With just a few days to spare, wide receiver Allen Lazard reported to Green Bay Packers minicamp on Monday to sign his restricted free-agent tender of just under $4 million. With Lazard officially back in the fold, the fifth-year wideout is essentially on a one-year prove-it deal that will ultimately be highly beneficial for both the player and the team in a pivotal 2022 season.
Lazard’s absence from OTAs, which was a non-story all along, was merely a smart move by a player seeking the first substantial payday of his young career. According to Spotrac, Lazard had made just over $2.1 million total over his first four seasons, and the tender he signed on Monday would essentially triple his career earnings in one year. He needed to put pen to paper before that payday came, and it made little sense to report to OTAs with any chance of getting injured before securing that deal. It was a move that was by no means unexpected and well-deserved for Lazard. But the short-term nature of the contract has benefits for each side.
The move is a no-brainer for the Packers. Lazard is a veteran player familiar with the team’s MVP quarterback. He has also shown flashes of brilliance in the few times he has been able to flaunt his abilities as a featured player in the offense. Lazard, 26, was a restricted free agent and could only negotiate with the Packers, who is entering his prime with a chance to cash in after a standout season.
Dating back to his high school and college days, Lazard has fit the bill of what you might expect a WR1 to look like. He was a 6’4”, four-star recruit and the No. 7 wideout in the country in the class of 2014. He passed up high-profile offers to stay close to home at Iowa State, where both his father and brother played. While the Cyclones aren’t necessarily a national power, Lazard posted school records in receptions and career yardage while being named first-team All-Big XII conference in his junior and senior seasons.
After producing on the field, Lazard suffered at the NFL combine from a perceived lack of explosiveness and the class being deep yet not particularly top-heavy. The Packers passed on Lazard three times in the 2018 draft, opting for J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown in the later rounds of the draft. Lazard signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who shifted him to the practice squad, before Green Bay signed him in Dec. 2018.
Finally getting some run in the first year of Matt LaFleur’s tenure with the Packers, Lazard ended up with the second-most receiving yards for Green Bay in 2019, in a muddled mix of players behind Davante Adams. He found a bigger niche in the team’s five-game winning streak to close out the regular season and has been firmly in the mix with the team’s offense since.
Aaron Rodgers has been very pro-Lazard, openly worrying that Lazard might get scooped up after initially not making the team in 2019. This week, Rodgers heaped praise on the wideout again, reiterating that he’s “not worried” about his ability to fill Adams’ shoes.
Lazard has had to prove himself since the minute got out of college, and he’s done so admirably in the NFL. He’s taken advantage of opportunities, first to make the team, then contributing on special teams, then as an excellent blocker within the Packers’ offense. He finally busted out in Week 3 of the 2020 season with six receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown before suffering an unfortunate core injury.
The next opportunity for Lazard is perhaps his biggest yet. He’s healthy. He’s got the support of the back-to-back MVP. Lazard has got a little coin in his pocket, with a chance to make a whole heck of a lot more. And, more than anything, he’s got an opportunity. The loss of Adams leaves a void that is 123 catches and 1,553 yards deep. Nothing is standing in Lazard’s way from taking a huge chunk of that for himself.