Packers free agency review: A swing and miss at tight end

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 10: Martellus Bennett
GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 10: Martellus Bennett /

The Green Bay Packers’ tight end gamble in free agency backfired in a big way.

If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

Despite Jared Cook‘s success in the second half of the 2016 season, former general manager Ted Thompson tried to fix what wasn’t broken, replacing Cook with free agents Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks.

At the time it looked like a smart piece of business, but in hindsight, Thompson’s roll of the dice landed on one.

Packers 2017 free agency: Tight ends

Added: Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks

Lost: Jared Cook

Cook struggled to make an impact early on in Green Bay, and then got hurt after just three games.

In his six-game absence, the Packers went 2-4. The offense looked flat and needed a difference maker. Cook returned just at the right time.

Cook caught six passes for 105 yards and a touchdown in his first game back. Green Bay still lost, 42-24 at Washington, but it was an encouraging sign for the offense.

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Cook’s return paired with Ty Montgomery‘s transition to running back gave the Packers’ offense life, and it quickly began to look like its old self. They won, and kept winning, all the way to the doorstep of the Super Bowl.

Importantly, Cook gained the trust of Aaron Rodgers, which was evident on the incredible toe-tap grab to setup Mason Crosby‘s walk-off field goal in the divisional round at Dallas. Rodgers made it clear that he wanted Cook to return in 2017.

But Thompson had other ideas, signing Bennett and Kendricks to replace Cook.

The two free agent signings combined for 436 yards and one touchdown in Green Bay this year. Bennett was released in midseason. Cook, meanwhile, outdid both of them with a 688-yard, two-touchdown campaign in Oakland.

In Green Bay, Cook became a valuable 6-foot-5 target for Rodgers in the middle of the field.

Bennett struggled out of the gates with a number of uncharacteristic drops. He then effectively quit on the team the moment Rodgers got injured.

Kendricks stuck around but failed to produce at a level close to that of his former Rams teammate.

Thompson swung and missed at the tight end position when he really didn’t need to. Few would have complained had the Packers re-signed Cook and added another depth piece along the way.

Next: Packers: 12 players that need to go this offseason

Thompson’s plan backfired, and the Packers are now back to square one at the tight end position.