How the Latest Robert Tonyan News Affects His Chances of Returning to the Packers

The Green Bay Packers got some positive news concerning tight end Robert Tonyan this week. A report on SI.com indicated that both the Packers and Tonyan’s agent believe that the former Indiana State star will be ready to start the 2022 season on time despite his ongoing rehab from a season-ending knee injury.

Tonyan is also an unrestricted free agent next week unless the Packers re-sign him to a new deal.

The Packers presently do not have a tight end on their roster who can stretch the field the way Tonyan did before he was injured. Tonyan was a wide receiver in college and has more downfield running ability than most tight ends.

The question now is how does this encouraging health update for Tonyan change his situation as he enters free agency? The Packers would love to have Tonyan back but because they are still over the cap and have other players they need to sign the Packers may not be able to afford to re-sign him.

There are questions surrounding Tonyan. Obviously, the Packers don’t know for sure if he’ll be ready to start the season on time and if he does, how close he’ll be to 100 percent. The big tight end suffered the injury in the game against the Cardinals on October 28. He would be approximately nine months removed from the injury at the start of training camp and more than 10 months out at the start of the 2022 regular season.

Tonyan’s injury was described as a “clean tear” of the ACL which may lessen the recovery time, but many players take a year or more to get close to their previous level of play after suffering this type of injury.

Tonyan has spent four seasons with the Packers. His best year, by far, came in 2020 when he had 52 catches for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns. His catch percentage that year was in incredible 88.1 percent a number that is very difficult to duplicate. He made his 52 catches on 59 targets. The 11 touchdowns he scored tied Paul Coffman’s franchise record for the most touchdowns by a tight end in a single season set back in 1983.

In the first half of 2021, Tonyan’s numbers fell off. He had only 18 catches for 204 yards and two touchdowns in eight games before he was injured. His catch percentage went down to 62.1 percent which was the lowest total of his career.

The lower productivity wasn’t all Tonyan’s fault. The Packers played three early-season games without their top two left tackles, David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins. Yosh Nijman, who stepped in and started those three contests was seeing his first extensive action on offense in his NFL career. The Packers had their tight ends help chip pass rushers at the line of scrimmage to help Nijman protect Aaron Rodgers. They also threw more shorter, quick-release passes to protect their quarterback.

The tight end market in free agency isn’t helping the Packers hopes of bringing Tonyan back. Three teams used the franchise tag on tight ends which almost certainly takes those players off the open market.  The Cowboys used their franchise tag on Dalton Schultz, the Browns did likewise with David Njoku and Miami tagged Mike Gesicki. These reduces the available players in free agency and drives up the demand for the remaining players like Tonyan.

GM Brian Gutekunst doesn’t have any player on the current roster who can do what Tonyan does. Marcedes Lewis is a possession receiver now and is used primarily as a blocker. Josiah Deguara may become a reliable receiver but isn’t the downfield threat that Tonyan has been. Neither Tyler Davis nor Dominique Dafney are downfield receiving threats.

Rodgers reportedly would like to have Tonyan back and he has more influence over these kinds of decisions. But would he want Tonyan back over Randall Cobb or De’Vondre Campbell or Marquez Valdes-Scantling?

The price for Tonyan has gone up because his potential contributions in 2022 have increased and the number of available quality tight ends has gone down.

Tonyan will turn 28 in April.  Would he be willing to sign a one-year, prove-it type deal to play with Rodgers again and set himself for a potentially bigger pay day in 2023? Or will another team make him an offer that the Packers just can’t match given their salary cap situation? We will find out shortly as this important and unpredictable offseason continues.

 

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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5 points

Comments (56)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
splitpea1's picture

March 12, 2022 at 02:05 pm

"Rodgers reportedly would like to have Tonyan back and has more influence over these types of decisions. But would he want Tonyan back over Randall Cobb or De'Vondre Campbell or MVS"?

I surely hope this is more of a rhetorical matter, and that Rodgers' "guidance" hasn't spilled over to the defensive side of the ball as well. If it has, as another poster suggested recently, the Packers may want to consider redesigning their helmets to feature an "R" instead of a "G".

As for Tonyan, the Spotrac project of over $10 million per season is ridiculous, so he would have to come much cheaper. If I were Gute, I would be looking for more budget-friendly solutions--he's successfully done it before. The Packers are going to need to draft at least one tight end, anyway, but whether or not we'll be able to land a prime prospect remains to be seen.

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HarryHodag's picture

March 12, 2022 at 01:19 pm

Just to update everyone, Rodgers runs the team now. I'm a bit disgusted with how far management has bent over backwards to make sure his every whim is satisfied.

