Most of the Packers’ veterans who have missing OTAs make sense. They’re your typical all-pro or just old guys who know the playbook, have no fear of losing their starting spot, and might be playing golf on TV. Then there’s Allen Lazard. The wide receiver was a surprising no-show to many.
Lazard is entering his fifth season in the league and has yet to sign the one-year contract the Packers offered him earlier this offseason. He’s also yet to breach 600 yards or a PFF grade over 73 in a season. We may be at a tipping point for him. He could just as easily be the team’s number one wide receiver six months from now as he could be just another ex-Packer playing for the Vikings or some other terrible team. Let’s go over the situation.
There are plenty of locks to make the team at WR:
Randall Cobb: See Rodgers, Aaron.
Christian Watson & Romeo Doubs: These two bring the return ability and speed that LaFleur has coveted since the moment he was hired.
Amari Rodgers: Forget how bad he was last year; the Packers just don’t cut second-year third round picks. They wait until the third year and try to convince them to stay on the practice squad.
Sammy Watkins: Watkins and Lazard are similar. They’re both missing OTAs. They’re both among the best in the league at run blocking. The difference is speed and pay. Gutekunst made a point to mention how athletic Watkins is and how different that will be from the receivers who have played for the Packers in recent years. If Watkins brings the same run blocking prowess as Lazard and can do other things better for half the paycheck, why keep Lazard?
In addition, guys like Malik Taylor and Samori Toure bring more special teams ability and the team is supposedly weighing that more than ever this offseason.
If you count those five guys as locks (I’m sure some people don’t consider Watkins a lock but suspend your disbelief for a minute) and keep Lazard, a free agent signing of Julio Jones, Will Fuller, or Odell Beckham gets a lot harder.
None of those three are going to play special teams. Cobb and Amari Rodgers probably aren’t. That could be four guys in the wide receiver room who can’t cover on the kicking team or be a gunner on the punt team. That’s a lot. Especially when three of those four don’t really provide much in the way of value add in the receiving game.
At this point, I’d lead toward betting that Green Bay won’t be in on any of those free agents for real. Maybe if Julio wants to chase a ring for $4 million but why sign Fuller after drafting Watson and why devote more cap to Odell, the like 5th guy they’d have rehabbing a torn ACL.
Now that the team has extended Jaire Alexander, there are really only three ways to open up enough cap space to sign a veteran free agent. Release Mason Crosby or Dean Lowry or revoke the second-round tender on Lazard. Crosby and Lowry would save $3.4 million and $5.95 million respectively. Letting Lazard go would save just under $4 million.
Crosby has reportedly done well so far in OTAs and Gutey has invested so much in the defense already that I doubt he cuts a good veteran who was dominant at times last year. The effective cap space is under $3 million right now, letting Lazard go would more than double that.
If I had to bet, I’d say Lazard starts for Green Bay this year, us playing less than half the snaps by playoff time and is on a different team next year. There’s still time for my dream, however, move him to tight end!
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.