The New York Jets announced that they had agreed to a new free agent deal with former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard on Tuesday. The deal marks the end of Lazard’s five-year stay with the Pack.
Lazard was always a great story. He was not drafted coming out of Iowa State in 2018 but signed as a free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He didn’t make the team but was signed to the practice squad after the final cutdown.
The Packers signed Lazard off the Jaguars practice squad on December 18, 2018. The Packers were struggling that season and injuries to the wide receiver corps made adding another player a necessity. The Packers organization liked Lazard’s size at 6’5” and 227 pounds and so they took a flier on him.
Lazard made his Packers debut in the 2018 season finale against the Lions. The Packers were blown out 31-0 but Lazard made his first career NFL catch, a seven-yard toss from DeShone Kizer early in the fourth quarter.
In 2019, Lazard made the team but didn’t have a pass thrown his way until Week 6 against the Lions. In that game, he enjoyed a breakout performance, catching four passes for 65 yards and his first NFL touchdown. He was the catalyst in the Packers 23-22 comeback win on Monday Night Football. He never looked back.
By the end of the season, Lazard had established himself as a reliable target and earned the trust of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur. He started three games that year and caught 35 passes for 477 yards and three touchdowns.
Injuries limited Lazard to 10 games in 2020, but he started nine of those games and became one of the team’s top complimentary receivers behind All Pro Davante Adams. He caught 33 passes for 451 yards and three scores.
In 2021, he had his best statistical season yet. Lazard started 13 games and grabbed 40 passes for 514 yards and eight touchdowns which remains his career high.
With Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling both leaving before the 2021 season, Lazard became the Packers de facto number one receiver. It was not a role he was ideally suited to. In 15 games, he set a new career high with 60 catches for 788 yards and added six touchdowns. But he was not the kind of receiver who could strike fear in the hearts of defensive coaches or players just by being on the field and he is best suited as a complimentary receiver rather than a WR1.
Despite his limitations, he is very good at what he does and has earned the respect of his teammates and coaches.
“That’s what got him on the field a bunch when he was a third or fourth guy and that’s what keeps him on the field and makes us love him so much,” Aaron Rodgers said about Lazard this past December after he made a devastating block that knocked down three Dolphins defenders. “Because he gives up his body like that, consistently. You want your best players to be your best people and Allen definitely is one of our best people—and he proves it week after week by doing things like that.”
Head coach Matt LaFleur also appreciated what Lazard brought to the table. “In the run game, you can really feel his presence,” LaFleur said last season. “But that also helps create some big-time plays in the passing game when he’s going in, and he’s digging out safeties, just like you saw last year in the playoff game versus the Rams. That was one of the longest plays they had given up all season long. So, he’s got that big-play potential.”
Lazard was the type of receiver fans could relate to because he was a Cinderella story. He did not have elite speed and wasn’t even drafted, but he has football intelligence, a great work ethic and did all the little things right. He was one of the better blocking wide receivers in the NFL, had good hands and ran precise pass patterns that put him in the right place at the right time to make plays.
Each year, Lazard grew a little more as a player and it was easy for fans to identify with him and root for him.
Now he is headed to the New York Jets who signed him either to encourage Rodgers to agree to a trade or at the request of Rodgers who asked the Jets to bring some of his favorite teammates along with him. Packers fans will miss him and wish him luck unless of course, he’s playing against the Pack.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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