The lazy months of June, July and August provide an excellent opportunity to imagine possibilities, to hope, to believe. In this recurring series, I offer you some potential scenarios for the Packers. Will they happen? I have no idea. But they're feasible and worth thinking about. Unless you'd rather deal with 2015 mock drafts.
Generally, you're not going to find a 6'5" tight end whose Scouting Combine numbers were the best at his position in 2011 in speed, vertical jump, three-cone time, and twenty-yard and sixty-yard shuttle times sitting on the trade block. It's even less likely that said tight end is twenty-six years old and has been productive in the NFL despite playing with middling quarterbacks and against some of the league's top defenses.
When he's likely available for a late-round draft pick? That's when it just might be worth pulling the trigger. Enter Rob Housler of the Arizona Cardinals.
He seems like an athletic guy. Can he block?
Ummmmm...no. That's why Arizona's shopping him. The team has John Carlson, who is a more balanced tight end than Housler, and they also spent a second-round pick on my favorite tight end from this year's draft, Troy "Hercules" Niklas. Add in guys like Jake Ballard getting healthy, and there's a logjam. There have been reports of Housler stuck at fourth on the depth chart, not because of his inability to catch passes but his lack of blocking chops. Arians has stressed that he expects his tight ends to block first and catch passes on the side.
One of Housler's weaknesses coming out of college, as per NFL.com, is that he "[did] not have the lower body strength or mentality to be an effective run blocker" and he was "not exactly the most willing blocker." Green Bay has a capable blocking tight end in Andrew Quarless and Mike McCarthy is happy acquiring tight ends to act as receivers (see Jermichael Finley, Brandon Bostick, Richard Rodgers, Colt Lyerla) so this shouldn't be a red flag for the Packers. With Finley probably gone, perhaps Housler is the type of player the Packers can line up in two tight-end sets with Quarless.
Plenty of teams want receiving tight ends. Why isn't Housler attracting a lot more attention?
Housler has been productive, but not overwhelmingly so. He set a career high in yards this past season with 454 (on 39 receptions) and scored his first career touchdown (in three seasons) versus Houston. A team that invests a draft pick in a trade will have to hope that matching him with a good QB (i.e. not Carson Palmer) will make a difference. For the sake of discussion, let's limit our suitors to the teams with elite pass offenses: Green Bay, New England, Denver, New Orleans, and perhaps Indianapolis, depending on your opinion of Andrew Luck. The Colts have Dwayne Allen, Jimmy Graham will play in the bayou for a while, Denver has their rising star in Julius Thomas, and the Patriots are finally getting back a healthy Rob Gronkowski (and have sent feelers out regarding Jermichael Finley). That leaves Green Bay, the only other situation where Housler would be paired with a top signal-caller.
You mentioned all the other receiving tight ends we have on our roster, though. Why waste resources on another?
The tight ends who, as of now, would make my roster would be Quarless, Rodgers, Lyerla and Bostick. Quarless and Rodgers are basically givens, the former the only experienced vet and the latter a third-round pick. I expect Colt Lyerla to make the team as well, assuming he keeps his off-field troubles in the past. Perhaps we find out that his hands are shaky or that he can't get separation against NFL linebackers and defensive backs, but based on his athletic profile, I wouldn't bet on it. I've previously projected four tight ends on the roster, so that leaves Bostick. Bostick is a year younger than Housler, two inches shorter and a bit slower. He's also got less reps on the bench press and an inch shorter vertical. Neither is particularly known for his blocking ability (though Mike McCarthy did praise that aspect of Bostick's game in 2013), but Bostick's stats were something less than impressive (seven catches on fifteen targets for 120 yards and a touchdown).
Though Housler is going into a contract year, a new deal probably wouldn't break the bank for the Packers, and it would offer the team another weapon to line up. He is fearless in the middle of the field, as evidenced by his excellent game versus San Francisco and their star-studded linebacking corps. Add that to Eddie Lacy pounding defenses into submission, Jordy Nelson dominating the boundaries and Randall Cobb lining up everywhere, not to mention contributions from Jarrett Boykin and newcomers Richard Rodgers, Davante Adams and Colt Lyerla, this offense might be better than any we've seen during McCarthy's tenure in Green Bay.
What's it going to take?
At most, a fifth- or sixth-round pick would probably do the trick. Housler doesn't seem to be in line for a major role this coming year in Arizona, so GM Steve Keim would probably be happy to ship him off in return for any sort of tangible return.
Would Ted Thompson do it?
Well, I didn't think that Thompson would sign Julius Peppers, so I guess I have no idea. It's common knowledge around APC that our general manager takes pride in stockpiling draft picks. He's gotten a bad rap from some fans because he wouldn't give up a mid-round pick for Marshawn Lynch (which was understandable, especially based on his history of run-ins with the law). Housler doesn't have the upside of Lynch, nor will he be an irreplaceable contributor, but in this case, I think that Thompson might ask himself, "Is my sixth-round pick really all that valuable?" For a guy who doesn't have a history of the dropsies (hem, hem, Jer-, hem, -michael, hem, Fin-, hem, ley) and has played against the best defenses with a mediocre passer, the answer ought to be 'yes'.
Do you have highlight videos?
Finding clips of Housler from last year was about as difficult as finding tape on Cuban baseball players. It was rare, and when it came, it left me wanting more. Below is a montage of his 2012 top plays. The video isn't necessarily of the highest quality, but it gives you a taste of what Housler can do. He's difficult to bring down after the catch and he's got a great radius. That's really what you need to know.