The headlines early in Packers off-season workouts have primarily centered around who is absent, and not who is present.
Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard was not in attendance when the Packers kicked off their mandatory minicamp this week, leading some to speculate that he may be unhappy with his current contract situation.
After the off-season trade of Davante Adams, Lazard has found himself as the de-facto number one wide receiver on the roster.
As Allen Lazard enters his age 27 season, should the Packers consider signing him to a long term deal?
If nothing else, Allen Lazard is a guy you really want to root for.
Undrafted in 2018 after a productive college career at Iowa State, Lazard found his way to the Packers after being poached off of the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad in December of ’18.
Lazard has impressed with measurable growth as a player each of his 3+ seasons in Green Bay despite being a somewhat limited athlete.
Part of the plight of being an undrafted free agent is that the NFL pay structure is stacked against you. Through 4 NFL seasons, Allen Lazard has earned only $2.4 million in total salary.
A princely sum to the average human, but paltry in terms of NFL players.
Lazard was a restricted free agent this offseason, and the Packers elected to use the 2nd round tender on him with a contract value of $3.98 million for one season.
Lazard has yet to sign that tender, indicating that he’d like some back-pay and some future security.
Hard to blame him, right?
The main question that has to be asked with regard to Allen Lazard’s future in Green Bay is has he reached his ceiling, or is there more developing to be done.
Lazard enters the 2022 season in his physical prime at age 27, and if he signs his RFA tender he would be an unrestricted free agent in March of 2023.
I don’t believe that the Packers will sign Lazard to a long-term deal, he hasn’t shown enough to warrant a significant investment, and Packers front office brass has generally shown an aversion to surpassing the age 30 meridian in extensions.
However, I can see both sides of the bargaining table on this issue and wouldn’t rule out a short term deal.
If you’re the Packers, it will be hard to rationalize paying top of market dollars on even a short term deal to a player who hasn’t topped 40 receptions in a season, and just surpassed 500 yards for the first time last season.
Additionally, the Packers know that to this point Lazard has the most value to them instead of another suitor and will want to see that he can show continued growth in a more featured role in the offense.
Lazard’s camp knows that at age 27, he’s probably only getting 1-2 more bites at an apple off the NFL money tree.
Lazard has leverage in knowing that the wide receiver room is short on veteran depth beyond 2022, with both Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins playing on essentially one year deals.
His skillset is also unique in that he can line-up pretty much anywhere including out of the backfield on occasion, he has strong hands and is a MAULING blocker in an offense where running the football will be paramount.
Through sheer volume of targets, it’s reasonable to expect that Lazard will surpass his 40-513 stat line and perhaps even his 8 touchdowns. If he makes good on that, he’s in the conversation for a top NFL #2 wideout, but it would take a sizable jump to join the bonafide #1 receiver conversation.
Lazard also has the support of Aaron Rodgers, and if we know one thing it’s that Rodgers likes to take his time building rapport with his offensive weaponry.
My gut tells me that the Packers are working towards a short term, middle-of-market deal with Lazard.
There is no doubt that Lazard deserves a raise.
Unfortunately, with the Monopoly money that’s being handed out to receivers these days, middle market dollars could be well over $10 million per season.
I think Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s 3 year, $30 million dollar deal could prove to be the benchmark for Lazard negotiations.
I could maybe even see a 2 year deal with more guaranteed money potentially.
A short term pact allows the Packers to evaluate the 2022 rookie receiver crop, and keeps Lazard on the right side of 30 when the deal is up allowing him to seek greener pastures at that time.
You can follow Adam on twitter at @adamjcarlson28.