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Packers’ signings of tight ends Bennett & Kendricks bolster offense’s versatility

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The Packers surprised the NFL with back-to-back tight end signings, and the two moves are encouraging for both fans and the team’s quarterback alike.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

For Green Bay Packers fans, the first week of free agency is typically a time full of stress and anxiety. In past years, Green Bay has utilized a docile strategy of waiting until week two or three to make any moves on the free agency market and this year was shaping up to be no different.

For two days we watched as free agents like JC Tretter, Micah Hyde, and Julius Peppers signed contracts elsewhere while tirelessly hoping the Packers would make moves to retain at least some internal talent or grab a noteworthy player on the market.

Then, in what seemed it was nothing short of a miracle; Ted Thompson made the stunning free agency move of signing former Patriots TE Martellus Bennett to a three-year, $21 million deal on Friday. It’s been two days and the shock still hasn’t worn off.

Per Pro Football Talk, Bennett received a $6.3 million signing bonus and will also receive a $900,000 base salary for 2017, a $3.6 million base salary for 2018 and a $5.65 million base salary for 2019. The deal also has a $2 million roster bonus due on the first day of the 2018 league year, along with $600,000 per year in per-game roster bonuses and $250,000 in annual workout bonuses.’

Bennett was selected in the second round of the 2008 draft by the Dallas Cowboys where he played four seasons before spending one year with the Giants, three years in Chicago and one year with the Patriots. Through nine seasons in the league, Bennett has totaled 403 receptions for 4,287 yards and 30 touchdowns.

During his one year in New England, Bennett stepped in to replace TE Rob Gronkowski who was sidelined early in the season with a back injury. He proved his elite athleticism with 55 receptions for 701 yards (averaging 12.7) and 7 touchdowns. It’s certainly no secret that Aaron Rodgers is partial to big, athletic tight ends so Bennett seems like the perfect fit. Likewise, McCarthy has hinted at his desire to use more two tight end sets and it seems Ted Thompson was listening.

“The fastest way to the end zone is through the middle of the field,” said McCarthy during a press conference late last season. “The bigger target you have going down the field, the better it is for your quarterback, particularly (with players who are) more athletic, (have a) bigger (catch) radius.”

Last year, the Packers signed free agent Jared Cook to a one-year $2.75 million contract that in hindsight was nothing short of steal. Despite struggling with an ankle injury for part of the season, Cook was largely responsible for part of the Packers’ success later on when healthy. He quickly became an Aaron Rodgers’ favorite with 30 receptions for 377 yards and one touchdown — not to mention his playoff success and the game-saving sideline catch against the Cowboys in the playoffs that took the Packers to Atlanta.

Although it seemed early on that Ted Thompson was not interested in retaining Cook, the two sides were close to a deal before talks fell apart. Thompson then did even more than Rodgers and McCarthy could have asked by first signing Bennett and then following it up with Lance Kendricks. Kendricks, the Milwaukee native and former Wisconsin Badger, was signed by the Packers after being cut by the Rams last week.

With the Packers now rocking three tight ends with Bennett, Kendricks and Richard Rodgers, the explosive offense in Green Bay just got a whole lot more interesting. Looks like Aaron Rodgers approves…