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Free Agency Preview: Packers Look to Reignite Passing Attack With Veteran Wide Out

Will the Packers make substantial moves in free agency and how will this impact the fantasy landscape? Dave Caban reviews Green Bay’s 2018 season, outlines players the team will lose to free agency and considers free agent targets.

Free agency and salary data included in this article was sourced from Spotrac

2018 In Summary

2018 was a down season for the Packers. The team finished third in the NFC North and won only six games. Green Bay scored 376 points but allowed 400 for a net difference of negative 24 points.

The Packers ran the ball less than any team in the league but were efficient when doing so. Jamaal Williams controlled the majority of carries in the first half of the season but was later surpassed by Aaron Jones. Combined, the Packers averaged 5.0 yards per attempt. Only the Panthers were more efficient.

PackersRush2018

Aaron Rodgers and the team’s passing game lacked the explosion seen in prior seasons. In fact, it ranked 20th with only 25 passing touchdowns and was inefficient, producing just 6.6 yards per attempt. To be fair, on completed passes, 61 percent of attempts, the team averaged 10.8 yards. This was the 12th highest total in the league.

Rodgers’ completion percentage of 62 percent was the second lowest of his career as a starter. He threw 24 passes for every touchdown, making 2018 his least efficient season. His previous low of 19 attempts per touchdown came in his first season as a starter (2008). While a possible explanation for this decline could be a lack of high-leverage throws, he attempted 73 passes inside the red zone. In 2017, when he threw for a touchdown every 14 attempts, he recorded just 36. Rodgers’ struggles to produce counting and efficiency stats highlight a number of the shortcomings that led to the team’s firing of Mike McCarthy. 

Offensive Free Agents

PLAYER POS. AGE 2018 AAV STATUS
Randall Cobb WR 29 $10,000,000 UFA
Marcedes Lewis TE 35 $2,100,000 UFA
Lance Kendricks TE 31 $2,000,000 UFA
Byron Bell RT 30 $1,600,000 UFA
Geronimo Allison WR 25 $630,000 RFA
Dan Vitale FB 24 $600,000 UFA
Lucas Patrick G 26 $555,000 ERFA
Justin McCray G 27 $555,000 ERFA
Robert Tonyan Jr. WR 25 $480,000 ERFA
Jake Kumerow WR 27 $480,000 ERFA

AAV stands for average annual value and is calculated by dividing the total value of a contract by its life

Randall Cobb is no longer the player that scored 12 touchdowns, accrued 1,287 yards, and scored 293 fantasy points in 2014. He’s a shell of his former self and even if the team does re-sign him, it seems unlikely that he’ll be a major player in turning around the passing game. Cobb has been a Packer since being drafted in 2011. Despite the chemistry he may have developed with Rodgers, his production has steadily decreased since 2014. The 28-year-old struggled to remain on the field last season.

Geronimo Allison’s 2018 campaign was cut short by a groin injury. In five games he drew 30 targets, accrued 300 yards, and scored two touchdowns.

The team proactively added depth to the position by drafting three rookie wide receivers in the 2018 draft: J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown. Davante Adams, one of the few highlights from the 2018 season, is under contract through 2021.

Jimmy Graham failed to make an impact in his first season with the Packers. He scored just two touchdowns on 55 receptions with 636 yards receiving. Veteran tight ends Marcedes Lewis and Lance Kendricks are unrestricted free agents. Both were used sparingly. Kendricks was on the field for 29 percent of snaps; Lewis, 18.

Potential Moves

The team lacked a true number two option in the passing game throughout 2018.PackersPass2018

Valdes-Scantling turned his 64 targets into 38 receptions, 581 yards, and two touchdowns. The RotoViz Screener generates an interesting mix of comps, based on rookie season performance. While his first season in the league was encouraging, it’s hard to project how much and how fast he will develop. Still, his odds of quickly becoming a proxy for the versions of Cobb and Jordy Nelson that Rodgers enjoyed earlier in the decade are remote.

PLAYER Recs Targets Yards
Marquez Valdes-Scantling 38 72 581
Rod Streater 39 75 584
Taylor Gabriel 36 72 621
Aaron Dobson 37 72 519
Donte’ Stallworth 42 69 594
Koren Robinson 39 78 536
Robby Anderson 42 78 587
Christian Kirk 43 68 590
Dez Bryant 45 73 561
David Gettis 37 67 508
Reggie Brown 43 79 571
Robert Woods 40 85 587
Denarius Moore 33 76 618

St. Brown, the teams’ sixth-round selection in 2018, logged his first playing time in November. He was targeted 36 times in 11 games with 21 receptions, and 328 yards. His best game of the season came in Week 17 against the Jets. He recorded five receptions on five targets for 94 yards. St. Brown just edged out Valdes-Scantling in adjusted yards per attempt, but both were far surpassed by Allison. While it would be dangerous to conclude, based on the below chart alone, that Allison is definitely better than his younger teammates, it may give provide insight into the team’s perceptions of the three.1 St. Brown will likely improve in 2019, but of the trio has arguably the smallest shot of becoming the Packers’ WR2 and succeeding in that role.

 

packers aya

For Cobb to remain a Packer, he’ll have to take a substantial pay cut. Cobb is coming off of the most lucrative prior contract of any available free agent WR. As a result, it may be more likely that the younger Allison is resigned.

If head coach Matt LaFleur isn’t a believer in Allison or the group of sophomore receivers it would make sense to sink a level of investment into the position. Veterans Chris Hogan, Cole Beasley, Adam Humphries, Tyrell Williams, and Phillip Dorsett are all unrestricted free agents that could fill the WR2 vacancy.

If LaFleur places a premium on production from the slot and doesn’t bring back Cobb, Beasley would make for a likely selection. However, Golden Tate, the most notable of all free-agent WRs, would be the most exciting addition. Before being traded to Philadelphia, the 30-year-old Tate averaged six receptions on 10 targets per game with 74 yards and 0.42 touchdowns. It was an up-and-down journey for Tate as an Eagle. In eight games, he caught 30 of 44 targets for 278 yards and a touchdown. Currently, 14 percent of the Eagles’ 2019 cap space is owed to WRs with Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor representing significant portions. As a result, it may be difficult for the team to re-sign him.

Given that Graham was brought onto the team via a $30 million dollar contract that runs through 2020, he makes for a cut candidate. His contract represents approximately $7.3M in dead cap if he’s cut before June 1, and $3.6M if he’s cut after. If LaFleur is interested in bolstering the passing game via the position, the only exciting available TEs are the perennially injured Tyler Eifert and the resurgent Jared Cook. Both players are unrestricted free agents and would represent significant savings when compared to Graham. While the team has stated that he’s expected to remain on the roster, it’s hard to believe that cutting him has been ruled out entirely.

In addition to minor needs on the offensive line, the team will need to re-sign or address the departures of Clay Matthews¸ Muhammad Wilkerson, and Brashaud Breeland. While this makes signing a player of Tate’s caliber difficult, it doesn’t make it impossible.

Final Thoughts

Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the game but needs an experienced option other than Adams to rely on in 2019. The team is in a position where it needs to look toward the future, and cutting ties with Cobb and Graham makes sense. Matthews’ cap hit averaged $13.4 million over the last three seasons. If he is not brought back, the team will have enough cash that going after a player like Tate would be realistic. Of course, signing a receiver like Tate at this point in his career may not be looking toward the future.

  1. Allison recorded an AYA of 11.5 in 2016, then dropped to 5.3 in 2017. WR AYA does not necessarily carry from season to season so we need to be careful when drawing conclusions from a single season, especially those with limited targets.  (back)

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