Top free agent receivers still available and will Packers make a move?

Nov 27, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Jarvis Landry (5) reacts after a play against the San Francisco 49ers in the second quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Jarvis Landry (5) reacts after a play against the San Francisco 49ers in the second quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Green Bay Packers have the most inexperienced wide receiver room in the NFL. Could this be the catalyst behind adding a veteran to the mix before the regular season begins? And who is still available in free agency?

In terms of tenure in the NFL, Jeff Cotton, a 2020 undrafted rookie who has primarily been on the practice squad, has been in the league the longest. From a snaps and receptions standpoint, Romeo Doubs, with 529 career snaps and 42 catches, is the most experienced on the team.

Oftentimes with inexperience comes inconsistency. As good as both Doubs and Christian Watson looked as rookies at times and as promising as their futures are, we saw the not-so-uncommon highs and lows from their first seasons as well, which included dropped passes, not being in the right place or at the right time, and not consistently creating separation.

The good news for the Packers is that Year 2 has often been a jumping-off point in regards to production for many successful NFL receivers. However, that doesn’t mean there still won’t be ups and downs as well from Doubs and Watson. The rest of the receiver room has little to no snaps in the NFL.

The hope in adding a veteran is that their presence would provide some stability to the position, an important element with a first-year starting quarterback in Jordan Love. There is also value in having that experience on the sidelines during games, in the film room, and on the practice field as an extra set of eyes for the young players.

"“I think time will tell, but it’s certainly a very talented room,” LaFleur said via prior to rookie minicamp in May. “It’s going to be a hell of a competition in terms of who’s getting the snaps, because just at first glimpse at some of these young guys that just were in here, there are some talented guys. So they’re going to be exciting to work with.“I’m sure it’s going to be a very fluid situation in terms of just how much we throw at them and, if need be, I know Gutey is going to do whatever we can to help us field the best possible team.“"

On the flip side, what the Packers don’t want to have happen is what we saw a season ago when Sammy Watkins was added to the receiver room. He took away valuable reps – both in practice and in games – from Watson and Doubs but was not making a regular impact on the offense.

Ultimately I don’t expect the Packers to make an addition at wide receiver. They very much seem willing to weather the storm that comes with relying on a young receiver room. By taking this approach, and the receivers having a high volume of reps in practice and in games, along with being asked to do more, it will hopefully lead to a much shorter learning curve, thus resulting in a greater impact much sooner. Of course, the Packers want to win as many games as possible, and they must put enough around Love so that he has the opportunity to be successful, but with that said, the timeline that the receivers, and the offense as a whole, is on is one where the biggest impact comes in either 2024 or 2025 and beyond.

Also, from a numbers standpoint, with six draft picks at receiver over the last two years, this position group is fairly crowded as is. Adding a veteran to the roster could very well mean that seventh-round pick Grant DuBose would have to be left off the initial 53-man because I’m not sure there is room for seven receivers, given how things could shake out at other position groups. I also don’t believe this is something that the Packers would be very willing to do.

But, GM Brian Gutekunst has certainly surprised us before with the moves he’s made, and he has an impressive track record over the last few seasons of finding what end up being key contributors in the months of June and July, with De’Vondre Campbell, Dennis Kelly, and Dallin Leavitt being recent examples. Here are the top remaining options, along with their corresponding ranking within NFL Trade Rumor’s top 100 list:

1. DeAndre Hopkins
13. Jarvis Landry
23. Kenny Golladay
30. Julio Jones
50. Byron Pringle
51. N’Keal Harry
59. TY Hilton
72. Sammy Watkins
93. Preston Williams
94. Marcus Johnson
95. Rashard Higgins

The Packers do have enough salary cap flexibility to make an addition, but that signing will likely have to be for a player willing to play on a veteran league minimum contract–or something close to it. Over the Cap has the Packers with $14.29 million in available cap space, although that isn’t what they actually have available to spend.

Ken Ingalls, who independently tracks Green Bay’s salary cap, has accounted for other incoming expenses, such as signing the practice squad, signing Jayden Reed and Luke Musgrave, having cap space left over for in-season spending, and more. With all of that factored in, Ingalls’ projections have the Packers with only $1.2 million in effective – or spendable – cap space.

At the quarterback position, Matt LaFleur said that what they saw from Sean Clifford and Danny Etling during OTAs and minicamp would probably give enough insight in terms of knowing whether or not they need to add a veteran to the mix before training camp. My guess is that if adding to the receiver position is on Green Bay’s radar, the timeline is similar.