Packers Better Call Paul

Paul Richardson Can Fulfill Green Bay’s Need For Speed 

As much as the Packers’ brain trust, most fans and Aaron Rodgers himself held high hopes for recent free-agent acquisition Devin Funchess, the veteran wideout’s decision to opt out of the 2020 season shouldn’t have much of an impact on his team’s fortunes. 

That assessment in no way is meant to denigrate the former second-round pick’s ability to contribute as a big possession target — when he’s not dropping easy balls. However, the Packers currently roster a multitude of other wide receivers who share many of Funchess’ characteristics. 

Presumptive starter Allen Lazard, along with Equanimeous St. Brown, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Jake Kumerow are all long-striders measuring somewhere in the 6’4”-6’5” range. And though each possesses a diverse set of strengths and weaknesses, any one or more of them can play the role the Packers had envisioned for the former Michigan Wolverine as a physical weapon who can post up smaller defensive backs in the shallow to intermediate areas of the field. 

If Green Bay’s receiving corps has a glaring deficiency, it would most likely be it’s lack of a shifty pass catcher who’s both fast and quick off the line. 

Funchess’ exit opens an opportunity for GM Brian Gutekunst to dip into the free agent market for a true speed merchant, such as Taylor Gabriel and Paul Richardson. Both are slightly-built athletes well under 200 pounds, and probably closer to 170. 

The one advantage Richardson has over his counterpart is that he’s considerably taller than the 5’7” Gabriel, with the former Redskin and Seahawk measuring in at an even 6’0”. 

Conversely, naysayers will often mention Richardson’s fragile nature every time his name comes up. Those concerns are undoubtedly valid, considering how the Los Angeles native’s laundry list of injuries began with a torn ACL during his collegiate years at the University of Colorado. 

To his credit, Richardson made a full recovery and parlayed a 1,343-yard, 10-touchdown junior campaign into an NFL rookie contract resulting from being drafted in the second round by Seattle in 2014. 

Further setbacks, including another ACL tear combined with hamstring issues, delayed the young man’s development upon entering the league. In fact, it wasn’t until Richardson’s third season in 2016 that he authored a performance worthy of his skill set by coming down with three highlight-reel grabs for 48 yards and a touchdown in Seattle’s 26-6 Wildcard victory over Detroit. 

In that game, the wiry playmaker finally came of age, as he not only showcased his field-stretching speed, but showed the heart and tenacity to reach around Tavon Wilson on a one-handed 2-yard touchdown pass. He later went airborne to shield Nevin Lawson on a spectacular one-handed sideline grab, evoking comparisons to Odell Beckham Jr. by NBC TV analyst Cris Collinsworth. 

P-Rich continued his ascent the following season by playing a full 16 games and gaining a career-high 703 yards to go with 6 touchdowns. Once again, Richardson proved he was more than flash and dash by demonstrating the will to put his body on the line by going up between defenders to come down with contested catches. 

Things seemed to all be coming together for the one-time track star when his newfound success allowed him to secure a 5-year, $40 million contract from the Washington Team. Alas, Richardson’s stay with his new organization proved to be rather brief thanks to a persistent hamstring injury that led to nine missed games in 2018 and an early trip to injured reserve in 2019, which hastened his release this past February. 

Through the years, the lanky vertical threat has certainly earned his reputation for being among the more injury-prone players in the sport. At only 28, though, Richardson deserves another shot at competing for a roster spot as a skilled deep weapon whose array of double moves can leave adversaries standing in place. 

His explosiveness to eat up cushion in pass coverage could afford the Packers a dimension they didn’t feature last season and seem to lack in 2020 as well. Having Richardson contribute in a limited Ted Ginn Jr. role may just be the remedy in keeping the journeyman on the field. 

At a minimum, adding this kind of experienced veteran to the mix may help loosen coverage on go-to target Davante Adams and Lazard with his exhilirating speed when the team employs three and four-man sets.

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When ~Reverend~ Ralph Mancini is not tackling hard news in New York City, he enjoys analyzing his favorite sports team, the Green Bay Packers. You can follow him on twitter at ReverendRalph.

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