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Lphill's picture

March 12, 2022 at 01:49 pm

And this is according to Mike Florio no doubt.

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dblbogey's picture

March 12, 2022 at 06:10 pm

I've heard he wants Driver and Jordy back this time.

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WTFcheesheadChuck's picture

March 12, 2022 at 09:15 pm

That’s as ridiculous and as false as the claims that Rodgers signed a $200 million contract, if you don’t want to put in the Time to Actually listen to the man talk and explain himself and his points of view then stop spreading your phony “opinions” that are formed and molded from emotions you feel when you hear your favorite fraudulent propaganda, I was never a Rodgers fan but after about 10 years I finally gave him an honest chance to win me over and after doing so it only took about five minutes to understand where he’s coming from, Rodgers comes out in support of the Individual/individual rights as a whole and of course within 60 Seconds every major news outlet that always had sung his praises are instantly condemning him, he is going to lose out on millions in sponsorship deals for standing up for the rights of those who do not have the platform he does, he is an absolute hero and enjoy him while He lasts because unfortunately it appears real men like him are a Dying breed who are being replaced with Robotic cucks who will do and promote anything their newsfeed tells them without thought.

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BirdDogUni's picture

March 12, 2022 at 10:13 pm

Hear, hear... The individual and individual rights are what America is all about.

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PeteK's picture

March 13, 2022 at 06:01 pm

Yes it is , but not during a war against an invisible killer. Then team work and the common good must come into play. Airing his gripes and his minor hold out right before camp is individualism got wrong. Land of the free, home of the brave ( enough to take a vaccine or wear a mask to save others and end a pandemic).

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stockholder's picture

March 13, 2022 at 01:36 pm

Acme doesn't think so.

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Lphill's picture

March 12, 2022 at 01:48 pm

Did Rodgers report this directly to you?

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fastmoving's picture

March 12, 2022 at 01:54 pm

no he lies indirect...everywhere he is....but I think he dont realise it. Animal food, Rogan, waytoomuchmoney and chemtrails have that effect on "people".
Nobody knows that better than you, right?

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PeteK's picture

March 12, 2022 at 05:31 pm

Now now boys, take some horse medicine and stop the whinny. Hahaha

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dblbogey's picture

March 12, 2022 at 06:08 pm

Still wishing we had traded Rodgers to Denver. I'm also wary of Tonyan. 1 good year out of 4, coming off ACL. But, we are desperate for tight ends.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 12, 2022 at 06:15 pm

Sign Conklin from the vikings

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UdderApocowlipse's picture

March 13, 2022 at 11:13 am

The state of the team might lead the organization to draft Jake Ferguson in Rd 4, if he's still around. He's got pretty great hands and ML coached him in the senior bowl to a touchdown. He'd be a good bloke for the pack.

He's not one of the en vogue WR-TE's but blocks quite well. And he catches well. Maybe he could eventually fill the Lewis role.

EDIT: My Rd 4 thought was just throwing something against the wall and was an uninformed thought. No idea what's realistic

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Coldworld's picture

March 12, 2022 at 12:48 pm

I would not count on medical predictions until they are realized and he can pass his physical. There are such things as setbacks, as Bakh suffered.

For a team likely deprived of cap, it would be idiotic to gamble on a player who might or might not be ready on any basis other than a minimum plus incentives contract. If Tonyan accepts that, great. If not, plan for a replacement don’t add more gambles than we already are.

8 points
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Savage57's picture

March 13, 2022 at 06:49 am

He's expected to have a market value in the $8-10M range. He's been good for 2.5 catches, 28 yards, and less than half a TD per game over his three years with the Pack.

Enjoy playing for the Bears.

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therealcause's picture

March 12, 2022 at 01:09 pm

What's the actual penalty if an NFL franchise is over the salary cap when the new season begins with Week 1? Is the team not able to play & field a team, forfeiting all games? Is the team designated as ineligible for the playoffs? Is the franchise fined money and/or draft picks?

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Coldworld's picture

March 12, 2022 at 01:14 pm

They can be severe: fines of up to $5 million for each violation (I’m not sure if being over is one violation or could be several contributory ones or add up over time), the inability to sign players and cancellation of contracts, voiding tags and loss of draft picks are all cited.

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Lphill's picture

March 12, 2022 at 01:51 pm

10 teams are over the cap including the Rams , niners , Vikings Chiefs etc , this is nothing new.

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therealcause's picture

March 12, 2022 at 02:16 pm

I was asking about being over the cap at kickoff during Week 1 of the regular season.

