One of the more critical positions in the Packers offense is Tight End. They are required to do it all; run and pass block effectively as well as being a reliable receiver. Without effective play from the position, it severely limits how Matt LaFleur can call the offense. Between free agents, existing players and the draft, the Packers will need to make numerous choices on how the Tight End position will look going forward in 2022 and beyond.
First and foremost; do the Packers try to keep Robert Tonyan? When he initially came back last season, it was expected that he would be playing elsewhere in 2022 after capitalizing on a monster season. Now, after a lackluster season coupled with a brutal torn ACL, a big money contract probably isn’t in the cards. When healthy, Tonyan can be a dynamic difference maker. The Packers know his recovery best and need to consider resigning him to a short-term deal. This would allow him to rehab and then hit the open market again. This will also work for the Packers as it would allow them to avoid needing to immediately allocate major resources to the position.
Another factor in determining the direction of the position is the status of Mercedes Lewis. The rugged veteran has not shown any indication of wanting to retire. As one of the best blocking tight ends in football, the Packers relied on Lewis to power their run game. He also still showed regular ability to catch the ball as well as running after the catch. The Packers will likely need to adjust his contract if he is returning, but his skillset and leadership will always be valued in Green Bay.
Regardless of what happens with Tonyan and Lewis, the Packers will need to add to the position. Tight Ends historically have a tough transition from college, so regularly taking prospects to develop is generally a wise decision. Coupled with the age and injury factors of the aforementioned players and it’s a no brainer to look in the draft this year.
Luckily, the 2022 NFL draft seems to have numerous options to pick from. At the senior bowl, Jake Ferguson (Wisconsin) and Trey McBride (Colorado State) looked the part of NFL prospects. They demonstrated many of the characteristics of the do-all tight ends that the Packers covet. Unfortunately, both would likely require a significant investment in the form of day one or two draft pick. It is early in the draft process but, at least early on it appears that there will be a number of other players the Packers will consider when they look to add to the position.
The Packers approach to the Tight End position will need to be creative and multifaceted. They will need to look under every rock to develop a complete and full depth chart. Without a concrete plan to build the position, the offense will need to compensate for a significant hole in the roster which could sink their 2022 hopes.
Jordan is a lifelong Packer fan who grew up in Idaho and now lives in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on twitter at @jordantwolf.