With Devin Funchess opting out of the 2020 season, signing Taylor Gabriel makes even more sense for the Green Bay Packers.
Many spent the offseason questioning the moves – or lack thereof – that the Green Bay Packers made at wide receiver. After a fairly underwhelming 2019 performance from this unit, Green Bay’s only major addition was Devin Funchess in free agency.
However, on Tuesday, we learned that Funchess would be opting out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus.
So on the football field for the Packers, they essentially have the same group of wide receivers this year as they did in 2019, minus Geronimo Allison. And as you’d expect, this has many concerned.
While I understand these concerns, I am not as worried about the wide receiver position as most. Davante Adams is one of the best in the game, Allen Lazard was very good over the second half of last season, while Equanimeous St. Brown returns from injury.
On top of that, although his 2019 season ended poorly, Marquez Valdes-Scantling did average nearly 20 yards per catch through the first seven games. Not to mention that in Matt LaFleur’s offense, which relies heavily on running backs and tight ends in the passing game, Aaron Rodgers does have several other options to throw to, including Aaron Jones and Jace Sternberger among others.
Now, I will also acknowledge that there are realistic scenarios out there where Valdes-Scantling doesn’t bounce-back or St. Brown doesn’t provide that boost that everyone hopes he does. And prior to Funchess opting out, he was a veteran who would have provided Green Bay with some stability. But at this moment, they don’t exactly have that, which is why signing free agent Taylor Gabriel makes even more sense.
Unfortunately for Gabriel, he is coming off a down 2019 where injuries and drops plagued him. When it was all said and done, Gabriel totaled just 29 receptions for 353 receiving yards – his lowest since 2015 – but he was able to haul in four touchdown receptions.
However, the player that would hopefully be coming to Green Bay would be the Taylor Gabriel from 2016 to 2018 with Atlanta and Chicago. During that span, he would average nearly 550 receiving yards per season with an impressive catch rate of almost 70 percent and nine total touchdowns.
Although the LaFleur offense doesn’t necessarily need a true slot receiver to be successful, Gabriel would give the Packers that option. The speedster can attack the middle of the field and threaten defenses over the top as well. Two elements that Green Bay didn’t have from the slot in 2019 with Allison.
But Gabriel isn’t just a slot receiver. In 2018 with Chicago, according to Pro Football Focus, while he did spend 210 snaps in the slot, he also took 656 snaps out wide, 10 in the backfield, and five inline. This ability to line up all over the formation is a must to play in the LaFleur offense.
Of course, when talking about any free-agent addition, the cost is going to be a big factor. This is especially for the Green Bay Packers in 2019, who don’t have much spendable cap space and who would be wise to roll over as much of that cap space as possible to 2021 when they have five high-profile free agents to deal with.
According to salary cap guru, Ken Ingalls, the Packers have $12,952,339 in available cap space after Funchess opting out, with $10,273,732 being spendable after taking into account other expenses such as the practice squad and in-season spending.
Meanwhile, Gabriel’s previous deal with Chicago did average out to $6.5 million per year. However, after a down and injury-riddled 2019 season with training camp already underway, I can’t imagine he would earn that much at this point.
Instead, a one-year deal worth a few million dollars should do the trick. And although Green Bay is tight up against the cap, that won’t break the bank for them either. With that said, the cost is crucial here, and Gabriel is not someone to overpay for. Having him would be a luxury, not a necessity. But I don’t foresee that being an issue.
On this Green Bay Packers team with plenty of pass-catching options, this offense doesn’t need Gabriel to post 67 receptions as he did in 2018. What they do need is for him to provide a reliable presence when called upon, and his skill-set would be a nice change of pace from the several big-bodied receivers that Green Bay already has on the roster.
It’s also worth mentioning that there is familiarity between LaFleur and Gabriel from their time in Atlanta. And the Kyle Shanahan offense that Gabriel played under while there, has some overlap with LaFleur’s.
In the end, would the addition of Taylor Gabriel change my expectations for the 2020 Packers? Not at all. With or without him, I still believe that Green Bay is a Super Bowl caliber team. But if anything, Gabriel could provide some stability to a wide receiver group with some question marks, and he’d be a good fit for this offense as well.