Brian Gutekunst and the Green Bay Packers have to have a plan up their metaphorical sleeves to address the wide receiver room. I mean, they have to. Everybody not named Randall Cobb or Allen Lazard is gone.
In the middle of what has been a surprisingly crazy offseason by NFL standards, the market for wide receivers is through the roof right now. The massive deal the Arizona Cardinals signed Christian Kirk to all but ensures that teams are paying top dollar for all pass-catchers, even those that fit into the “good, but not great” category like Kirk. Green Bay has been battling cap issues and will not likely be able to find a willing candidate to fill the WR room for what the team is willing to pay.
This leaves the team with two options for acquiring pass-catchers: trade or the draft. After years of not prioritizing WR in the early rounds of the draft, it is all but a foregone conclusion that the Packers will use at least one pick in the first three rounds on a wideout. They may even use one of the two first-round picks on a receiver. There are plenty of great options out there that fit the needs of the Packers, and Gutekunst is savvy enough to recognize the need to fill that void with a young player full of potential.
For a mastermind like Gutekunst, though, it is also not out of the question that Green Bay may look to acquire a receiver via free agency. This team desperately needs a reliable veteran presence beyond Cobb. Though Lazard has been outstanding in his early career, he is nowhere near established enough to carry this offense. That idea brings attention to the prospect of a savvy free-agent target, and there is no better option for the Packers to pursue than Jarvis Landry.
Despite recent news that there is “mutual interest” between Landry and the Cleveland Browns to retain him, he is far better off testing the free-agent market. Landry is a talented receiver who has had to endure multiple seasons of mediocre quarterbacks throwing him the ball throughout his career. Ryan Tannehill and Baker Mayfield are not bad players by any stretch of the imagination, but an opportunity to play with someone like Aaron Rodgers could do wonders for Landry’s stats and league-wide reputation.
Where would Landry fit in on the Packers offense? He would slot right in as a No. 1 receiver who has made his money through his crisp route-running. Sound familiar?
Excluding last season where Landry dealt with nagging injuries and suspect QB play, he has never played a season with less than 100 targets. His catch percentage sat at a cool 72% in his four seasons with Tannehill in Miami before cratering to 61.4% in Cleveland with Mayfield at the helm. Mayfield has had his growing pains. However, it would be fair to wonder why Landry would want to return to a situation there that not only has Mayfield but also a franchise that sold the farm in trading for a quarterback that will likely face suspension stemming from the 22-plus accusations of sexual assault made against him.
Betting on Deshaun Watson to be any better in a prospective return would be a significant risk. Watson may not only miss the entire next season due to suspension, but he has also not played competitive football in over a year. The Browns paid Watson like a Super Bowl MVP-caliber player, thus siphoning away resources that they could otherwise use to help the rest of the team.
Moving back to Landry, it was reported that he is seeking a deal around the $20 million per year range. Per Over the Cap’s updated numbers, the Packers currently have around $15 million in cap space, which is more than enough room to sign Landry and work some magic to get him the money he wants without having all of that money count against the cap.
If Landry were to come to Green Bay, it would not be unrealistic to imagine a world where he returns to the form he had in Miami. Rodgers will be looking for a receiver who he can reliably target over 120 times per season. Since his emergence as the No. 1 in 2016, Davante Adams has never had a season with under 117 targets from Rodgers. Landry averaged 142 targets per year in Miami and 118 per season with the Browns. He is accustomed to this workload and has the pedigree to turn those targets into production.
Landry had quite the down year last year, so it is easy to imagine a world where a team can sign him for less than he is asking. If that is the case, Landry will likely be looking to sign a short-term, team-friendly deal where he can prove his worth to the rest of the league. When this is the route that Landry decides to go down, Rodgers and the Packers should welcome him with open arms. He will have every opportunity as a de-facto No. 1 in this offense. Rodgers’ arm talent paired with Matt LaFleur’s ability to scheme open No. 1 receivers will surely rejuvenate Juice’s career. It’s a no-brainer for both parties that will benefit each other in the long run.