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10/27/2020

Best Available Wide Receivers


Despite ending last season with only one wide receiver catching more than 35 passes, general manager Brian Gutekunst decided to bypass the position in the draft. His only addition was free agent Devin Funchess, who chose to opt-out due to Covid-19 earlier in the week. That leaves the Packers with essentially the same group as a year ago. The only difference was that a year ago Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison were seen as potential difference-makers, and now the former is almost an afterthought and the latter is in Detroit.

The unexpected departure of Funchess leaves former CFL star Reggie Begelton as the most significant addition of the offseason. Let that sink in for a minute. It’s difficult to imagine Gutekunst not acquiring a veteran at some point between now and opening week, but who that might be is anybody’s guess. Some useful receivers figure to become available toward the end of the month, but if Gutekunst doesn’t want to wait that long, there are some players available right now who might be able to help. The following are my top 6:

1) JOSH GORDON

The 29-year-old is easily the best available wide receiver, but would Gutekunst and coach Matt LaFleur be willing to sign a player who’s been suspended five times for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy? The answer is probably no. Still, Gordon doesn’t have a bad reputation around the league. He’s generally viewed as a hard worker and a good teammate, and despite all of his off the field troubles, he’s still a talented player. He’s caught 68 passes for 1,162 yards and five touchdowns in 23 games over the past two seasons. And while he’s no longer the dynamic athlete who caught 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013, he’d still be Green Bay’s second-best wide receiver the minute he signed. Heck, he’d be Green Bay’s second-best wide receiver if he ran his routes with a big ol’ joint hanging out of his mouth.

2) TAYLOR GABRIEL

Signing the 29-year-old has seemed like a no-brainer for months. Gabriel was together with LaFleur in Atlanta, and he’d provide the type of quick slot receiver the team hasn’t had since Randall Cobb left for Dallas in March 2019. But given a choice, Gutekunst preferred Funchess. That’s not a surprise given his predilection for size at the position. Of the five wide receivers he’s either signed or drafted since taking over as GM in 2018, all were at least 6-foot-3. Gabriel stands 5-foot-7. The other reason for the lack of interest might be his history of concussions. At least five have been documented, including a pair last season.

3) DEMARYIUS THOMAS

The 32-year-old is a few years removed from his prime, but he’s still a pretty good player. Thomas caught 36 passes for 433 in 11 games with the Jets last season, and while that’s a far cry from his halcyon days in Denver, those numbers would’ve made him the second most productive wide receiver on the Packers. We all know how difficult it is for young skill players to earn the trust of Aaron Rodgers, so why not give him another veteran target? Thomas won’t blow by cornerbacks, but he runs clever routes and finds ways to get open. And let’s be honest, with the game on the line and the offense needing to convert a 3rd and 10, would you rather have Thomas or anybody not named Davante Adams or Allen Lazard running that slant?


4) JUSTIN HARDY

The 28-year-old isn’t nearly as talented as Gordon or even Gabriel, but he’s probably a more realistic option for the Packers because he’d come minus the character and health concerns. Hardy, who also has a history with LaFleur, has never caught more than 21 passes in a season, but he played behind a lot of very talented wide receivers in Atlanta. And while it’s fair to question whether he’d be any better than Valdes-Scantling or Equanimeous St. Brown, what’s the harm in letting him come in and compete? At best, he’d be the team’s third or fourth wide receiver. At worst, he’d push the younger players in training camp.

5) PAUL RICHARDSON

The 28-year-old put up solid numbers with Seattle in 2017 (44 catches for 703 yards and 6 touchdowns), but he struggled the past two seasons in Washington. To be fair, it isn’t easy being a wide receiver when Josh Johnson, Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez, Case Keenum, and raw rookie Dwayne Haskins are throwing you the ball. Perhaps playing with a future Hall of Famer will get Richardson’s career back on track. And while he’ll never be the most refined route runner, he does have legit speed. That’s something missing from the Packers’ offense, especially if Valdes-Scantling’s downward spiral that began last November continues.

6) CHRIS HOGAN

The 31-year-old missed nine games for the Panthers last season due to a knee injury, but he was a productive role player for the Patriots from 2016 to 2018. While Hogan isn’t a great athlete, he runs precise routes and is sneaky fast. Those traits enabled him to lead the league in yards per catch (17.9) in ’16. He also has a connection to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett from their time together with the Bills. Signing Hogan wouldn’t be an exciting addition, but if healthy, he could be a pretty nice fit in Green Bay.

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7 Responses “Best Available Wide Receivers”

  1. Bryan
    08/01/2020 at 3:28 pm

    I’ll pass on Gordon. Gabriel or Thomas, however, would be great fits.

  2. Chuck L
    08/01/2020 at 3:47 pm

    I’d take any of these players, but Gutey will probably re-sign Ryan Grant or trade for Geronimo Allison. I’m kidding, but I’m also not holding my breath waiting for a good WR to wake through the door. It looks like another season of Davante and the dregs.

    Michael, thanks for all the stories. Great stuff!

  3. Tom Moshier
    08/01/2020 at 8:53 pm

    The Devin Funchess decision makes absolutely no sense to me. He’s either been grossly misinformed or he just doesn’t want it. He stands far greater odds from serious football injury than a 99.999 percent chance of recovering from COVID. And at 27, playing opposite Davante Adams, with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the football, he could have parlayed this season into a nice contract. I’m guessing somewhere down the line he’s gonna regret this decision.

    You left off that nut job Antonio Brown. Or did he sign somewhere and I missed it?

    I’ve gotta believe if Matt LaFleur wanted any of these guys Brian Gutekunst would sign them. Especially the ones that have played for him. And the fact that he he hasn’t tells me LaFleur isn’t that impressed.

  4. Jack
    08/02/2020 at 11:24 am

    Maybe Funchess is worried about spreading the disease to a more vulnerable person or maybe he’s concerned over the potential long-term ramifications. A pitcher for the Red Sox had to opt-out the other day because COVID affected his heart.

    Funchess made $10 million last season, and he’s already been paid half his salary by the Packers. He doesn’t need the money. Plus, he’s only 26 and under contract for next season, so he’ll have another chance to play with Adams and Rodgers.

  5. Tom Moshier
    08/03/2020 at 11:18 am

    I highly doubt that. These athletes are taking the same minimal risk he would be. And if your referring to family, I doubt he’d take his parents or grandparents to Green Bay with him. The long term health ramifications are far greater playing football in the NFL than a healthy 26 year old male getting COVID and having long term health complications. Now, if you have a preexisting heart condition then your high risk. And I could see opting out. As far as money, he may not need it now. But if he’s like most athletes, he’ll burn thru that by the time he’s 30.

  6. Jack
    08/03/2020 at 12:13 pm

    Since you’re not Devin Funchess, it doesn’t have to make sense to you.

  7. Tom Moshier
    08/03/2020 at 1:46 pm

    Actually it can be both. Devin Funchess has every right to opt out this season as does every other athlete regardless of sport. Presumably he’s opting out on concerns over COVID. The data says he’s far more likely to suffer long term health issues from playing in the NFL than the flu like symptoms a healthy 26 yr old male would suffer for several days. And I have every right to say I question that decision based on what we know about COVID 19. As Bill Murray once said: “ that’s the fact, Jack….”

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About Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for close to 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2006. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.