Packers need to find a new tight end… again

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 12: Lance Kendricks
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 12: Lance Kendricks /

The Green Bay Packers’ search for a new tight end will continue this offseason.

The Packers have been trying to fix the tight end position ever since they lost Jermichael Finley in 2013. That search will continue this offseason.

Marcedes Lewis and Lance Kendricks are free agents this spring, and it’s no guarantee Jimmy Graham will be back either even with two years left on his contract.

The Packers have turned to free agency the past few years to try to find the answer at tight end.

First it was Jared Cook in 2016. Cook missed six games due to injury but played an important part in the Packers’ six-game winning streak to end the regular season. Of course, he then made that catch against the Dallas Cowboys to set up Mason Crosby‘s game-winner in the divisional round.

But Cook wasn’t re-signed in the offseason and signed with the Oakland Raiders.

The Packers would sign Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks in free agency in 2017. But Bennett was released by the Packers after playing just seven games. Kendricks has just 373 receiving yards and two touchdowns in two seasons and is a free agent this offseason.

Last offseason Green Bay used free agency again to bring in Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis.

Surprisingly, Lewis played on just 17.69 percent of the Packers’ offensive snaps, according to Pro Football Reference. Lewis is also a free agent this offseason and will turn 35 in May.

Graham wasn’t the dominant red zone target many expected in 2018 (just two touchdowns), and with a cap hit of $12.67 million in 2019, according to Spotrac, general manager Brian Gutekunst may decide to move on to free up cap room.

But even if Graham is still the starting tight end in 2019, the Packers should turn to the draft at the position as Graham will turn 33 next season.

Robert Tonyan could take on a bigger role in Green Bay’s offense. Tonyan showed his potential in a game at Seattle with an impressive 54-yard touchdown catch. But even with Graham and Tonyan in 2019, the Packers should use one of their 10 draft picks to find a young tight end to develop.

They could use one of their two first-round picks on a tight end. Erik Lambert of NFL Mocks has Irv Smith Jr. going 27th overall in his latest mock draft, three picks ahead of Green Bay’s second first-round selection. Lambert wrote:

"“This 2019 class appears stacked with quality talents and Irv Smith is absolutely no exception. Like most Alabama tight ends he’s not utilized to his full potential in the passing game and is used a lot in blocking but that shouldn’t dissuage NFL teams.”"

Smith could be a great addition to Matt LaFleur’s offense.

Maybe the Packers will bring back Jared Cook, who is a free agent this offseason.

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Tight end is once again one of the team’s biggest needs and will be a priority for Brian Gutekunst either in free agency or the draft.