While it may not be as active as 2019 was, the Green Bay Packers once again need to make some moves this offseason. And an under the radar one is finding a veteran TE.
The tight end position is one that has given the Green Bay Packers fits for a number of years now. Really, it’s been since the Jermichael Finley days that they have had a consistent playmaker at the position.
While that was supposed to change with the arrival of Jimmy Graham in 2018, it unfortunately didn’t. At this point in his career, we knew Graham wasn’t the same athlete that he used to be but on top of that we saw drops and he just wasn’t the red zone threat that we had hoped for.
Now as we look ahead to the offseason, it is very likely that the Green Bay Packers will move on from him and Marcedes Lewis could experience a similar fate as well, as a pending free agent. Although he has already stated that he would like to be back.
This would leave Green Bay with Jace Sternberger and Robert Tonyan – assuming they bring him back as an ERFA, which I don’t know why they wouldn’t – as the primary tight ends on the roster for 2020. And if this is the case, I think Green Bay will be in good hands.
We’ve seen flashes from both Sternberger and Tonyan in the passing game and each player is willing to do the dirty work of blocking. Which is an important part of playing tight end in Matt LaFleur’s offense.
However, the two are still very young – Sternberger will only be in his second season and Tonyan is a converted college receiver entering year three – and the tight end position is perhaps the most difficult position in terms of transitioning from the college to the NFL level, outside of quarterback of course.
Like an offensive lineman, tight ends need to be solid in pass-protection and against the run, while also knowing blocking assignments. Additionally, they have to be effective route runners like a receiver. It can certainly be a lot to handle for any young player and that is the value of having a veteran on the roster.
Whether the Green Bay Packers bring back Lewis in free agency or find someone else, the role of this veteran isn’t to be a mentor. They need to be ready to play, it’s just that the amount of playing time may be dependent on the development of Sternberger and Tonyan or the caliber of player that they land in free agency.
Some other free agent tight ends include Austin Hooper and Hunter Henry, but don’t get your hopes up, along with Vance McDonald, Eric Ebron, Charles Clay, and Darren Fells.
It’s also worth pointing out that this year’s draft class has some very good tight ends available and signing a veteran to join Sternberger and Tonyan shouldn’t stop Green Bay from drafting one if it makes sense. Over the last few years now, we’ve seen the Packers carry four tight ends on the roster and it would create a great learning opportunity for that rookie.
A few tight ends to keep your eyes on as the draft process unfolds this Spring are Brycen Hopkins, Hunter Bryant, Jared Pinkney, Cole Kmet, and Colby Parkinson.
While there are certainly other positions to address that take priority over finding a veteran tight end, to help round out this roster and maximize the position, this should be on Brian Gutekunst’s to-do list this offseason.