After Davante Adams’ departure from the Green Bay Packers, it’s easy to think that Aaron Rodgers throwing to Julio Jones may be an ideal scenario, but is it really even feasible for them? Which factors go into deciding whether or not to bring in more veteran wide receiver help to a room that just lost the best talent it’s seen in years?
Free Agent Wide Receivers That May Fit for the Packers
Currently there are about seven names being thrown around, some more frequently than others, that many would be considered the top available free agent wide receivers. Those seven are the following: Julio Jones, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr., Will Fuller, T.Y. Hilton, Cole Beasley, and Emmanuel Sanders.
Out of this group of receivers it becomes hard to draw the line of who is likely to become the “number one” guy if they were to find themselves in Green Bay. If we factor in the likelihood of Aaron Rodgers favoring a guy he’s used to throwing to — like Allen Lazard — it becomes even more difficult.
To start, we’ll look at Julio Jones, who had “number one” potential about three years ago. Jones has struggled in the past two years to put together an elite season. Determining whether that struggle was due to lack of availability or a drop-off in his game kind of just depends on which week you choose to look at.
Jones has combined for 82 catches, 1,105 yards, and just four touchdowns in the 19 games he’s played over the last two seasons. This is less in every category than his 15 game season in 2019. It is fair to say that Aaron Rodgers could bump his production to a higher level than Ryan Tannehill could, but it is also fair to say Julio might just be done producing at the elite level that he once did. As far as being a fit for the Packers, Julio Jones is a “maybe.”
Odell Beckham Jr.
Next is Odell Beckham Jr., who oddly feels simultaneously like he’s completely out of the running for the Packers, and like he’s the only viable option as a wide receiver addition for them. Despite his prior interest in joining the team last year before deciding to take his talents to Southern California, it is completely unknown whether Beckham still has interest, but it may work out well for both parties if he does.
It feels unlikely that the Packers would sign someone who will miss two or three months of the season. On the other hand, Beckham rehabbing his injury may actually give the Packers an interesting opportunity. Late in the season the team may have a few injuries to the receiver position. Matt LaFleur may also want to reevaluate production of the receivers a few months in. Adding a weapon late in the year to give themselves a push towards the postseason — kind of like the Rams did — could be a winning strategy.
Fuller, the youngest of all the receivers I’ve named, is probably the most interesting on the list. The Packers have shown interest in him in the past, and he has explosive potential. Fuller, like Jarvis Landry, is somewhat of a prototypical slot receiver — but he’s a bit younger, his market value projects as a bit cheaper, and he still has the capability to come in and compete to be the best slot receiver on the roster. He also possesses excellent game speed, a trait the Packers have been openly looking into recently. While Green Bay doesn’t exactly need a slot receiver, I’d pencil him in as a potential fit for the team if they look to add another receiver.
Free Agent Wide Receivers Who May Not Fit
The next tier down would consist of T.Y. Hilton, Jarvis Landry, Cole Beasley, and Emmanuel Sanders. I’ll start by saying Sanders and Beasley are both aging slot receivers, therefore I can’t imagine they will be signed by the Packers, nothing more needs to be said there.
Jarvis Landry still seems to be demanding a lot of money, and he doesn’t feel like a “fit” for the Packers. He plays a lot of snaps out of the slot and the Packers don’t really need a slot receiver, he’s only 5′ 11”, etc. I’d be legitimately shocked if he ended up in Green Bay, so I don’t feel the need to say too much about him here.
Next is T.Y. Hilton, who has struggled since the drop off in quarterback quality he’s seen since Andrew Luck’s retirement. Hilton still has some elite traits, and while it would be interesting to see him compete in Green Bay for a spot as one of Aaron Rodgers’ outside pass catchers, it seems that Green Bay’s front office prefers receivers with a little more size and ability to block in the run game.
Sammy Watkins, at 6’1” and 205 pounds, seems to be a benchmark for what the Packers are trying to do at the wide receiver position. Watkins has an excellent run blocking grade over the past few years as well, so with someone like him in the building it’s hard to see them breaking that mold enough to go after someone like Hilton.
Previous Receiver Groups Under Matt LaFleur
Now that we have some analysis on the guys that are out there, let’s take a look at the packers previous receiver groups to make the initial 53-man roster heading into the regular season in past years.
2021 53-Man Roster
In 2021, there were six receivers on the initial roster, with Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Amari Rodgers, and Malik Taylor.
