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Gutekunst Rolls the Dice on Free Agent Devin Funchess

After Packers GM Brian Gutekunst immediately grabbed ILB Christian Kirksey and RT Rick Wagner in the free market scramble, he shopped around a bit longer before adding wide receiver Devin Funchess. Funchess, was previously profiled by Total Packers (here), though the details of his contract have strangely not yet been disclosed [Editor’s Note: since this was submitted, early details of the contract have been released].

After four years under his meager rookie contract with the Panthers, Funchess struck it rich in 2019 with a 1-year $10 million deal with Indianapolis. In his first and only game with the Colts, he broke his collarbone; though eligible later in the season to return from injured reserve, his team failed to re-activate him – a worrisome sign. The Colts’ return on their 7-figure investment was one 3-yard reception.

Funchess had his high-water mark in year three, when he caught 63 balls for 840 yards and eight touchdowns. Led by QB Cam Newton, the Panthers made the playoffs that year, and Devin had four receptions for 89 yards in a narrow 31-26 postseason loss to the Saints. Carolina’s new quarterback is Teddy Bridgewater, while Newton is currently a free agent.

Devin’s combine-like numbers (though not achieved at the NFL Combine) were unremarkable, except for his 4.70 dash time (4th percentile).

Devin is indeed a big body, at 6’4” and 235 pounds. Despite three non-standout seasons at Michigan, he still became an early second round (41st overall) draft pick by the Panthers in 2015. Though he is still only 25, he’s about to enter his sixth year in the pros, and with his third team.

Film highlights depict a guy who seldom achieves much separation, though he’s adept at using his body to shield off defenders. Most of his catches have been from ten to twenty yards downfield. Unfortunately he has a reputation for dropping passes – something highlight reels don’t reveal.

WR Devin Funchess

Sep 8, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Devin Funchess (17) leaps for a pass against Los Angeles Chargers defensive back Brandon Facyson (28) during the second half at Dignity Health Sports Park. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The acquisition of Funchess prompts several questions.

How do the Packers intend to use him? Given the team’s gross negligence over the last three years at providing Aaron Rodgers with capable receivers, I’ve vowed I’m through trying to predict whether the Pack will draft any wide receivers in about a month. It appears to me, however, that Funchess will be competing in training camp for the number two starting receiver behind Davante Adams. His competition: Allen Lazard. It may well be that this duo and Adams will all be on the field for most offensive snaps – but the more pertinent question is who Rodgers will choose to throw the ball to – and Aaron seemed to take a liking to Lazard as last season progressed.

These moves and considerations beg another question: will Green Bay also select a wide receiver in Round 1 or 2 of the upcoming draft? Since I have no idea why Thompson, and then Gutekunst, failed to do this over the last three drafts, I’m going to just sit and watch when the upcoming draft rolls around.

Actually, I do have a hunch why Gutey chose not to draft a WR last year: I believe he and the coaching staff were counting on Marquez Valdes-Scantling to have a stupendous second year in the league. Based on comments coming out of the 2019 training camp, boosters of Marquez were expecting him to just about double his rookie numbers. Instead of improving on his promising rookie season of 38 catches for 581 yards and 2 TDs, Marquez regressed to 26, 452, and 2. This under-performance was one of the biggest shockers of 2019 – by season’s end Marquez was barely getting any playing time – Rodgers seemed to rarely even look in his direction.

Does the addition of Funchess upgrade or downgrade the receiving corps? Perhaps he balances the loss of Jimmy Graham. But merely maintaining the receiving corps at the same level as that of 2019 doesn’t cut it. Unless Gutekunst brings more receiving talent to the roster, via draft, trade, or grabbing another free agent, it’s up to Lazard, MVS, or Funchess to deliver a break-out season.

My breakout candidate is Allen Lazard. Allen is almost as big a Devin. He’s more agile, much faster, gets more open, and has more yards-after-catch potential. He took full advantage of his opportunity upon finally being thrown to in Game 6 last year. On the season Allen caught 35 passes for 477 yards and three TDs. He did all this in only 11 games.

In college, Funchess had 748 yards receiving in his best year at Michigan; Lazard had seasons at Iowa State of 1,018, 941, and 808 yards. Lazard has always over-achieved, while Funchess has done the opposite.

Who is the best fit at Green Bay? In other words, who is the best match for Rodgers? It seems to me that over the years Rodgers has had the most success with crafty route runners who could attain ample separation: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, young Randall Cobb, Davante. He’s been less productive when throwing to lumbering physical receivers – and Funchess lumbers. Lazard is both an attractive target with a big catch radius and a capable route runner. Funchess has been cast off by both of his previous pro teams.

In line with my previous post, this third free agent signing strikes me as yet another roster move toward mediocrity.

Lazard’s heroics in 2019 managed to largely make up for MVS’s horrendous decline in 2019. I’m okay with Funchess being a starting receiver for the Pack, but in 2020 I’d like to see many more of Rodgers’ lasers going Lazard’s way.

