Re-sign or Let Go and Prediction: Packers TE Robert Tonyan

This offseason, the Green Bay Packers have 14 unrestricted free agents of their own to make decisions on either before or during NFL free agency.

Over the next few weeks, my “Re-sign or Let go & Prediction” series is back, where I will take a look at each of the Packers’ unrestricted free agents, laying out why Green Bay may try to re-sign them, why they would let them walk, and then I’ll make a prediction.

Up next is tight end Robert Tonyan. If you’ve missed any other articles in this series, you can find them all below.

Keisean Nixon

Justin Hollins

Allen Lazard

Dallin Leavitt

Why the Packers would re-sign Robert Tonyan

For a Green Bay Packers passing game that very much experienced more lows than highs last season, Robert Tonyan provided some much-needed stability. Targeted 63 times in 2022, Tonyan caught 84% of those passes for 470 yards and two touchdowns. Although there were few big plays, there is something to be said for having a reliable option to lean on.

In addition to the reliability Tonyan brings to the position, tight end is a massive need for Green Bay this upcoming season. At the moment, only Josiah Deguara and practice squad players Austin Allen and Nick Guggemos are under contract. The Packers absolutely must address this position in the draft, but with most rookie tight ends rarely making any sort of significant impact in that first season, also signing a veteran feels like a must as well.

With Tonyan’s experience and familiarity with Matt LaFleur’s offense, bringing him back to be that veteran presence in the passing game at tight end would make sense. We know Aaron Rodgers values having him on the field and in the locker room, or Tonyan could end up being that safety net in the passing game for Jordan Love.

Why the Packers wouldn’t re-sign Robert Tonyan

As I wrote recently and alluded to above, the Packers have to add more playmaking at the tight end position this offseason. While Tonyan was certainly reliable, he did, however, average just 8.9 yards per catch, which ranked 34th out of 42 eligible tight ends, according to PFF ($$). He was also a non-factor in the red zone, for the most part, where the Green Bay passing game very much struggled.

To some degree, this lack of explosive plays was a product of how Tonyan was utilized by the Packers, with his average depth of target just six yards from the line of scrimmage. But he also struggled to make defenders miss as well. On 53 catches, Tonyan forced just three missed tackles.

As I’ve discussed often in this series, the Packers won’t have much spending power in free agency, which means Tonyan could end up out of their price range. This is not a potential signing where the Packers should get into a bidding war–to put it simply, they need more from this position in the passing game in 2023.

Prediction: The Packers re-sign Robert Tonyan

Ultimately, I think Tonyan will find his way back to Green Bay. His reliability, coupled with the Packers’ very thin tight end room, along with a lack of production from most rookies at this position, will be three main reasons why. On top of that, Tonyan mentioned after the season had ended that he is very interested in returning to Green Bay, which is an important factor as well.

Of course, the price will still have to be right. At the moment, Spotrac projects Tonyan to sign a one-year contract worth $5 million. This provides the Packers with minimal commitment, and when you consider that Tonyan will leave behind $500,000 in dead cap on the books even if he’s playing elsewhere from a previous contract restructure, the actual added cap hit for the Packers in this scenario is $4.5 million. At 28 years old, Green Bay could also sign Tonyan to a two-year deal to further lower the 2023 cap hit.

Coming off an injury in 2021, Tonyan played this past season on a one-year deal worth just over $3 million.