The Green Bay Packers have a definite need at tight end this offseason. Right now, the only experienced tight end under contract for 2023 is Josiah Deguara who often lines up more as an H-back or fullback. Both Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis, the team’s top two tight ends in terms of offensive snaps taken in 2022, are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.
The Packers have not had a game-breaking tight end since Jermichael Finley was forced to retire due to injury after the 2013 campaign. Since then, the Packers have had steady players at the position like Andrew Quarless, Richard Rodgers and Jimmy Graham, but no players who could stretch the field and consistently make splash plays that could put fear in the hearts of defenses.
GM Brian Gutekunst has admitted that tight end will be a need for the team this offseason although it remains possible Lewis or Tonyan could be back for another year.
“Right now, we only have a couple of tight ends coming back from last year,” Gutekunst said at the Scouting Combine last week. “So, there’s some holes there. Those guys either have to step into those roles and fill them, or we’re going to have to look other places.”
Other places could include a veteran free agent who could serve as a short-term bridge at the position but it also likely includes spending a high draft pick on a tight end who could provide the team with a longer-term solution.
The good news for the Packers is that this year’s tight end class features a lot of athletic players who did exceptionally well at the scouting combine and the Packers traditionally place a high emphasis on a player’s athletic score.
The Packers have backed up Gutekunst’s words by meeting with at least four tight ends at the combine. They include Michael Mayer of Notre Dame, Luke Musgrave of Oregon State, Georgia alum Darnell Washington and Dalton Kincaid of Utah.
As of right now, the Packers have the 15th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Using that pick or a day two pick on a tight end remains a realistic possibility. Gutekunst could also get additional early picks if they end up trading either Aaron Rodgers or Jordan Love before the start of the draft depending on what decision is made on Rodgers’ future.
Each of the four have different strengths and skill sets. While we will go into more depth on each player as we get closer to the draft next month, we can discuss their basic skill sets here.
Mayer is regarded by many as the best all-around tight end in this draft. In addition to his ability to make catches downfield, the former Notre Dame star is also considered a strong blocker. He’s a bit less athletic than the other tight ends on this list but more well-rounded.
Musgrave is a bit more of a risk since he’s coming off a knee injury that ended his 2022 season after just two games. His athleticism is extremely high and at nearly 6’6” and 253, he has the size and elusiveness that scouts look for. He is capable of lining up in the slot or at the traditional tight end position which is helpful to the Packers who like to use their tight ends in a variety of ways.
Washington also scored well athletically at the combine and is the most experienced blocker in the group. He served primarily as the blocking tight end with Georgia while Brock Bowers went out to run pass patterns. He may have the potential to take on a similar role to Lewis once he gets a little more experience and he would likely provide a solid target downfield once he gets acclimated to the NFL game.
Kincaid is the best pure pass catcher in the bunch. He had 70 catches in his final season at Utah for 890 yards and eight touchdowns. At roughly 6’3 ½” and 245 pounds, he can get downfield and make plays.
Each of these players has excellent potential. The Packers may have also met with some additional tight ends as well.
This is one of the deepest and most talented tight end classes in recent memory. Last season, Gutekunst used first round picks on two positions he had long neglected early in the draft: interior defensive line and inside linebacker. The last time the Packers used a first round pick on a tight end was Bubba Franks in 2000. Is this the year that changes? Stay tuned, the draft is a little more than a month away.
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