Tags:
Rob Born

I’m with Matt: “You gotta make those chunk plays!”

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13 Comments

  1. Stephen March 30, 2020

    Gutekunst may well have struck gold, we won’t know till these players hit the field.
    These moves keep the Packers out of the cap issues that destroy so many teams.
    All of these players have great potential to improve upon their past performance, and in so doing, even greater rewards may be in store for them, just down the road. I hope they are able to see, that they have just been given the chance to achieve what few teams do each year, so often, a Division Championship, and a Golden Opportunity to reach the Superbowl.

    Reply
  2. Robster March 30, 2020

    According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Funhcess signed a 1-year deal with a $2.5 million base, but with another $3.75M available in incentives. This sounds like a face-saving move by both parties. Packers can claim they got him at a bargain rate, and Funchess can claim he signed for up to $6.25 million. My guess would be that the incentives agreed to will be very hard to achieve – but if Funchess achieves them, the Pack will be more than happy. Financially it’s a shrewd deal by Green Bay, but it also indicates his value around the league was very low. From a year at $10 M to this indicates a player whose stock is in free fall.

    Reply
    1. PF4L March 30, 2020

      I would agree that the incentives would be hard to reach, and the Packers would love it if he could reach them.
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      I don’t know how shrewd of a deal it was. Just because the Colts foolishly gave him 10 million (about 9 times his 2018 salary), doesn’t make this a shrewd deal. He averaged 39 yards a game in 2018, with 4 TD’s. Not exactly numbers dictating 10 million.
      More so, i think he got what his performance dictated this season, some might say he was even over payed.

      Reply
  3. PF4L March 30, 2020

    Off the cuff thoughts…..
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    “Film highlights depict a guy who seldom achieves much separation, though he’s adept at using his body to shield off defenders. Most of his catches have been from ten to twenty yards downfield.” – Rob
    Now….i ask …….Does that sound like a wide receiver, or a tight end? The one time they need to convert someone…they won’t.
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    If some Green Bay fans hated when Adams dropped passes his first two seasons, how are they going to deal with this guy? Adams had a better target catch rate in his first two seasons, than Funchess has had in his career.
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    Although he might flash in a game or two, this won’t score Gute many points in player acquisitions.
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    This isn’t my idea of getting serious about adding a veteran receiver. It may seem to some, that Gute “made a move” to add a veteran receiver and appeased a few fans. I’m just not one of them.
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    If anyone can tell me, another receiver besides Funchess with a target catch rate of 51% that stays employed in the NFL, i’d love to hear about him.

    Reply
    1. PF4L March 30, 2020

      However…i will add this, trying to pick something positive out of this ordeal.
      There is a chance, a chance….that if healthy…Rodgers may find Funchess in the end zone, more than Graham, but for a hell of a lot less money.

      Reply
    2. Ferris March 30, 2020

      The words….a guy who seldom achieves much separation…sounds like a Green Bay Packer already.
      This is a match made in heaven. So he is Allison, with worse hands? Sweet!

      Reply
      1. MMSUCKS April 2, 2020

        This^^^^ Exactly how I see this. Gute seriously is TT (the frugal GM) with a penchant to go into free agency a bit more. Gute IS TT otherwise.

        Reply
  4. Ferris March 30, 2020

    Gute needs to zero in on a “questionable character” player that drops in the draft or in FA. Tyreek Hill keeps being stupid and threatening everyone but he’s fast so fans and GMs can overlook shortcomings. Maybe Dez Bryant is coming in for a visit.

    Reply
  5. frank March 31, 2020

    Gute drafted 3 WRs in his first draft. Expect him to draft 2 WRs in the first 4 rounds this time. We will have enough talent on offense this year

    Reply
  6. Mitch Anthony March 31, 2020

    Sounds like they tried to make a run on Sanders but he didn’t like cold weather. Also, Hooper got too expensive. So maybe BG was indeed trying for a splash player but it didn’t work out. Bargain bin, seconds and returns it is.

    Frank, I tend to agree with the assessment of two picks in the first 4 rounds. Just hoping Aiyuk or Pittman is available in round 2 and possibly Antonio Gibson in round 4. I could live with that. I don’t see a WR as the first pick but it could happen.

    Reply
    1. PF4L April 1, 2020

      He might just take the best player available like he did last year at 12.
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      Tick Tock.

      Reply
      1. MMSUCKS April 2, 2020

        Lol! Choosing Rashan Gary is a symptom of a GM who may not have the requisite foresight and skills to assess talent at the NFL level.

        Reply
        1. PF4L April 5, 2020

          Preach!!
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          Not only that, His “strategy” of picking a guy that’s a tweener for a position that he himself, covered in free agency for big cash. I mean….what’s the thought process?
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          I’d love to be able to ask him about that…because i just don’t….get it.

          Reply

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