2020 53-Man Roster
In 2020, there were five receivers, with Adams, Valdes-Scantling, and Lazard of course being there, but also Equanimeous St. Brown, and again, Malik Taylor.
2019 53-Man Roster
In 2019, there were six receivers, those receivers being, Adams, Geronimo Allison, Valdes-Scantling, Jake Kumerow, Trevor Davis, and Darrius Shepherd. St. Brown, of course, spent this entire season on injured reserve after suffering an ankle injury in the preseason.
Analyzing The Previous Rosters
One thing to quickly note upon looking at these groups from each year is that the Packers have always kept at least one player in the wide receiver room who they believe can contribute on special teams. That player going into the 2022 season looks to be either Malik Taylor again, or possibly Samori Toure, the seventh-round rookie out of Nebraska.
So we know based off of the previous number of receivers kept, as well as basic observational skills, that Matt LaFleur’s offense is built off of the run game. The blocking at every position is important, having versatility and options at the offensive line and tight end positions is very important, and carrying seven wide receivers on the roster into the season feels like something they don’t typically want to do.
So Who’s Making it to the Final Roster?
Let’s break the rule above, for the sake of argument. Let’s say the Packers want to hold seven wide receivers on the 53-man roster heading into the regular season, because in all honesty, they might. Brian Gutekunst has already said before that they are going with a multi-faceted approach to replacing the volume we saw from Davante Adams, and there is no one player that the Packers can bring in who can do all of what Adams can. So maybe they do want a seventh roster spot dedicated to the wide receiver position, but who will fill those seven spots?
Locks to Make It
Let’s start off with players that are virtually locks to make the roster, barring injury or other unforeseen circumstances. Allen Lazard looks to be the top wide receiver heading into training camp, and he has been a big, athletic target for Rodgers for a few years now, he is a lock.
Randall Cobb took a pay cut to stay with the team, and it seems incredibly unlikely that the Packers would cut ties with him after bringing him on last year to keep the quarterback happy. He’s reliable on late downs, he’s the top slot receiver on the offense, he has a connection with Rodgers, and he will all but surely be on the roster on opening day.
Christian Watson was drafted in the second round with the 34th overall pick after the Packers traded picks 53 and 59 to move up to acquire him. He will be on the 53-man roster in September.
One receiver will surely make the roster for their ability on special teams alone. I’m going to firmly state that one of either Samori Toure, or Malik Taylor, is a lock for the 53-man roster for the upcoming season.
Nearly Locks to Make It
Amari Rodgers is the first of the “almost” locks. After trading up in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft to acquire him, Amari Rodgers had an admittedly disappointing rookie season in terms of production, but the Packers spent a lot of capital on him, and they knew he was a work-in-progress. He doesn’t seem to be in the same boat as J’mon Moore unless he has an abysmal performance at training camp and the preseason, which doesn’t seem likely anyway.
Fourth round pick Romeo Doubs out of Nevada possesses some elite traits, and I’d say he’s probably even more of a lock than Amari Rodgers. It is almost unheard of for an NFL team to give up on a fourth round pick before he’s even accrued one year in the league, especially at the wide receiver position. Barring injury, the Packers are surely placing him on the roster heading into the 2022 season.
So far that puts us at six players who it feels are almost surely going to make the initial 53-man roster with Lazard, Cobb, Watson, Rodgers, Doubs, and one of either Taylor or Toure. That leaves us with Sammy Watkins, who has a great chance to make the roster as well, putting him in that seventh spot that we allowed for this exercise.
Watkins isn’t necessarily a lock to make the roster, we can see that by looking at how his contract is structured. However, when the Packers were perusing the free agent market after trading Adams it seems that they chose the guy that they wanted. As mentioned earlier, Watkins has the size and speed that the Packers are looking for, and he’s an excellent run blocker. I would be surprised to see Watkins excluded from the initial 53-man roster and yet — he’s the guy that I’m least sure is a lock.
There is simply not enough room on this Packers roster to add another free agent wide receiver. The Packers have made their selections for receivers at this point. Unless they plan on signing Odell Beckham Jr. to wiggle him onto the roster after the mid-season mark, I just don’t see why they would undermine their own signings and draft selections to bring in another veteran wide receiver at this point in time.——————
Zack is a college student and cheesehead from California. When he’s not in class or writing, you can find him talking about the Packers on Twitter at @Zack_Upchurch.