It’s Time for the Green Bay Packers to Bring Back Tyler Ervin

Nov 15, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Tyler Ervin (32) runs the football against Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker Myles Jack (44) during the second quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 15, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Tyler Ervin (32) runs the football against Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker Myles Jack (44) during the second quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article discussing why it was time for the Green Bay Packers to move on from Amari Rodgers as the punt returner in favor of Randall Cobb.

In short, Rodgers’ indecisiveness, which has been prevalent since the preseason, was costing him return yards. Out of 20 eligible returners, Rodgers ranks 14th, averaging 7.4 yards per return, which is actually up since I last discussed this topic.

But a new issue has really emerged as of late, and that’s Rodgers’ ability to field a punt cleanly. There has only been one recorded muffed punt to date, but a second against Chicago was called back due to a penalty. There have also been bobbled return attempts and, overall, some poor decision-making in regards to deciding whether or not to field a punt.

On top of that, it’s not like the kick return unit has been much better. Malik Taylor made an awful blunder against Chicago where the ball bounced off his chest and out of bounds. He’s also averaging only 19 yards per return, and he would leave Sunday’s game with an injury. If Taylor is out again, Rodgers is next in line to return.

Unfortunately, with Randall Cobb now on IR, he is no longer an option to replace Rodgers. And as we look at other candidates on the roster, well, I’m not sure there are any—or at least not anyone you’d want to expose to injury or with experience that you trust.

As Matt LaFleur told reporters on Monday, “it’s all hands on deck,” and improvement from the return units, and the special teams unit in general, is a must. And if the solution is not on the roster, then Brian Gutekunst should explore free agency—something has to change.

One name in particular who is still available is old friend Tyler Ervin, who was signed by the Green Bay Packers about halfway through the 2019 season and spent 2020 on the roster.

Over his career, Ervin has 77 career punt return attempts, and he’s averaging 8.2 yards per return during that span. As a kick returner, Ervin has 50 career return attempts and has averaged 21.4 yards per return. For some added context, Ervin’s 8.2-yard punt average would rank 13th this season among qualified returners, and his kick return average would rank 16th.

Now, look, I’m not making this suggestion because he would come back to Green Bay and be a weapon for the return units–that isn’t the case at all and shouldn’t be the expectation. But rather, Ervin would provide stability and reliability at a struggling position. During his first stint with the Packers, Ervin was someone who was a sound decision-maker, and when he didn’t fair catch the ball, he had the opportunity to pick up a few yards here and there.

It also doesn’t hurt that Ervin is familiar with Matt LaFleur’s system after spending a season and a half with the Green Bay Packers. If he were added to the team, I wouldn’t expect to see much of him on offense, but he could fill that slot/motion-man role if Green Bay was in a pinch as well as be another option out of the backfield. Ervin brings the versatility that we all know LaFleur covets.

"“He’s a special guy, special player,” Rodgers said via the Wisconsin State Journal last season. “Some of the beauty in what’s happened over the years with guys like that is you have a guy come in who’s just a solid dude. He’s a great locker room guy, great teammate. You wrap your arms around him, you embrace him and make him feel really welcome and comfortable and you start to see the personality come out and the opportunities come.“We got him at a time last year where we had negative return yards in the punt game. In the first game, he made a direct impact and you started thinking, ‘What did these other teams see or not see that would cause them to get rid of a guy like that?’ A lot of times, just a change of scenery is good for a player, and in this case we got not only a great player but a great person.”"

As far as the salary cap goes, the Packers have $4.55 million in available cap space, according to Over the Cap, which is more than enough room to sign Ervin to a league-minimum deal that will be prorated and paid out for only the games left on the schedule.

In terms of how Green Bay makes room on the roster, one potential cut candidate is Patrick Taylor. As the third running back he isn’t going to see much, if any action on offense and Taylor is also someone who the Packers could very likely get back on the practice squad as well, thus making Ervin the team’s third running back.

So far this season, we’ve seen Brian Gutekunst act fairly quickly to bring in help when needed, with Rasul Douglas, Whitney Mercilus, and Jaylon Smith all being examples. Well, bringing in a more steady presence to help field kicks and punts certainly seems like a move that should be high on the to-do list for Gutey, and hopefully it’s a move that’s done before it costs Green Bay a game.

I mean, what do they have to lose at this point? If you recall, Ervin did save the 2019 Green Bay Packers punt return unit from a historically bad performance, maybe he can do it again.