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Major Upheaval Could Strike Passing Attack Again

Trading Davante Adams last offseason, obviously, was a big deal. More major changes could be on the horizon.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers’ passing game never clicked with any consistency following the Davante Adams trade. Another major transition could be required in 2023 even if Aaron Rodgers returns at quarterback.

Receiver Allen Lazard, who led the team with 60 receptions and 788 receiving yards, will be a free agent.

Running back Aaron Jones, who finished second on the team with 59 receptions and added five touchdown catches, could be a cap casualty.

Tight end Robert Tonyan, who finished third on the team with 53 receptions, will be a free agent.

Receiver Randall Cobb, who finished sixth on the team with 34 receptions, will be a free agent.

Adding in some minor contributors, it’s possible 63.2 percent of this year’s receptions will walk out the door. Even if a restructure can be hammered out with Jones, 47.4 percent of the receptions could be playing elsewhere next season.

Potentially, the passing attack will flow through the four 2022 draft picks: Christian Watson (second round), Romeo Doubs (fourth) and Samori Toure (seventh) were drafted by the Packers and Bo Melton (seventh) was drafted by Seattle.

Lazard never became the No. 1 receiver that Rodgers hailed him to be, but he was a productive, consistent asset. A go-to player on third down, he ranked 16th in the NFL with 18 first-down-producing receptions on third down. Moreover, he was revered for his effort and physicality as a blocker.

The Packers have cap problems, so it’s possible they won’t be able to afford Lazard. Then again, he’s probably more valuable in Green Bay given how much stock coach Matt LaFleur puts into blocking at that position.

“Definitely going into the game, I had a realization that my first game here and potentially last game, which it is, was going to be vs. the Lions at home,” Lazard said on Sunday night. “I took just a few moments to soak it all in and pat myself on the back, I guess, and just be thankful for this opportunity and this experience to be here for four-plus years now.”

A source close to Lazard said the “which it is” comment was in reference to it being the final game of the season and that a return to Green Bay is a possibility.

“To see the growth that I’ve made, not only on the field but more so off the field, and come into my own,” Lazard continued. “I feel like a lot of times throughout my career, especially early on, it could’ve gone a lot differently but I’m still here now. I’m just thankful for that.”

Like Lazard, who was poached off Jacksonville’s practice squad late in 2018, Tonyan built himself from the bottom up into a starter. Originally signed to Green Bay’s practice squad in 2017, Tonyan had a breakout 2020 season with 11 touchdowns and zero drops, tore his ACL in 2021 and came back to play in all 17 games in 2022. He finished the season ranked No. 1 among tight ends in catch percentage and second in drop percentage.

“Human nature, [free agency is] kind of always in your mind at some percentage, but just being present and being thankful,” Tonyan said after the game.

“Hopefully, they want me here,” he added. “Like I said, I’ve been pretty thankful to be here and grateful to be here. See what happens. That’s what agents are for. Thank God I got a good one to handle that business, so I don’t even have to worry about that kind of stuff. I can just play football and enjoy and be present and be around these guys and be around my family.”

Jones, of course, is more than just a weapon in the passing game. Jones is the offense’s MVP. He rushed for a career-high 1,121 yards, good for ninth in the league, and his 5.26-yard average ranked second among running backs. Throw in his receiving production and Jones finished ninth among all players with 1,516 yards from scrimmage.

In a vacuum, bringing him back is the easiest decision in the history of decisions, to quote a national bank, but his cap number is set to soar from $5.9 million to $20.0 million. The Packers can keep him if they want to kick some of the financial pain down the road via a restructure of his $8.1 million base salary and $7 million roster bonus.

“Control the controllables. Control what I can control. That’s what I’ve always been taught,” Jones said on Monday. “I control what I can control. I’d love to be here, so hopefully they feel the same way about me.”

Cobb, who will turn 33 during training camp, remains a viable threat, though he was ignored for the second consecutive elimination game. If Rodgers returns, Cobb might, too. That they walked off the field together was a picture – potentially – that says a thousand words.

“We just kind of had a moment and kind of took it all in,” Cobb said. “I remember after my first-ever football game here in Green Bay, us walking off the field together, and it was a special feeling. This one felt a little different.”

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