Free Agent Receivers Packers Should Be Targeting

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Sammy Watkins

My theory is that the Green Bay Packers’ biggest needs are for a standout receiver and a dominant pass rusher. It would be nice if they could get one through free agency and the other with their 14th overall draft choice.

Today I’m looking at the top wide receivers who are about to become free agents if they don’t re-sign with their current teams. My prerequisites are nothing less than a big, fast and athletic receiver, and one with a consistent or rising pro record of effectiveness.

Sports Illustrated lists four “difference makers” (*) and another 14 “significant” impending free agent receivers. Based on size alone, I’m scratching over half these guys off the list: *Jarvis Landry (Dolphins), *John Brown (Cardinals), Paul Richardson (Seahawks), Danny Amendola (Patriots), Marqise Lee (Jaguars), Taylor Gabriel (Falcons), Albert Wilson (Chiefs), Mike Wallace (Steelers), Ryan Grant (Redskins), and Kendall Wright (Bears). I assume some readers, however, would be attracted to some of these little water bugs. I would too, but my top priority at the moment is for a classic wide receiver, a WR1.

By the way, I wouldn’t describe Miami’s Jarvis Landry as a difference maker: he was targeted a whopping 160 times – fourth most in 2017 – and still didn’t reach 1,000 yards.

That leaves these eight: *Sammy Watkins (Rams), *Allen Robinson (Jaguars), Jaron Brown (Cardinals), Donte Moncrief (Colts), Jordan Matthews (Bills), Dontrelle Inman (Bears), Terrelle Pryor (Redskins), and Eric Decker (Titans).

So who among these nine had a fine season in 2017? There was only one guy in the top 63 in receiving yards: Sammy Watkins, at 63. Only 24 years old, he had two fine years to start with, missed half of his third year, and only managed 39 catches last year, his first season with the Rams. He’s a falling star.

That’s it, nobody meets my criteria. But wait, there’s a guy who only had one catch in 2017: Allen Robinson. He tore his ACL in the season opener.

Let’s assume Robinson gets a very clean bill of health from his surgeon. In that case, let’s take a longer look at this consensus All-American from Penn State, who also was a Pro Bowler in 2015. He’s only 24; he’s 6’3” and 211 pounds (220 at the NFL Combine). Alas, his combine numbers are awful, starting with a 4.6 dash time, and going downhill from there.

Robinson is a guy who defies the odds, given his low athleticism. In just his second year, he rang up 1,400 yards, a 17.5 yard catch average, and 14 TDs. He got nowhere near that, however, in 2016, his third year. Maybe you can overlook his measurables and be happy with his proven effectiveness, but I can’t – not when big money (Davante Adams money) is at stake.

There you have it, none of Sports Illustrated’s list of 18 free agent receivers meets my requirements.

There is another possibility: potential cap casualties. These are guys who are still under contract, but who might be dropped by their teams – mostly for salary cap reasons. In addition to Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb being this SI list, here are some others: Dez Bryant (Cowboys), Michael Crabtree (Raiders), Allen Hurns (Jaguars), Jeremy Maclin (Ravens), Emmanuel Sanders (Broncos), and Markus Wheaton (Bears). I’m not feeling any love here, either. Some are getting old, some are too beaten up, and one is too Dez.

It looks like the Packers will have to use that first round draft pick on a wide receiver.

Tomorrow, I’ll review free agent pass rushers – maybe there will be someone more tempting in that grouping.

About The Author

Rob is currently twiddling his thumbs on Whidbey Island in Washington. He likes to do research, although he has no shortage of opinions. He saw his first live Packers game in 1958, the only win of the year.

11 Comments on "Free Agent Receivers Packers Should Be Targeting"

  1. If Jordan Matthews was available at the right price, he may fit. Matthews had a bad year last year due to injuries and being traded to a new team. I don’t believe Matthews has had a history of injuries except for last year?

    There is probably a reason that Matthews was traded. One reason may be he wanted too much money from the Eagles for what he was worth. With the off year from Matthews in 2017 it is possible Matthews may come cheaper than expected. If Matthews was available after the first couple of days of free agency I think the Packers should make an offer. Matthews can play all the receiver positions. Matthews has some speed, athletic ability, and route running skills.

    • Kato

      Agreed. If they do make a move on a FA wide receiver, it will come at the expense of Jordy or Cobb. There is no way they come into 2018 with $40 million invested in 4 receivers. Personally I think the choice is easy and they cut Cobb if he doesn’t take a pay cut. Jordy is going to move to the slot sooner than later. Montgomery can do the exact same things as Cobb at a fraction of the price. And maybe better too. To me, you take a receiver in round 2 or 3. I would rather target a TE in free agency.

  2. Cheesemaker

    I like your insistence on elite measureables. Would not compromise them for Robinson.

    Moncrief, Watkins, Pryor – do these guys necessarily get big contracts? If not, I’d kick the tires.

    Coming out of college, I thought Watkins was a hyper-elite game-changer. Pro career has not lived up to that, but if he’s not too expensive, I’d be very interested.

    • Kato

      Watkins will probably get at least $8 million based on his draft status and his potential. A team like Cleveland or Chicago with loads of salary cap space will throw big money at him because they are desperate for skill position players

  3. Ferris

    Please don’t spend the 14 pick on a WR. Unless it’s Calvin Johnson. Just ask Detroit or the Bears about 1st Rd WR’s. Rodgers makes a 2 a 1.5 or a 1.25, Hundley made a 1 a 3 and a 2 a nobody. Brady has Hogan and Amendola and wins. He only got Cooks this year. One of these younger players are worth a shot, Hurns had Blake Bortles throwing him the ball. He might be a star in GB.

  4. PF4L

    Good receivers are far more prevalent than corner backs in the draft. Lets prioritize a corner and start correcting the damage that Ted has done, until we start doing that, we are going nowhere.

    As far as receivers, like i said, they are all over the draft board. We already have 2 over paid receivers, do we need to add a 3rd in free agency?

    When Rodgers plays a full season our offense isn’t the problem. In 2016 the offense finished 8th in the league, while being the 4th highest scoring team in the league.

    When you discuss the reasons why the Packers haven’t been able to get to the Super Bowl in years, wide receivers are way done at the bottom of the list.

    Lets fix what’s broke.

    • MJ

      Not always, my friend. Some defensive collapses were due to the offense not gaining a single first down. Yes, our defense needs no help to look bad, but the predictability of our offense coupled to our sluggish receivers deals a “coup de grace” to an already weak defense. An offense that stays on the field is in a sense a good defense. Therefore, yes, a speedy WR is a tangible need (yet another one).

      • PF4L

        I’m talking about when Rodgers is QB. If Rodgers doesn’t get enough 1st downs, maybe we need a new QB, idk.

        Regardless…by your theory you could also then blame the defense allowing too many 1st downs and not getting off the field, thereby holding the offense back. That to me is really reaching, and i just don’t go that far.

        Judge them on their own merit.

        • MJ

          Yes, the defense turns every pass into a 1st down. Even with AR at QB our offense could go three-and-out quite often, making our bad defense look even worse. And no, that to me is not on Rodgers, but on McCarthy’s playcalling, which opposing defenses could read like an open book.

  5. cz

    Spread the ball using TE often.

    Ist, get a Gronk
    or a Zach Ertz

    Kendricks and Richard Rodgers are not dominant players.

    Or dont and continue to have our receivers get all the attention.

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