Packers’ 2019 Tight End Makeover: Part 2

This Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams will take on the ‘underdog’ New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. While I’m sure we’d all rather see the Green Bay Packers repping the NFC, watching other teams can be rewarding. For me, seeing tight ends Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz, and Eric Ebron in action really hypes me up for what the Green Bay Packers can do with the position in 2019.

As mentioned last week, since losing Jermichael Finley to injury in 2013 the Green Bay Packers haven’t had a dominant tight end. Since then the Packers have drafted exactly two tight ends. If the position was a sinking ship, general manager Ted Thompson tried to repair the hull with Hello Kitty band-aids.

In lieu of draft capitol, Thompson operated outside of his comfort zone and dove into free agency to fix the position. In 2016 he signed Jared Cook, who would be replaced in 2017 by Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks. His predecessor Brian Gutekunst followed suit, replacing Bennett with Jimmy Graham and adding Marcedes Lewis.

This revolving door of free agent tight ends obviously has yet to fix the problem. But its worth asking, could any of 2019’s free agent tight ends be the answer?

Jared Cook, Oakland Raiders
Age: 32
2018 stats: 68 receptions/896 yards/6 TDs
PFF Grade: 75.7 (9th overall)

This name should be familiar to Packers fans. During the “Run the Table” era of 2016, Cook was a massive part of the team’s success. He and Aaron Rodgers really clicked during that stretch. Cook’s best play was a ridiculous catch against the Dallas Cowboys in the Division Round to set up a game-winning Mason Crosby field goal. Despite being the best tight end the Packers had in years, negotiations went south in 2017 and Thompson brought in Martellus Bennett instead. The less said about that the better.

In 2018, Cook was one of the few bright spots on an abysmal Raiders team and made the Pro Bowl. He’s a free agent again and its worth asking whether Green Bay should look his way again. He’s an upgrade in the blocking game, a solid receiver, and has established chemistry with Rodgers. But he’s getting older and would Cook want to return to the team that let him walk away? However if Jimmy Graham does get cut and the Packers can work within that cap space I would love to see him in the Green and Gold again.

Jesse James, Pittsburgh Steelers
Age: 24
2018 stats: 30/423/2
PFF Grade: 66.4

Despite having one of the coolest names in the NFL, James hasn’t done a ton with Pittsburgh. His most famous play was a controversial no-catch against the Patriots in 2017. He has ideal size and has been a good blocker, but hasn’t broken out as a playmaker. While I don’t see him as a TE1, he could be a reasonably priced, high upside signing for Green Bay. The outlaw namesake is someone to keep an eye on.

Demetrius Harris, Kansas City Chiefs
Age: 27
2018 stats: 12/164/3
PFF Grade: 60.5

Harris is the backup to Travis Kelce, a top 3 tight end in the league, so he’s a relative unknown to most fans. A former basketball player, he has great physicals and could potentially flourish in a new environment. However, drops have been an issue and at 27 he could be a “what you see is what you get” situation. Should the Packers want an athletic rotational player for a low cost, Harris could be in play.

Maxx Williams, Baltimore Ravens
Age: 24
2018 stats: 16/143/1
PFF Grade: 71.6 (16th overall)

Williams is another relatively unknown player, but has a ton of promise. In addition to being a top 20 PFF tight end, he was their 7th highest ranked run blocker. From what we know about Matt LaFleur’s offense, that’s a godsend. Williams has also looked good in small bursts of action in the passing game. Baltimore will build a new offense this season. Williams will likely be available and cheap and would be a great addition as a rotational player.

Of these options, Cook is the only true TE1 of the bunch, but the rest could have roles in Green Bay’s new tight end room. I would love to see Cook and Williams considered, but I’m adamant the Green Bay Packers’ future at tight end is in the 2019 draft. Next week, we’ll look at who the Packers could get from this rich draft class.

Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.

7 thoughts on “Packers’ 2019 Tight End Makeover: Part 2

  1. We had the #9 passing offense last year. Despite everything. And most of us believe we should run more.

    We should need a TE to take away targets from Adams or opportunities for Jones/Williams? Dude,we only have ONE ball. You could put Ed West in there and you still have more than enough weaponry to move the ball and score points.

  2. Choices stated? Maybe Cook, but at 32 I have my doubts. I agree with those who said keep Tonyan and out with the rest. Draft a young big starter, speed, great route runner, with good hands and no fear of the middle of the field. And, FA as a second or third TE at a reasonable price.

  3. It’s time to use the second pick in the first round the 30th pick on a tight end. There’s three that I believe are worthy of late first round or possibly the 44th pick in our draft. I’d love to see two of our first three picks be utilized on the offensive side this year. EDGE is what I’m hearing first GOOD. Then offensive line and tight end. I like the youngster Hochensen and then Fant or Irving from Alabama. Now that Graham is staying and agreeably he’s still got talent. Let’s also keep Tonyan and cut the others loose.

    1. JCD3: I would cut JGraham and Mercedes Lewis, retain Tonyan and acquire Jared Cook. I always thought he was a talented player and sign him to a one year contract and draft a young, athletic tight end in this year’s Draft as you state.

      1. Iagree with you until I heard this morning that Graham will be back in a Packers jersey. I thought letting Cook go was a dumb move and Tonyan can only continue to get better with more playing time. I really like Hochensen who may be off the board by 30. In which case let’s grab Fant.

        1. James: I thought losing Cook was a dumb move as well. In addition, I was furious when T.T. traded Micah Hyde to the Bills last year. He proved to be an outstanding defensive player in 2018 for them… and if retained, could have been an outstanding player for our team as well. BTW, my name is James as well.

          1. James I don’t want to see the Packers out of the playoffs ever again during the remainder of Rodgers career. This years draft is courtesy of another losing season. Let’s use it for fuel to rebuild our offensive line with one pick early and then another by the fifth round.We need to fix the right side either by moving Bulaga inside to guard and drafting a true right tackle in the first three picks. Or draft the guard from Wisconsin Deiter who I like. James I will never stop beating the drum for Tretter who we never should have left go to Cleveland. All he’s done is start every down for the Browns. He was the best sixth man in the NFL at OL. After passing on Derwin James last year and T.J.Watt the year before I have no idea what to expect this year. Don’t get your hopes up,but we better not blow this opportunity to shine and have an Aplus draft.

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