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Coldworld's picture

March 12, 2022 at 03:03 pm

I don’t think it has actually happened in season. Since the league must approve all deals, it simply wouldn’t approve the ones taking a team over the cap. Teams must clear space first before the transaction Is ratified.

From memory, the nearest to that scenario was back in 2010. That was an uncapped year. In 2010, but the then Redskins and Cowboys both got in trouble for violating the “Spirit of the Cap” by overspending a tacit maximum agreed among the owners.

On looking it up, SI described the penalties, after arbitration with the teams thus: “The Cowboys will be penalized $10 million, paying [back] $5 million a year [in cap] for two years. The Redskins penalty is much harsher at $36 million ($18 million a year for two years).” That cap amount was granted to and spread over the rest of the teams. The cap in 2011 and ‘12 was 120 million for context (lower than 2009).

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Coldworld's picture

March 12, 2022 at 02:44 pm

After the season ended, it doesn’t matter till the start of the new league year this week. It matters after that.

Technically speaking our cap from last year is applicable until then. So, the other teams you cite are technically under too, they just won’t be as of the league year change.

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13TimeChamps's picture

March 12, 2022 at 03:39 pm

Being over the cap before the start of the new season is nothing new. Being over the cap once the season officially starts is kind of a big deal.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

March 12, 2022 at 03:34 pm

The NFL's cap is a hard cap that the teams have to stay under at all times, and the salary floor is also a hard floor. Penalties for violating or circumventing the cap regulations include fines of up to $5 million for each violation, cancellation of contracts and/or loss of draft picks.

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dblbogey's picture

March 12, 2022 at 06:15 pm

If you are over the cap during the regular season, the team owner is waterboarded and head is shaven. For the Packers, that's a lot of owners.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 13, 2022 at 03:42 am

Just to be clear, the Packers are not over the cap at present. That is, it is still the 2021 league year, and the Packers had a surplus of $2.9M for the 2021 year.

Projecting current contracts into the 2022 league year, the Packers would be over the new salary cap. That is because the players' contracts tend to increase year to year, and this year those increases would put the team over the cap if left untouched.

No team is ever over the cap except in rare circumstances. Teams can exceed the cap to pay most incentives that were unlikely to be earned, and in some other rare instances a team will be given 7 days to comply with the cap: that is rare and occurs sometimes for example when a player un-retires.

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HarryHodag's picture

March 12, 2022 at 01:18 pm

The article reveals a valid point: Tonyan could be the offenses' Kevin King. Very talented but hurt way too much.
The Packers are in a bit of a pickle at tight end. Lets hope a good one is around at draft time.

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HankScorpio's picture

March 13, 2022 at 06:21 am

This is where I lean. Tonyan put up big TD numbers one year. Big TD numbers can be highly variable and fluky. He's never had impressive catch or yardage numbers. Before he got hurt last season, that was not really changed.

Catching passes from a HoF QB tends to inflate the numbers a guy puts up, as well. Since the Favre era began and then flowed into Rodgers, I've seen very few Packer pass-catchers who did not benefit greatly from that effect, IMO. Prime examples would be Antonio Freeman and Greg Jennings, both of whom left via FA in their prime. And greatly underperformed their lucrative contracts.

TE is a huge roster hole but I don't think Tonyan is the guy that can fill it.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 12, 2022 at 01:27 pm

I am getting a little antsy, I suppose. I assumed that today I would read tweets announcing that the team had reached agreement with several players about contract extensions and restructures.

The deadline is Wednesday, but since legal tampering starts Monday, the Packers should have their ducks in order in the next 48 hours. I keep thinking some of these players know they have the team on the ropes and are squeezing terms that are better than they really deserve out of the team.

Sigh. Nothing to do but wait.

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Coldworld's picture

March 12, 2022 at 03:23 pm

Who are you worried about tampering occurring with? It only applies to FAs, so, unfortunately wouldn’t mean Rodgers or Adams could be lured. I suppose Campbell and Douglas?

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Coldworld's picture

March 12, 2022 at 03:23 pm

Who are you worried about tampering occurring with? It only applies to FAs, so, unfortunately wouldn’t mean Rodgers or Adams could be lured. I suppose Campbell and Douglas?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 13, 2022 at 03:50 am

I am not worried about tampering. If the Packers do not have their cap straightened out by Monday, teams will start negotiating with players, even reaching handshake agreements. GB can't reach a handshake agreement with a UFA unless they know absolutely for sure that they will have the space available.

Campbell, Douglas and MVS are the three players I think are most likely to get offers in the first wave of free agency. Players (see Anthony Barr) have been known to back out of a handshake deal, but agents don't and no team really ever has.

