As the 2016 NFL Free Agency period closes out its first official signing day, reports earlier in the day indicated the Green Bay Packers were living up to head coach Mike McCarthy’s words of being heavily active on the market unlike most years. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted Green Bay had interest in former Chicago Bears running back and unrestricted free agent Matt Forte.
While the report was equal parts intriguing and potentially splashy, Forte wound up signing with the New York Jets Wednesday.The Packers have more pressing needs to address on offense and it involves a major target quarterback Aaron Rodgers hasn’t had in quite some time.
Specifically, the Packers are in desperate need of a top tier tight end like Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and many other Pro Bowl quarterbacks in the league can boast.
The idea of adding a pass-catching, multi-faceted back like Forte has its merits, but current starter Eddie Lacy has already shed the excess weight that plagued him throughout his woeful 2015 campaign and Green Bay can better spread its $21 million-plus in salary cap space around.
As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel pointed out, the Packers aren’t trying to replace current starter Richard Rodgers but they are quite thin behind him. Currently that includes Justin Perillo, Kennard Backman, and Mitchell Henry, with veteran Andrew Quarless an unrestricted free agent. Perillo, Backman, and Henry have less than half a decade of combined NFL experience, leaving Rodgers as the only true option.
But the Packers do have options to choose from, and most won’t break general Ted Thompson’s budget or even cost too much from a compensatory draft pick perspective. This year, while the market is rather thin at many positions, there is depth at tight end.
Former Los Angeles Ram Jared Cook and Indianapolis Colt Coby Fleener are two solid pass-catchers with plenty of good playing years in front of them.
Cook didn’t catch a touchdown last season, but the Rams quarterbacks situation was one of the poorest in the NFL. Cook still pulled down 39 receptions for 481 yards off 75 targets in 16 games, and before last year he recorded two straight years of 600-plus yards, and 50-plus receptions with eight total touchdowns.
Fleener’s another interesting option and will likely be available. Indianapolis already re-signed tight end Dwayne Allen to a major four-year, $29.4 million deal, leaving Fleener as the odd man out while the Colts try to maximize space to build around Andrew Luck.
A second-round draft pick out of Stanford in 2012, Fleener’s caught 50 or more passes the last three seasons and he hasn’t missed a game in the same span. He’s also snagged 17 career touchdowns, including eight in 2014.