When the Green Bay Packers kicked off camp for the 2023 season, there was a notable absence. I’m not talking about Aaron Rodgers; I’m talking about the absence of a veteran pass-catcher. In free agency, the green and gold let long-time offensive weapons walk in Robert Tonyan, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Marcedes Lewis. Many were under the assumption with no one in the room having more than a season under their belts, that the Packers would likely sign a veteran late. However, that never came true, and instead the Packers youth was set to take off on their own.
I’m not afraid to admit that I thought the Packers would for sure sign at least a veteran tight end before camp. Marcedes Lewis almost seemed like he could be a lock to return until that still sucking team to the south signed him. But until they were signed one by one to other teams, my phone would alert me to another friend asking me if DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Golladay, or N’Keal Harry were possibilities. Everyone one but the Packers themselves thought that they needed to sign a veteran wide receiver.
But then it hit me. We’re not looking to be super competitive this year. We’re looking to see what we have, see what it can do, and take it from there. If Jordan Love ends up being any good, why not put a group of pass catchers around him that he could have for at least another 3-4 years? Signing a veteran pass catcher would take reps away from those young targets, and for what? A year or two of a bloated contract for a boom or bust? No thanks.
And then Brian Gutekunst said what I was thinking.
“We’re very excited about that group and how they’re gonna grow together with Jordan”
It was like Brian Gutekunst and I shared a common brain when he said this during training camp: “Obviously, we’re very excited about that group and how they’re gonna grow together with Jordan. The players we have in that group right now need to play.” A veteran would’ve taken those reps away from guys like Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks, Bo Melton, and Malik Heath. In fact, there’s a chance the last two on that list may not have had a roster spot had the Packers signed a Hopkins, Golladay, or Harry.
There may have been a few weeks in the season where I went back on my words. When the Packers offense was struggling to find a rhythm, I couldn’t help but think maybe a veteran could’ve helped provide a security blanket for Jordan Love. But those thoughts were short-lived as our young guns lead the way to the playoffs.
There is no limit
Let’s take a look at the Packers’ rookie pass catchers’ production alone this season. 2,445 yards and 18 touchdowns. That accounts for over 50% of Jordan Love’s passing yards and touchdowns. This is all coming from weapons that Jordan Love may not have realized they even existed until late April of last year.
Imagine Matt LaFleur having a full offseason to tweak his offense around two dynamic pass-catching tight ends in Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft. Imagine an offseason of planning around the Swiss-army knife that is Jayden Reed. The playmaking ability of Dontayvion Wicks. The emergence of Bo Melton and Malik Heath. And then pile on Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. This is an offense with the capability to give defenses fits.
Jordan Love held workouts with a few of his weapons in the offseason, but not many included these rookies. This team has shown growth by leaps and bounds during the season and the offseason could show even more as that comradery grows.
It brings me back to that initial comment of the youth growing together. Have you ever had a coworker or a friend that started something at the same time you did? Sometimes you can’t help but build a friendship with them and want to see them succeed because you see each other as “in it together.” Well, this young group of Packers pass-catchers are all entering the league only a year apart at max. They’re all the same age, they all have the same experience, they’re going to want to see each other succeed and do whatever it takes to help each other get there.
You know what the best part of that is for the Packers and Jordan Love? That group of individuals is under contract for at least another two seasons or more after this. It’s the same group for the next few years to push each other to get better. Jordan Love is going to have the same targets to work with for at least two more years to come.
Growing together can mean nothing but positivity for this Packers team. Regardless of what happens in the 2023 season, I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to PackersTalk as well as CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter at @gmeinholz. for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.