The silence on ZaDarius Smith is interesting. I would have thought that a class organization would have publicly indicated that they will be releasing him already if they don't do it formally.

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HankScorpio's picture

March 13, 2022 at 06:27 am

Z's twitter account seems to indicate that he knows, even if it hasn't made its way to public knowledge yet. I would hope Gute is playing things close to the vest while he tries to swing a trade before cutting a guy. That's my hope anyways.

Having said that, I have zero confidence in Ball and Gute. I think they are slow-walking the franchise back to the pre-Wolf era dark days. I really do hope I'm over-reacting. But I fear I'm not.

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dobber's picture

March 12, 2022 at 03:34 pm

"I keep thinking some of these players know they have the team on the ropes and are squeezing terms that are better than they really deserve out of the team."

This is my fear, as well.

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Coldworld's picture

March 12, 2022 at 04:30 pm

That’s a fair concern and and, if true, an indictment of how this has been handled by the Packers. Rodgers should have been given a deadline, but I suspect we were too busy genuflecting. That’s not a good sign for effective leadership after a deal is signed.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 13, 2022 at 03:52 am

I find it curious that your comment got 3 down votes. I suppose folks think that no employee ever extracted really great terms from an employer that got itself in a tight spot.

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Coldworld's picture

March 13, 2022 at 12:44 pm

I’ve noticed a regular 2 or 3 automatic downs any time I suggest all might not be rosy with the FO. I don’t care. I was more amused by the down votes for reciting cap penalties. Hear no evil brigade?

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jont's picture

March 13, 2022 at 06:56 pm

drive by down voting

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dobber's picture

March 13, 2022 at 01:16 pm

Unless the Packers are doing something completely unexpected with their personnel, it's almost mis-management that they haven't moved some of these other cap adjustments forward. Player reps dragging their feet for more seems a very likely possibility.

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PeteK's picture

March 12, 2022 at 05:40 pm

This waiting is actually not bad since it's only a few days compared to what we've had to endure lately. They can squeeze all they want, we are dry as a biscuit. I would sign Campbell or Douglas over Tonyan.

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stockholder's picture

March 13, 2022 at 01:40 pm

I agree. Douglas has that right place at the right time.

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marpag1's picture

March 12, 2022 at 02:08 pm

I'm definitely not sold on Tonyan. I wouldn't give him a big contract, not yet at least. And the unknown of his injury makes me even more cautious.

I don't really agree with the article that he's some sort of deep, downfield threat with great run after the catch ability. In his single good year, Tonyan averaged 11.3 per catch. Last year, looking only at TE's who had 20 or more targets, there were 16 tight ends who averaged higher yards per catch than Tonyan. So according to that metric, Tonyan is pretty pedestrian when compared to top tight ends. In that one good year, Tonyan gained 586 yards. People act like it's awesome, but last year 15 tight ends gained more yards than that, so again, nothing much to get excited about. But mostly I just don't think that Tonyan creates a lot of separation. A lot of times when he had big plays it was scheme or blown coverages. In short, I think a lot of people overrate him.

Yes, his efficiency was other-worldly in 2020 - so much so that it is virtually impossible to expect that it can ever be repeated. The 11 TDs, too, are probably an outlier. In no other season has he caught more than 2 TDs. I think of those 11 TDs in the same way that I think of Rasul Douglas' 5 picks in 12 games. Someone is going to throw a lot of money at Rasul, but do we really expect him to get 7 picks per season? Probably not gonna happen....

And why was Tonyan almost invisible at the start of 2021? The author's argument that Tonyan was called upon to chip block more doesn't seem to carry much weight. Through 8 games last year Tonyan was targeted 29 times, which is the same rate at which he was targeted in 2020 (59 targets in 16 games).

7 points
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canadapacker's picture

March 12, 2022 at 05:40 pm

Totally agree with you - and I thought that he regressed last year - maybe out of shape - living on his laurels? But even in his best season he was not a Kittle/Kelce - breaking tackles and taking it to the house. We still need that - and Deguara was supposed to be that guy - can block and can roll over the opposition - but after a hurt season - he underperformed last year. Hope that he can regain some of that. Also think that Tonyon never got lost in coverage last year because other teams were planning for him - plus the Oline didnt hold up long enough for that to happen. I would hope that he gets offered and accepts a incentive laden contract so that if he produces he gets paid - just like Smith last year - funny what incentive does to ones production. Finally part of the reason that Tonyon may not have gotten lost in coverage is that we did not have the lateral movement plays that we did before. We need a better jet sweep - wide receiver sweep types of plays . What they tried to do with Tyler Ervin and MVS etc. Cant keep on using Adams as he has several guys shadowing him.

