, TE is not where i’d look to do it and without impact, it’s not worth doing.

Dzehren's picture

GB better off developing the 2 young prospects currently on the roster and evaluate UDFA’s Radar from Youngstown St & Smith from Miami OH & see what they can do.

Look to draft a TE in 2019 in the first 3 rounds.

Lare's picture

If they were going to sign a TE, I would suggest looking at Julius Thomas before the other ones mentioned.

Johnblood27's picture

Colt Lyerla is available if he can run wiyh an ankle bracelet on.

calabasa's picture

He'd still be faster than Rich Rod!

flackcatcher's picture

If McCarthy had his way, the Packers would carry 3 FB and 4 TE based on past rosters. As Matt has pointed out not possible under the current rules the NFL plays under. Like ILB and FB, inline blocking TE are being pushed out of the league. We are now seeing the same forces pushing SS out in favor of hybrid DB/OLB. A smart coach could create mismatches with the FB and inline TE vs the smaller but faster SS/OLB. Football is still a brute force game, and nine times out of ten the bigger player wins. Still, finding a good blocking TE is a rare thing these days.

flackcatcher's picture

Two quick points. I expect the Packers to sign a FB later after training camp starts, or early in the season for their PS. If the Packers return to a later version of their 2010 offense, then we will see more two sets were the FB is active in a pass catching role. While defenses are shifting to the hybrid DB/OLB, look for more teams return to the elephant scheme that was popular in the late 90's. A good example is the Wisconsin Badgers defense last year. Their LB and DL over matched every team they played. I would not be surprised if Pettine went to some version of Elephant giving the draft and FA and UDFA signings.

stockholder's picture

Montgomery wide! I would even bet Clarke would take some reps there. Look for a signing to Practice Squad first here.

OnWisconsinGoPack's picture

Was really hoping they'd bring in Allen Lazard from Iowa State and bulk him up into a move TE since he went undrafted, but it sounds like we may now have our project in Byrd. Hope he develops.

TJ Coon's picture

LaDarious Green??? As the 3rd TE??? OK!

MITM's picture

I think with Graham and Kendricks we are good at tight end. In the event both were hurt, you take a look at one of your bigger bodies at receiver (since we have a few now) and see who best fits in that slot/TE role that Graham plays, Graham isnt really know for his blocking anyway.

Speaking of blocking tight ends, ill never forget in the Super Bowl on our first drive Tommy Crabtree absolutely bodyslamming Timmons (and avoid a holding call), putting that defense on notice that we were gonna be there to match their physicality in case they thought otherwise.

Nick Perry's picture

I'd love to see the Packers bring in Green or especially Barnidge. Gary Barnidge had his best seasons when his coach was the Packers current TE coach. Might be worth a look.

I was shocked Green didn't work out in Pittsburgh. As long as he's fully healthy why not bring him in. Hell he might be a better option than Kendriks at this point. It's not like Kendricks did anything last season.

4thand1's picture

Hundley didn't know Kendricks was on the field.

EddieLeeIvory's picture

Kendricks was horsecrap last year. I wonder if the stench of the racist Martellus Bennett's manure rubbed off on him.

Hopefully he blossoms this year with that pile of poop long gone now.

marpag1's picture

The Packers have a very limited number of dollars to be spending on additional free agents. I think the Packers probably ought to consider the right side of the O-line, and Burnett's old safety spot, and the highly suspect OLB position before they add more veterans at TE. We can play without a third veteran TE. But right now I'm not sure who our starting right tackle is...

Coldworld's picture

Agreed. Marginal upgrades to depth (3rd string TE) are not the best use of whatever cap room we have. Byrd looks like he has some upside in a more WR type role. Don’t know much about the others on the 90, but I am also not sure how often we will see two TEs both playing a traditional TE role (versus big receiver).

I suspect we aren’t going to see any cap use of note till they are certain of the impact of ARs new deal.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I think I agree. It looks like FA safeties are pretty cheap. Tre Boston and Eric Reid are available and both probably would have a specific use in a Pettine defense. As undervalued as they are, they'd probably still command more than I'd like to spend. I'd love to find an OLB, but the candidates look very so-so. Barwin and Brooks? Some suggest that Barwin was held back by scheme, but IDK, he went there to play for his old DC, so what's up with that? There are a couple of OGs out there, but they might not be so cheap and I am not worried about RG since I think McCray can play it pretty well. If not McCray, then Patrick, or Murphy. I am worried about RT, but don't know who is available at a reasonable benefit/price analysis.

If we could bring in Mercedes Lewis for $2M, that would make some sense. I went to the Falcaholic (SBnation site) since he was a cap casualty (had a $3.5M bonus due) and they think he can still be a TE who can block inline and leak out for passes. He is old (turns 34 in a week) so as a receiver he'd be RR like, except he is 6'6" and 3/8ths and is still a red zone threat. 13.3 yard average, 5 TDs. He played almost 900 snaps last year, but we'd be looking for 350 snaps. He'd be an experienced guy who could help our RT.

Sure would have been nice if Murphy and Spriggs hadn't gotten hurt last year so we could see what they could do at RT. Agree that RT is the major issue. I just don't follow other teams enough to know what RT options are out there at what price. Sportrac lists Austin Howard (1095 snaps), Newton (didn't play in 2017), Bell (he had a de-escalator for skipping workouts and a weight clause - so there is something wrong there), Winston (200 snaps), and Barclay. I only know the last guy. There are some LTs and generic tackles listed, some of whom I've heard of but know nothing about.

Nick Perry's picture

Howard just signed with the Colts 4 days ago.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Thanks, NP. Early reports are that Howard signed for $3.75M plus $500K in unknown incentives. I only know he played all 16 games for Balt last season, but IDK how good he is. Contract suggests he is so-so.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

duplicate,

Allan Murphy's picture

Who's to say one of the 7 WR can't one become a tight end ?

croatpackfan's picture

Any veteran signed before TC takes one young man spot. And if you have 30 OL men, there is no chance you'll be able to develop or to use all of them...

I believe we might see one additional signing of mid level FA, but, as TGR, I do not worry about RG position (there will be Jahri Evans in case of emergency!) Regarding RT I think Murphy keep his ground well before injury, but I agree, for us, spectators that was small sample. I believe coaches knows better what are capabilities of the players they were coaching...

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