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Packers Have Brewed Up a Crisis at Wide Receiver

When I was an Air Force pilot, I never once in five years had to utter those scary words: “I’m declaring an emergency!” But in my current gig, the time has come: I’m declaring an emergency at wide receiver.

Any NFL team, but especially one led by Aaron Rodgers, should have at least three starter-quality wide receivers, one being a dominating physical guy, plus at least two backups who can play capably at the pro level. What do the Green Bay Packers have? Two out of three, zero, and zero – and that’s giving Randall Cobb the benefit of the doubt. They’ll have to rely on tight end Jimmy Graham as the dominating go-to guy.

The Packers obviously had decided to release Jordy Nelson soon after the start of the free agency season. You would have thought they’d be all over the 44 wide receivers who entered free agency on March 14. After the fact, we’ve heard that the Packers had an interest in Allen Robinson. Robinson, however, was the second highest-rated receiver on the market. The chance of the Packers outbidding teams with tons of salary cap space for him were slim and none. He wound up going to Chicago.

Last week, the Packers visited with Jordan Matthews, who is now the top-ranked receiver on that list – the 10 players above him have all been signed. Several teams beside the Packers have been looking at Matthews, so I expect an announcement on his future to be made this week. We’ve profiled Matthews and his upside just before he made a visit to Green Bay.

While Matthews is a fine potential replacement for Nelson, he’s coming off of injured reserve, due to a knee injury that took place in November. He also suffered a broken thumb during the season and he had a chest injury during training camp. Any team interested in Matthews will probably insist that his knee be carefully examined by its own doctor.

Given the dire straits the Packers are in, a receiver with an extensive injury history might not be the way to go. Regardless, if the Packers don’t sign him by Friday, I’d say they’ve passed on him.

What’s left on the free agent receiver front? There’s aging Jeremy Maclin (29) and Eric Decker (31) – both appear to be on the downside of their careers. Going further down the list, there are some receiver prospects available at modest cost, but you’d only project such players as backups, not as starters. Brice Butler, Michael Campanaro, Dontrelle Inman and Marcus Wheaton might be worth a look.

Butler was strictly a sub in his last three years at Dallas, though he averaged over 20 yards a catch in two of those years.

Wheaton has gone from a round three pick to getting all of three catches with the Bears last year. He played very little with the Steelers in the first half of 2016, then went on IR with a shoulder injury.

Campanaro, very athletic but small, did not start a game in his four years with the Ravens.

Inman has at least started 30 games in his four years with three teams. He was most recently with the Bears, who got him for a conditional seventh-round pick last October.

Slim pickings indeed – it’s no wonder why a bunch of teams are at the moment enamored with Matthews despite the injury concerns.

What is a wonder is why the Packers have allowed their gaping need for multiple receivers to go unattended until available NFL veterans have been well picked over.

Restricted Free Agents (RFAs)

If there’s been no acquisition in the next few days, I’ll take a more detailed look at the remaining available restricted free agent wide receivers. There are too many rules covering RFAs to explain now, other than to say there are lots of downsides to going after RFAs, including that the current team usually ends up matching the other team’s offer and keeping the player. Here is the list of current RFA receivers:

  • Chargers’ Tyrell Williams (26)
  • Bears’ Cameron Meredith (25)
  • Jets’ Quincy Enumwa (25)
  • Saints’ Willie Sneed (25)
  • Buccaneers’ Adam Humphries (24)
  • Lions’ T.J. Jones (25)
  • Bears’ Josh Bellamy (28)

Despite the downsides of pursuing RFAs, some of the guys on this list seem more attractive than those on the remaining unrestricted free agent list. The RFA market closes on April 20.

Panic Time!

As I’ve said, the Packers have put themselves into an emergency situation – all options need to be explored. Adding to the urgency, it’s a very down year for wide receivers heading into the upcoming draft.

Unless a bona-fide starting receiver is signed before the draft, the only option I see for Green Bay is to choose Nelson’s potential replacement with their 14th overall draft selection – and hope and pray he’s a quick learner.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. Donald Trump's Dog March 28, 2018

    Hahah, why come Packers NO DO WAT I SAY??

  2. Donald Trump's Dog March 28, 2018


  3. Donald Trump's Dog March 28, 2018

    Total Packers == Butt Hurt Chumps

  4. Truth March 28, 2018

    Jeff janis didn’t even get a mention?

    1. PF4L March 28, 2018


  5. Kato March 28, 2018

    Interesting. A few days ago you post an article saying if Jordan Matthews signed with the Packers it would be Rodgers best WR corps he has had. In other words Jordan Matthews is the difference between an emergency best corps Rodgers has ever had.

    They still have Deangelo Yancey as well. Not too concerned. Corner is more of the emergency. Rodgers can elevate the play of those around him

    1. PF4L March 28, 2018

      James Jones maybe.

      Randall Cobb…not so much.

  6. Carl DeLuca March 28, 2018

    Allison isn’t even capable of playing at the pro level? Good one.

  7. Deepsky March 28, 2018

    Rodgers makes every receiver 20% better. Hundley made them 20% worse.

    It’s hard to know if Adams really is a Pro Bowl quality receiver or just a good one. It’s hard to know if Nelson really lost a step or simply didn’t give 100% because he knew Hundley couldn’t get him the ball anyway.

    It’s hard to know what the current receiver situation is.

  8. FTS March 28, 2018

    With the new targeting rule, every receiver will look like Jerry Rice.

  9. Bryan March 28, 2018

    Davante Adams
    Ty Montgomery
    Geronimo Allison
    Michael Clark
    Trevor Davis

    Why the hell would we panic? That’s a really good receiving corp

    Oh yea.. and Jimmy Graham

    1. Chuck March 29, 2018

      CB is the only real gaping hole that remains.

      1. PF4L March 29, 2018


    2. cheezit April 6, 2018

      That’s not a good receiving corps at all. The top guy is a middling WR1 who has never had a thousand-yard season even with Rodgers throwing to him. After that you have the ghost of Randall Cobb, the ghost of Jimmy Graham, then a bunch of nobodies. Even if they had kept Jordy, it’s hard to say whether he had anything left beyond his telepathic link to Aaron in the red zone (hope he does well in Oakland, of course) a la James Jones in 2015.

  10. PF4L March 28, 2018

    Did they call it the Air Force back then Rob?

    I kid my man.

    Thank you for your service!

    1. Howard March 28, 2018

      I recall a recent story about of a pilot over Whidbey Island area forming a penis (at full attention) with trails from the plane. Was that you Rob? ;-)

      When I saw that story I thought it might make it to this site courtesy of Mordecai. Mordecai is usually right on top of those type of things.

      1. PF4L March 28, 2018

        Disclaimer: He’s not saying that Mordecai has the skill of being able to sit on a Popsicle and tell you what flavor it is.

        It’s more of a …knack than a skill.

        Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  11. Scott April 3, 2018

    Did you ever think the reason that players are not being signed this time of the year is because the players want to wait until the draft is over to find the best fit for them? I hear full time retirement is nice.