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Oppy's picture

March 13, 2022 at 01:57 am

Deguara was scouted as a solid option to play a role in this offense at H-Back, that block-and-roll-over guy (who can also snatch a few balls out of the air in the screen and short yardage game) you mention.

The problem has been that the offense still isn't really LeFleur's offense, so we're not seeing those big offensive formations on the field with an H back lined up.

2 points
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Tundraboy's picture

March 12, 2022 at 07:38 pm

He could be awesome,we just don't know,especially with his injury. Another promising player lost just as he was getting started. TE is a perpetual black hole for us it seems.

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NickPerry's picture

March 12, 2022 at 09:31 pm

Neither am I. If you take a look at what he did in 2021 BEFORE the injury it wasn't all that impressive. 18 receptions on 29 targets for 204 yards and 2 TD's. His catch percentage dropped from 88.1 to 62.1 on half the targets.

It would be nice to have him back but mostly, at least IMO, because he KNOWS the offense. MVS is probably gone and ESB is a #4 at best. Will Cobb take a HUGE pay cut to stay? They just don't have many options so I'm REALLY curious to see what Gute has planned.

Maybe Big Bob will stay for CHEAP, hopefully win a ring, and ball out in 2022 doing it.

1 points
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Lphill's picture

March 12, 2022 at 01:53 pm

He’s worth a one year team friendly contract coming off an injury I don’t think he will garner much attention on the open market .

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npapala1's picture

March 12, 2022 at 02:32 pm

I guess the real question is.....will he be a Viking or Bear?

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BirdDogUni's picture

March 12, 2022 at 05:30 pm

Yeah, I'm not worried about Big Bob at all. I know AR trusts him, and if he's willing to come back on a prove it deal, until we get our cap sorted out, then fine, but if not, we have bigger fish to fry. Thinking we can use one of our 3 - 7th round picks to ensure we have replacement readily available, on a cheap 4 year contract who can develop, maybe get lucky and get a gem.

I think we should draft a TE no matter what, but that's just me.

We could also wait until August and maybe pick up a TE who is cut, or maybe steal one off a practice squad once the dust settles. I know ideally we want a guy now, so we can get them up to speed, and AR can build that trust, but sometimes we don't get what we want.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 12, 2022 at 10:49 pm

I think that several TEs will be available for us in the draft on DAY 2. Two of my favorites are. Kolar and Ruckert.

We line up one TE on every snap, and two TEs about twenty times a game. Lewis gets his guy blocked, so he gets the most snaps. Tonyan would help, Deguara would help, but so would a blue chip TE.

Tonyan isn’t going to get big money anywhere unless somebody with a bunch of money feels like gambling. He has every reason to sign a 1 year deal with the Packers. I think he’ll be back, but not at the start of the season, That seems really optimistic.

2 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

March 13, 2022 at 04:56 am

I think Ruckert is a bottom of the 3rd round guy and Kolar more of a 5th rounder but I like both of them. I liked Jelani Woods as a 5th or 6th rounder before the draft but he's definitely gone before that now. All three can come in and block decently off the bat, kind of rare these days.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 13, 2022 at 10:02 am

Nflmockdraftdatabase agrees, and that’s where I’d look to take them. Kolar has a lot of intangibles that make hm interesting to me, along with his blocking. You could say the same for Ruckert. I’d double dip, considering the state of our TE situation.

2 points
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dobber's picture

March 13, 2022 at 10:12 am

Kolar seems to be very much a "preference" prospect (meaning those who like him really like him, but those who don't?), but has the chance to be a good dual threat talent. I like him a lot. I think he's a really good fit for a team like the Packers that plays a lot of TE snaps but lacks depth for in-line TE talent.

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LLCHESTY's picture

March 13, 2022 at 05:04 am

Hey BDU, you can't say I never gave you anything now. Looks like ol' Brett has gone full Trumpster, listening to Terrible Ted will just make it worse.

https://youtu.be/We3mdl04Jv4

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SADBUTTRUE's picture

March 12, 2022 at 08:51 pm

This is for all of us older Packers fans that remember Gilligan’s Island. After the Packers go the route of Washington who became the Commander’s and become Arod’s Puppet’s. At least he let Murph keep the “P” on the helmets!! Oh well, here comes my letter revoking my season tickets…..

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zjpz02's picture

March 13, 2022 at 06:53 am

As

A lot of good tight ends coming out of this draft. This position needs a serious upgrade.

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