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Packers’ Top Remaining Need, Filled

Pro Football Network listed the top need for each team, then filled it with a veteran free agent. Surprise, surprise: PFN added a receiver.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Roster building, as Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst would be happy to tell you, is a 365-days-per-year endeavor.

The Packers have 89 players on their roster, so there’s room to add somebody before the first practice of training camp on July 27.

Pro Football Network revealed its thoughts on each team’s biggest remaining need, and then filled it with the addition of a veteran free agent.

For the Packers, the need is receiver. PFN filled it with Emmanuel Sanders.

“Green Bay finally added multiple WRs in the 2022 draft, but how much should rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs be counted on to provide in their first NFL seasons?” PFN asked. “Sammy Watkins is the only free agent receiver the Packers signed this offseason…which means they need to sign another receiver. Sanders has the experience, football intelligence, and route-running savvy that Rodgers wants in his pass catchers. He should be on the next flight to Green Bay.”

Sanders, who turned 35 in March, is far removed from being a premier receiver but he still knows how to get open. He had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2014, 2015 and 2016 but had only 42 receptions for 626 yards and four touchdowns last season with Buffalo. Of 75 receivers to be targeted 58 times, Sanders ranked 74th in YAC per catch (2.3) and last in missed tackles (zero). However, his 14.9 yards per reception matched the best of his 12-year career.

Sanders was drafted in the third round by the Steelers in 2010. He caught two passes for 17 yards against the Packers in Super Bowl XLV.

Perhaps worth considering: The Packers had “real” interest in Sanders in free agency in 2020. In 2019, they faced Sanders three times – once with Denver in the regular season, once with San Francisco in the regular season and once with San Francisco in the playoffs. Jaire Alexander generally covered Sanders and won the matchup. With the Broncos, Sanders caught 2-of-5 passes for 10 yards. In Round 1 against the 49ers, Sanders caught his only target for 15 yards. In the NFC Championship Game, when the Niners ran roughshod over Mike Pettine’s defense, he was not targeted.

“The first thing you notice is how explosive he is,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said before the regular-season game against San Francisco. “We knew that from really a long time ago. But he’s really explosive. He pretty much didn’t miss a beat going to San Francisco and was able to get implemented into their scheme in a hurry.”

The Packers traded All-Pro Davante Adams and lost Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown in free agency. They added five receivers: Watson, Doubs and Samori Toure in the draft, Watkins in free agency and Danny Davis in college free agency. That quintet joins returning players Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Amari Rodgers, Juwann Winfree and Malik Taylor.

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The question is whether Gutekunst will give the young receivers the first half of training camp to see how they stack up against Green Bay’s elite cornerbacks. Or, if he might be tempted to sign a veteran like Sanders or Julio Jones for the start of camp.

Of course, the larger question is whether receiver really is Green Bay’s biggest remaining need. The Packers have excellent starters at outside linebacker, cornerback and safety but are an injury away from having to tap into some questionable depth charts.

NFC North Insiders

Get ready for the 2022 NFL season with our 12-part NFC North Insiders series, with stories running every Saturday and Sunday until training camp. Next week: The best- and worst-case scenarios for the Packers’ and their divisional rivals.

Part 1: Team MVPs for each team on both sides of the ball.

Part 2: The biggest addition and loss for each team.

Part 3: Most overrated player for each team.

Part 4: Most underrated player for each team.

Countdown to Packers Training Camp

Part 1 (30 days): All Matt LaFleur does is win (in the regular season)

Part 2 (29 days): Dominant Rasul Douglas

Part 3 (28 days): Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon