The search for free agents started for a lot of us as soon as the Packers were out of playoff contention. It likely started for the Packers front office once their hierarchy was established. The Packers tried to find a vertical threat at tight end last offseason. And, putting it lightly, Marcellus Bennett did not pan out. The Packers knew the risk and ultimately lived to regret it. Instead of the former pro-bowler, they got the hot headed temperament they hoped Bennett had put behind him. Their other signee, Lance Kendricks, simply never produced and should be cut following his November arrest. The powers that be still need to find a weapon for Aaron Rodgers.
We are now well aware that new GM Brian Gutekunst, VP Russ Ball, and Head Coach Mike McCarthy will answer to President Mark Murphy. If anyone wants to get up and use the bathroom during a meeting they better run it by Murphy first. Ball is of course your financial guru. He is the guy who negotiated all of Green Bay’s recent contracts. Ball will be the one bursting Gutekunst’s and McCarthy’s hopes regarding free agents they will seek out. The market, however, does not look too bad despite recent trends. There is a lot of potential at tight end and a number of players will be looking for a change in scenery.
Seattle Seahawks- TE Jimmy Graham
Graham does not possess the same personality as Bennett, but what he doesn’t have in spirit he makes up for in talent. He may even have a slight edge over Bennett. Graham is the one of the best red zone threats in the league. He is low risk as he hasn’t missed a game since 2015. Last season he led Seattle with 10 touchdown receptions. Graham will turn 32 in November so his asking price won’t be too ridiculous. He probably wants to win right away, and the Packers would get an instant boost to their passing game if they targeted him. Similar to Bennett’s deal, the Packers could get Graham at around $20 million over three years.
New York Jets- Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Seferian-Jenkins saw the most success of his young career in 2017. He had 50 catches for 357 yards while hauling in three touchdowns. These numbers aren’t too shabby considering he caught passes from Josh McCown all year. Seferian-Jenkins will continue to be heedless of his own potential until he plays with a top-tier quarterback. He’s 6 ft 5 in and is quite fast for his size (Ran a 4.56 at the combine). Accompany that with a QB like Rodgers and his career could take off. He turned down the Jets first attempt to resign him at 2-years, $8 million. If he’s willing to accept a similar offer to play in a functional offense, then Green Bay is the place to be.
Philadelphia Eagles- Trey Burton
Burton is the odd man out in Philadelphia’s group of tight ends. Last offseason he signed a one-year, $2.7 million-dollar deal to stick around. A high amount for a third string tight end. He rarely gets his chances, but when he does, he makes the most of them. Burton played only 26.5% of the teams offensive snaps in 2017 as the team mostly viewed him as a special teams connoisseur. And yet, despite his limited opportunities, he was still able to produce 250 yards and five touchdowns. Burton would be a cheap pickup at around $3 or $4 million a year.
This is only a scratch of the surface as far as talent to be had in free agency. The Packers haven’t had an impactful tight end since the days of Jermichael Finley. Letting Jared Cook walk might have been a mistake, but it’s not too late to right the ship.
___________________Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. He has covered the Packers for over five years and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.