The Green Bay Packers got good news on Monday when they announced that veteran wide receiver Allen Lazard had signed his one-year tender offer. Lazard will now earn $3.986 million for the 2022 season. Unless he signs an extension or long-term deal, Lazard will be on a one-year contract and will be eligible to be an unrestricted free agent after the 2022 season.
That means that all the players on the Packers 90-man, pre-training camp roster are now under contract except for second-round draft pick Christian Watson.
It also means that the Packers will have Lazard’s services for 2022. After losing both Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling during this offseason, the return of Lazard means that the Packers will at least have one of their top three receivers from a year ago back on the roster.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was excited about the opportunity Lazard will have this season. “He’s been our dirty-work guy for most of his career here,” Rodgers said during mandatory minicamp last week. “Now he’s getting an opportunity to be a number one receiver. I’m not worried about him at all stepping into that role. I’ve talked to him a lot. I know how he takes care of his body, and I know he’ll be ready when he’s here.”
Lazard is coming off a career-best season in 2021. He caught 40 passes for 513 yards and eight touchdown catches. All three of those statistics were career-highs for Lazard even though he missed two games last season.
The former Iowa State star has come a long way since joining the Packers late in the 2018 season. His role in the offense has increased each year he’s been with the team and he long ago gained the confidence of Rodgers which is not an easy thing for young receivers to do.
Lazard is a precise route runner who is almost always where he’s supposed to be when he runs his patterns. He is also one of the better blocking wide receivers in the game today which makes him particularly valuable to the Packers on running plays and short, quick-release passes, screens or swing passes.
Rodgers often looks for Lazard in clutch situations. Over the course of his career with the Packers, 75 of Lazard’s 109 career catches have resulted in first downs for the Packers.
The big question about Lazard going forward is whether he can still be as effective without having Adams lined up opposite him. The best example of this happened in Week 3 of the 2020 season when the Packers took on the Saints in New Orleans. Adams was injured and out of the lineup and it was Lazard who picked up the slack. He caught six passes for 146 yards and a touchdown in the Packers 37-30 win. His long catch for the day was a 72-yard pass from Rodgers early in the third quarter that set up a one-yard touchdown run by Aaron Jones. He also had a 48-yard catch in the second quarter that set up his own five-yard touchdown catch.
Unfortunately, Lazard was injured in that game and missed the next six contests. By the time he got back, Adams was back in the lineup.
In 2021, Adams missed one game but Lazard also was out of action that week.
Head coach Matt LaFleur is also eager to get Lazard back in the lineup. “Obviously, he’s been in our system for a couple years, so I definitely don’t have any reservations of him not knowing what to do when he gets here,” LaFleur told reporters during mandatory minicamp. “And I’ll say that I’m fairly confident that I know he’s a pro, and he knows how to take care of his body. Obviously, you want everybody here to build that team chemistry, because every year is a little bit different.”
Lazard’s lack of speed may prevent him from becoming an elite NFL receiver, but that doesn’t mean he can’t take on a larger role with the Packers this year and even lead the team’s wideouts in catches, yards and touchdowns. Since Rodgers trusts Lazard, he will have a real opportunity to have a breakout season and establish himself as a legitimate starting receiver in the NFL.
Unless the Packers sign him to an extension, Lazard will be free to sign wherever he wants next offseason. But for now, both the Packers and Lazard will benefit from his return to Green Bay.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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