Packers: Potential free agency targets to watch in the playoffs
A look at 2019 free agents at positions of need the Green Bay Packers should watch in the playoffs.
This offseason, the Packers will look to retool and reload on both sides of the ball to make life easier for new head coach Matt LaFleur and his staff. With only a few weeks left of football before the offseason begins, news becomes more scarce, and speculation becomes more common.
In these few weeks we have left, we have a few players to watch on the field as the season comes to a close and a champion is crowned in the Super Bowl. During this time, there are a few players still playing that are worth watching from a Packers fan’s standpoint.
This is a list of players on current playoff teams that may end up being on the Packers next year if they do not re-sign with their current teams. This list specifically examines positions of need in terms of talent or depth.
The Packers are stocked at wide receiver in terms of depth, but it’s a lot of raw talent that has experienced a turbulent season. It’s not often that a set of practice squad and rookie pickups throughout the season will carry a team into the playoffs.
While it’s great to have favorites like Jake Kumerow, Randall Cobb (who is a free agent this offseason) and Geronimo Allison, there’s no such thing as too many weapons on offense. These four wide receivers could have an opportunity to be impact members of the Green Bay Packers next season.
Tavon Austin (Dallas Cowboys)
In 2013, Tavon Austin was one of the raves of the draft. His NFL Combine 40-yard dash clocked in at a 4.34, and his highlight film from West Virginia was filled with electrifying highlight plays, some of which featured Austin as a return specialist.
After being drafted eighth overall by the St. Louis Rams, he was a non-factor in the offense. Now in his fifth season, Austin has never topped 500 yards in either rushing or receiving, but has gotten close in both categories.
His speed and vision makes Austin a threat to score every time he touches the ball. That is likely the reason the Dallas Cowboys traded a sixth-round draft pick to the Los Angeles Rams to acquire him.
The move has paid off very little, as Austin didn’t provide the extra dimension to Dallas’ suffering offense they were hoping for. Austin’s brightest spot this season was a 51-yard punt return in the fourth quarter of the wild-card game against the Seahawks, helping Dallas seal the victory.
When the Los Angeles Rams re-signed Austin on a four-year, $42 million extension, it’s likely they didn’t expect to trade him in his final year for a sixth-round draft choice.
It’s unclear as to if Austin will demand that much money again, want more playing time, or both. But if Dallas leaves him unsigned heading into 2019, the Packers should take a flier on Austin’s game-changing return ability to pair up with Trevor Davis, whom is heading into the final year on his contract.
De’Anthony Thomas (Kansas City Chiefs)
Another receiver that has a dazzling highlight tape featuring return and receiving skills, De’Anthony Thomas’ career in Kansas City is still stuck in neutral. This is due to the plethora of weapons already at the disposal of Andy Reid and Thomas’ injury history, which has caused him to land on injured reserve to end the year.
The emergence of Tyreek Hill in Kansas City has more or less erased Thomas’ role in both special teams and the offense, as Hill is a more durable, dependable target. With a twice-fractured leg, Thomas is a hard sell, but would be worth a short term or low-cost contract in order to use as a return man or gadget player.
Most creative offenses find ways to use gadget players, so Thomas could be a valuable weapon for Matt LaFleur.
Tyrell Williams (Los Angeles Chargers)
An on-and-off receiver for the Los Angeles Chargers, Tyrell Williams has been playing second fiddle very quietly behind Keenan Allen and, when healthy, tight end Hunter Henry. A former undrafted free agent, Williams has been a revelation at the WR2 spot in recent years for the Chargers.
Over his four years in the NFL, Tyrell Williams has amassed 155 receptions for 2,530 yards and 17 TDs. Williams broke the 1,000-yard mark on 69 catches in 2016.
Given the low risk the Chargers took to acquire Williams, and the overperformance of his contract, it’s likely that they will attempt to re-sign him. However, if Randall Cobb departs from Green Bay, and the Chargers have their cash tied up in other players during the offseason, Williams may be a perfect fit behind Davante Adams in 2019.
Phillip Dorsett (New England Patriots)
Phillip Dorsett has been with two teams since he entered the league as a first-round draft choice by the Indianapolis Colts (29th overall), most recently as a member of the New England Patriots. He went there via trade, where New England sent Jacoby Brissett to fill in for the injured Andrew Luck.
Another speedster, Dorsett clocked a 4.33 40-yard dash at the Combine, but (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) it hasn’t translated particularly well to the football field. Across four years, Dorsett has totaled 1,287 yards and has only scored six TDs, an average of 322 yards per season.
This will be the first season that Dorsett will be eligible for re-signing a contract. Given New England’s penchant for “moneyball” and making something out of nothing, it’s not likely that they will give anything above an average contract to retain Dorsett.
Keep an eye out for Dorsett to see if he makes a final push towards a new contract, particularly if he plays against the Colts in the AFC Championship, only if both the Colts and Patriots win their respective games this coming weekend.