It’s late April and John Kuhn is still a free agent. Has the sun set on the fan favorite? Have the echoes of “KUUUHHNN” been heard in hallowed Lambeau for the last time? Only time will tell.
At this point, the team will likely wait until after the NFL draft to see how the roster begins to shake out. Not only will the Packers, barring any trades, bring in nine draft picks, they will also sign a slew of undrafted rookies. Kuhn’s future with the team likely depends upon where those chips fall as the Packers begin to look forward toward training camp and accumulating a full squad.
Ted Thompson and company have always favored youth. If the team can land an undrafted fullback with future potential, it would not be surprising for the team to value that player more than Kuhn, a guy who can play now, but does not offer much beyond a season or two.
The largest determining factor on Kuhn’s future in Green Bay, however, likely depends upon second year fullback Aaron Ripkowski. If the Packers feel that Rip is ready to be “the guy” at fullback, there would be little reason to bring back Kuhn, even if he played for the veteran minimum, as he did in 2015.
The Packers drafted Ripkowski in the 6th round last year, a fairly high spot for a position that’s become so obsolete for most teams that it’s been phased out altogether. But fullback remains a vital role in Mike McCarthy’s offense. It’s clear that the Packers brought in Ripkowski to take the reins from an aging John Kuhn, who will turn 34 before the start of the regular season.
It was surprising, therefore, that the Packers played Ripkowski so little at the fullback position in 2015. While he was a significant special teams contributor, he played only 19 snaps on offense. In comparison, Kuhn played 365. It certainly didn’t look as if the Packers were attempting a passing of the torch season at fullback. And yet, here we are in mid-April, with the Packers still dragging their feet.
Kuhn supposedly has been shown interest from five other NFL teams, but he’s not likely to be valued by other teams as much as he is by the Packers. Perhaps the Packers will be able to sit on Kuhn until they’ve gotten a better look at Ripkowski in training camp. Certainly, if they felt that they might need Kuhn but could lose out on him to other teams, they’d have dished out the veteran minimum to keep him in the fold.
But even if Kuhn is not brought back and the chants of “Kuuuuuhn” go off to the same land of eternal rest as the now forgotten chants of George “Koooooonce” that once filled Lambeau, John Kuhn will always be a fan favorite and likely immortalized in the Packers Hall of Fame.
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.