We’re 11 days from the NFL draft and Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has yet to take any action to replace receiver Jordy Nelson, the Packers extremely productive all-purpose receiving threat for nearly a decade.
Aaron Rodgers has always required multiple years with a receiver before the relationship became productive. Because the Packers have so far failed to pick up a veteran receiver this offseason, it’s looking like they’ll have little choice but to select a receiver high in the draft.
Because there are few highly acclaimed wide receivers in this year’s draft, it spells double trouble for Gutekunst and the Packers. There might be another option, however.
April 20 is the deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets. This only means that if the Packers make such an offer, the RFA’s current team can match the offer and retain the player – it’s what happened when the Packers tried to steal cornerback Kyle Fuller away from the Bears.
Back on March 28, I anticipated this scenario. At that time there were seven restricted free agent wide receiver still available.
Before getting down to the slim possibilities, you need to know that the RFA market is nearing extinction. Seldom are offers made any more on RFAs, and even more seldom do such offers go unmatched by the player’s current team.
But it happens. In late April of 2017, for example, the Patriots made an offer on running back Mike Gillislee, which his current team, the Bills, did not match. Gillislee thus signed on for two-years and $6.4 million with the Pats. He went on to have an unremarkable year in New England.
With the deadline looming on RFAs, the most talked-about guy had been the Bears’ Cameron Meredith. Too late Brian – the Saints signed him on April 6, when Chicago chose not to match the Saints’ offer. Meredith got a two-year deal, for $9.6 million, with $5.4 million guaranteed. Did Gutekunst miss out here?
The Jets’ Quincy Enunwa is still an RFA. However, he’s been recovering from a bulging discs neck injury and surgery dating back to August 2017. He had a fine second year in 2016: 58 catches, 857 yards, four TDs. The other issue here is the Jets put the second-round tender on Enunwa. So if the Packers or anyone else wanted him and the Jets allowed Enunwa to sign elsewhere, they’d forfeit a second-round pick.
How about the Buccaneers’ RFA Adam Humphries? His second and third seasons with the Bucs have been nearly identical: 55 and 61 catches, for 622 and 631 yards. However, the 24-year-old is only 5’11” and 195 pounds – probably not what the Packers are hoping for size-wise. Randall Cobb already mans the slot, for now, and Humphries also received the second-round tender.
So, no chance.
Willie Snead, only 25, is the same size as Humphries. His first and second seasons with the Saints were highly productive: 69 and 72 catches, for 984 and 895 yards, and three and four TDs. Then in 2017, he was suspended three games for an auto collision involving a failed breathalyzer test. That, a hamstring injury and a muffed punt return left him with eight catches for 92 yards in 2017. Unlike the other guys we have discussed, Snead was offered the lowest tender. That means the Saints could match, but wouldn’t be owed any draft pick compensation if they didn’t.
That brings us to the Chargers’ Tyrell Williams. Twenty-six years old, 6’4” and 205 pounds, out of Division II Western Oregon, Williams in his second season with the Chargers had 69 catches for 1,059 yards, a 15.3 per catch average and eight TDs. In 2017, his third season, he dropped off to 43 catches for 728 yards and four TDs. Still, here’s a guy who went from undrafted and virtually unused his first year, to having almost 1,800 receiving yards in 2016 and 2017.
Why don’t the Chargers seem to value Williams? Well, they drafted Mike Williams seventh overall in 2017 and they need to develop him. Tyrell Williams is in the way of Mike Williams. Keenan Allen is the team’s No. 1 receiver and the team also has Travis Benjamin, whose release would trigger and unwelcome amount of dead cap money. There’s quality and value here.
That is, except for the fact that the Chargers put a second-round tender on Williams. The Packers aren’t going to give up that pick for Williams. A trade involving a lower pick, perhaps.
Last Chance for a Veteran?
Given the perilous state the Packers are in, I’d take a long look at Williams and gauge the Chargers’ interest in a deal. Also, if Gutekunst is willing to go small, statistics suggest that Snead could be a great value and a marked upgrade over Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis or Michael Clark.
Here’s the arguably attractive aspect about the RFA market. You only wind up there by your current team indicating their interest in you is marginal. Any of the remaining receivers on the RFA list can likely be had at a pretty reasonable price. The only issue is the draft-pick compensation.