GREEN BAY, Wis. – Marcedes Lewis will be back to mentor the Green Bay Packers’ young group of tight ends.
Lewis, who will turn 36 on May 19, agreed to a one-year contract to return to the Packers. The deal, reported on Wednesday, was made official by the team on Tuesday. The deal is worth $2.25 million, according to ESPN. According to the Houston Chronicle, he received a $1.05 million signing bonus.
“I think mentally and physically, I was in a really good place this year,” Lewis said at the end of the season. “Having this offense and knowing conceptually what they wanted, and (coach Matt) LaFleur and having Justin Outten as my tight ends coach, I got better every day. At 35 years old, I felt like I was getting better every day. My rep count went up to the mid-30s towards half the season. It was really dope. I’d love to come back. When I wake up in the morning, I still love it and I really think, physically, would leave before mentally as far as me wanting to come back and play. Physically, I was in the best shape I’ve ever been in my life knowing that I’m older in the tooth. It has to be that way. There was not one game where I went into it feeling like I was at a disadvantage.”
Keeping Lewis was easier than it was last year. In 2018, general manager Brian Gutekunst signed Jimmy Graham and Lewis as a tandem. Former coach Mike McCarthy featured Graham but practically forgot Lewis’ existence. Last offseason, Gutekunst talked Lewis into coming back for one more season to help the running game that LaFleur wanted to feature. He was more than worth the $2.1 million investment, with Lewis going from 190 snaps in 2018 to 487 in 2019. His calling card remains as a blocker. Seven offseasons of mixed-martial arts training, combined with size and experience, has made him a formidable foe.
“The way we train, what is it when you walk in the cage? It’s either me or you, and it’s definitely not going to be me,” Lewis said in September. “It’s the mentality. Mentally, you get in a place where I’m really here to outwork myself and I’m going to set the bar and let everybody else limbo underneath that. That’s the mind-set we have. Before I started doing that, you have a natural anxiety and a healthy fear when you walk onto the field. Now, the anxiety is good anxiety of what you’re going to do to your opponent. It’s more of a confidence that you have. Like, ‘Yo, we can either do it on this field or we can take it wherever you want to take it.’ It’s helped more that way.”
After catching just three passes in 2018, Lewis caught 15-of-19 targeted passes (78.9 percent) for 156 yards (10.4 average) and one touchdown. He dropped a pass in Week 1 but that was it.
He was No. 10 in our ranking of the free-agent tight ends. Without Graham, he’ll be tasked with leading a young depth chart that includes Jace Sternberger and Robert Tonyan.
“He’s a true professional,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said late in the season of a player he liked to call “Big Dog.”
“I just think last year was such a telling season. You’ve got a guy who’s been to Pro Bowls, who’s had a double-digit touchdown season and to have a very limited role in the passing game, but to see his attitude the entire year and his leadership opportunities taken the way they were taken was a thing of beauty. As an older player, I already had a ton of respect for him but it just went way up when I saw his approach every single day. And like I’ve said here many times, the key I think for him this year is really feeling like he has a role in the offense. When you give a role to somebody, you full them up with purpose and energy and you give them a direction, and it’s allowed him to be an even bigger leader and role model for the guys in this room.”
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