The news of the Green Bay Packers sending Davante Adams to the Los Vegas Raiders didn’t just blow up the NFL offseason. It also blew up the Packers’ offseason and, even if he was aware it was coming, surely affected Aaron Rodgers‘ summer break.
(Although maybe “offseason” would be a better word for Rodgers as well. He doesn’t seem to have much trouble enjoying his summer breaks).
Green Bay now has a massive hole to fill at wide receiver. Presumably, general manager Brian Gutekunst will take a pass-catcher with one — or more — of his four picks in the first two rounds. He’s been stingy spending early draft capital on wideouts, but this year has to buck that trend.
It’s going to take more than a few rookies to fill the gaping hole left by Adams, however. The Packers have some actual cap space now that their franchise receiver is gone, but spending a considerable chunk of it on outside weapons isn’t the most efficient way to use it — especially when Rodgers has shown he can do more with less than perhaps any other quarterback in the NFL.
To that end, here are three bargain-bin receivers Green Bay can add who could chip in to help replace Adams’ production and wouldn’t break the Packers’ bank.
3. Sammy Watkins
After being selected by the Buffalo Bills with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Watkins started his career with a bang.
He caught 125 passes for 2,029 yards and averaged more than 16 yards per reception over his first two seasons.
But he hasn’t approached that level of production since.
He’s only caught more than 40 passes in a year once since 2015 — that was during the 2019 season as part of a high-powered Kansas City Chiefs passing attack.
He’s hauled in 64 catches for 815 yards and three touchdowns the last two years combined.
But Watkins is only 28 and still possesses some of the physical tools that made him so appealing coming out of Clemson in 2014. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he comes somewhere close to his 2019 numbers with Rodgers at the helm of his offense.
And he would count as a low-risk, high-reward signing. He joined the Baltimore Ravens last year on a one-year deal worth $5 million. He would likely cost Green Bay a similar amount, if not less.
2. Keelan Cole
Cole is obviously not in the same realm as Adams, but he has a similar game — he’s not a burner and isn’t huge, but is a good route runner who finds ways to get open.
Davante has had Rodgers as his quarterback since he was a rookie. Cole was in the black hole that was (is) Jacksonville for four years and then caught passes from rookie Zach Wilson with the New York Jets last year.
The Kentucky Wesleyan product’s best season was his final one with the Jaguars. He caught 55 passes for 642 yards and five touchdowns in 2020.
Cole has developed into a decent possession receiver on the outside with some ability to play in the slot, the same role Adams filled for Green Bay last year.
His deal with the Jets last season was for one year and $5.5 million. He’s a Davante Adams lite (lite) but comes on the cheap as another low-risk, high-reward wideout.
1. Demarcus Robinson
Robinson is the most intriguing of these three. He’s been buried behind Tyreke Hill, Travis Kelce, and Mecole Hardman on Kansas City’s pass-catching depth chart.
Still, he’s hauled in 102 passes for 1,179 yards and 10 touchdowns over the past three years and was on the field for 70.2% and 69.2% of the Chiefs’ offensive plays in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Robinson is the prototypical “didn’t get enough chances” receiver who could thrive in a more significant role. He would get that opportunity with Packers and would be trading in Patrick Mahomes for Rodgers — not a significant dropoff if a dropoff at all.
Spotrac has his market value at a $2.9 million average annual salary. That’s almost half the price of Watkins and Cole, but with an arguably higher upside.
Green Bay has nearly $20 million in cap space to work with, but the Packers don’t need to spend it all on a receiver. Gutekunst has two first-round picks and two second-round picks to work with in the 2022 draft.
He can then fill out the depth chart with inexpensive veterans like Robinson, Cole, and Watkins on one or two-year deals.
Rodgers can do the rest. If any NFL quarterback can lead an offense with a ragtag group of pass-catchers, it would be Green Bay’s four-time MVP.
All statistics and cap information courtesy of Spotrac.