Aaron Rodgers leads the Green Bay Packers offense to elite levels every year, but who will be his tight end in the 2017 season?
In 2016, the Green Bay Packers relied on Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers at the tight end position. Both caught 30 passes, Cook for 377 yards and one touchdown and Rodgers for 271 yards and two touchdowns. Neither of those stat lines jump out at you, but put them together and you’ve got decent production out of your tight end.
Now, that’s not completely their fault. The Packers are a wide receiver friendly offense. Rodgers has Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Randall Cobb to do the heavy lifting. So while tight ends are featured heavily in some offenses, that’s just not the case in Green Bay.
It hasn’t always been that way. At on point, Jermichael Finley was a favorite target of Rodgers, and helped the offense run smoothly. In fact, even Richard Rodgers had a fantastic year in 2015 (58 receptions, 510 yards, eight touchdowns).
The Packers offense has shown they don’t need a top-tier tight end since Finley’s departure. However, it’s hard to argue with having a good safety net for your quarterback, and the Packers are probably thinking the same thing. The tight end version of Rodgers has just one year left on his contract, while Cook is currently a free agent. That means the Packers are going to have to make a move on someone at some point before the start of the season.
Bringing back Cook isn’t a terrible option, but his ceiling isn’t all that high. While the Packers may not get much production out of them this season, drafting a tight end might be the best option. Rodgers (TE) has shown he can be the No. 1 tight end in an offense, and the receivers can clearly carry the heavy load.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of options in the draft at the tight end position. The Packers could take someone in the middle rounds, give them time to grow, and hope they’re ready for 2018.
While there are a lot of solid prospects, Jake Butt comes to mind as a good fit. His big frame will come in handy, and he’s improving as a blocker. The Michigan product is also already accustomed to the cold weather, and he’s impressive as a pass-catcher. A knee injury could keep him off the field for some (or all) of 2017, but that’s perfectly fine for the Packers situation.
The Packers 2017 season doesn’t live-or-die based on the play of their tight ends. Despite that, it never hurts to be skilled in that area. For now, though, they can afford to stand pat to a degree at the position, but while also investing in the future.