GREEN BAY, Wis. – In 1996, Ron Wolf signed Andre Rison to help the receiver corps, and he helped the Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl.
On Monday, NFL Network reported the Packers are signing Tavon Austin to bolster their receiver corps and special teams. A source confirmed the move and said it was to the 53-man roster and not a practice squad deal.
The 30-year-old Austin was the eighth pick of the 2013 draft. He’s caught 215 passes for 2,006 yards (9.3 average) and 15 touchdowns and carried 196 times for 1,340 yards (6.8 average) and 10 touchdowns. Plus, he has a career average of 7.9 yards with three touchdowns on punt returns.
Austin spent the last two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, where he was used as more of a deep threat than in the past. He caught eight passes for 140 yards (17.5 average) and two scores in seven games 2018 and 13 passes for 177 yards and one touchdown in 14 games last year.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur would not comment.
“I don’t think anything’s official yet. Certainly be happy to (discuss it) when things go through,” he said.
In 2017, when LaFleur was offensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Rams, Austin caught 13 passes for only 47 yards but had a career-high 59 carries for 270 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, Austin’s 228 offensive snaps that season were split between slot (94), running back (69) and wide receiver (64).
At 5-foot-8, he is a total mold-breaker for the Packers, who have steered clear of short players for three-plus decades. He ran a 4.34 at the Scouting Combine in 2013.
Austin spent training camp with the 49ers but was released with an injury settlement due to a knee injury. His time in San Francisco should help his acclimation to Green Bay's offense.
“It’s a lot of learning,” Austin told the San Francisco Chronicle. “You can’t be a dummy and be in this offense. … I just hope my opportunities keep on pushing forward and, hopefully, I make the team and I get to show coach more and more what I can do every day. I’m just thankful for that. Wes (Welker, the receivers coach) has put me in more position to make more plays and I’m holding it up on my end.”
Green Bay's return units have been dreadful this season. It is 32nd in kickoff-return average and 26th in punt-return average. Even when last year's late-season spark, Tyler Ervin, was in the lineup, Green Bay's return game was stuck in neutral.
The Packers did make one move official, with their claiming of mammoth defensive lineman Anthony Rush off waivers from the Chicago Bears. Having gone through the extended COVID-19 protocols, he should be eligible to practice on Wednesday.
Rush (6-4, 361) was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Alabama-Birmingham in 2019. He played a total of 13 games for the Eagles in 2019 and Seattle Seahawks in 2020, recording 15 tackles (eight solo), four tackles for losses and a half-sack.
This year, Rush was released by the Eagles after training camp and signed to the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad and then to the Seahawks’ active roster, where he saw action in four games before being released. He spent a couple of weeks on the Bears’ active roster in November before being released again. Rush will wear No. 79 for the Packers.
Green Bay lost defensive lineman Montravius Adams for the season with a toe injury.