The news that wide receiver James Jones was leaving the Packers to sign with the Oakland Raiders was generally met with a shrug around Packer nation. With both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb scheduled to hit free agency next year, it was presumed that the 29 year old Jones would look for one last big pay day in free agency somewhere other than Green Bay.
But as the first week of free agency wound down and other receivers such as Eric Decker, Golden Tate, Riley Cooper, and Andre Roberts had all signed large multi-year deals, there seemed to be little interest in Jones. That is until Monday evening when Jones’ 3 year deal with the Raiders was announced. And when the terms of the deal were made public I wondered why the Packers didn’t try harder to re-sign him.
Jones signed a 3 year deal worth $10 million which includes $3.65 million in guaranteed money, not exactly the type of deal that would put the Packers in a precarious position salary cap wise.
Obviously the aforementioned impending free agency of Cobb and Nelson played a role in letting Jones sign elsewhere, as did the emergence of Jarrett Boykin, who caught 49 passes for 681 yards this past season. But for a team that relies so heavily on the passing game they are getting perilously thin on quality pass catchers. Beyond the top 3 receivers, the Packers receiving corps is a rather inexperienced group. Kevin Dorsey, Myles White and Chris Harper could all fight for a roster spot this season, but out of the 3, only White has caught a pass in the NFL.
And the Packers tight end group is currently a case of quantity over quality, with 5 tight ends under contract, but not a proven receiving threat among them.
Surely the Packers will select a receiver or two in the upcoming draft, a draft that is considered to be incredibly deep at the position of wide receiver . However, finding a receiver that is able to make the jump from college to the NFL is much more difficult then it seems.
There were 28 wide receivers taken in last year’s draft and 33 selected the year before, and out of those 61 players, there will be a handful of superstars, some quality contributors, but the majority will end up being 4th or 5th receivers and contribute mostly on special teams.
Ted Thompson has done a fine job in finding wide receivers in the draft, Jones, Nelson, Cobb, and Greg Jennings, all proved to be excellent selections, but he has still had more misses than hits. Terrence Murphy, Craig Bragg, Cory Rodgers, Brett Swain, Charles Johnson, have all failed to find success in the NFL. And that’s not a knock on Thompson. Finding receivers in the draft is incredibly difficult, and the fact that Thompson has hit on 4 out of the 10 receivers he has selected in his 9 years with the Packers is impressive. It just illustrates what a crapshoot selecting a receiver in the draft is, especially if you are picking them in the mid to late rounds. With the exception of Boykin, who was undrafted, all of Thompson’s successful receiver picks were in rounds 2 or 3. Late round picks like Swain, Bragg, and Johnson have had very little impact in the NFL.
If the Packers receivers stay healthy this year and Ted Thompson makes some smart choices in the draft the loss of Jones will go mostly unnoticed. But if the injury bug bites the Packers, as it so often does, and the Packers fail to find another quality receiver in the draft, they may wish they made more of an effort to re-sign Jones.——————