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Packers training camp preview: Martellus Bennett heads new tight-end unit

Martellus Bennett leads the way along with offseason addition Lance Kendricks.

AFC Championship - Pittsburgh Steelers v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Continuing a multi-part series breaking down the Green Bay Packers’ 90-man roster, Acme Packing Company examines the tight-end position before revealing the pre-camp predictions for the team’s 2017 53-man roster.

Since the end of Jermichael Finley's once-promising career, the Green Bay Packers have dealt with varying degrees of mediocrity at the tight-end position. The closest the team has come to replicating Finley's impact came in the form of Jared Cook, an athletic pass-catcher who spent just one year in Green Bay before departing.

The lack of a field-tilter at tight end appears to have changed in 2017, however. General manager Ted Thompson brought in two talented veterans -- Pro Bowler Martellus Bennett and Milwaukee-native Lance Kendricks -- to stabilize the unit, giving it perhaps the strongest one-two punch since Mark Chmura and Keith Jackson teamed up in Green Bay during the 1990s.

Still, while Bennett and Kendricks will understandably garner most of the attention, the Packers' returning tight ends could factor in as well.

Returning players

Richard Rodgers

Year: Fourth
Age: 25
How acquired: Third-round pick (No. 98 overall), 2014

The Packers surprised many professional and amateur talent evaluators when they made Cal's Richard Rodgers a third-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. While Rodgers displayed great hands during his collegiate career -- and has continued to showcase them since entering the NFL -- he has never developed a secondary trump card. His speed, size, and ability to gain yards after the catch rate around the league average or below. That lack of progress largely explains why the team dipped multiple times into the free-agent pool multiple times at his position this offseason. While Rodgers has the inside track to win the third spot at tight end, he has little job security should he underperform or suffer an injury.

Beau Sandland

Year: Second
Age: 24
How acquired: Signed to practice squad on Nov. 16, 2016

While most fans have probably yet to hear of Beau Sandland, he has quietly become a favorite of the Packers' coaching staff since arriving late in the 2016 season. A former seventh-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, Sandland possesses solid size (6-foot-4, 253 pounds, 34 ½-inch arms) and elite-level athleticism for his position (4.74 second 40, 7.1 second 3-cone, 35-inch vertical). With Green Bay likely to keep at least three tight ends, Sandland needs only the slightest falter from Rodgers to have a legitimate shot at the 53-man roster.

New additions

Martellus Bennett

Year: 10
Age: 30
How acquired: Signed as unrestricted free agent on March 10, 2017

Immediately upon arrival, Bennett becomes the most complete tight end in Green Bay in over a decade. While he doesn't have quite the same burst as recent predecessors Cook or Finley, Bennett does consistently burn defenses over the middle and has established himself as one of the best blocking tight ends in the game. Bennett's three-year deal also ensures that, barring injury, the Packers have their starter for a long time.

Lance Kendricks

Year: Six
Age: 29
How acquired: Signed as unrestricted free agent on March 11, 2017

One day after securing a multiyear deal for Bennett, the Packers did the same with former Los Angeles Rams tight end Lance Kendricks. Like Bennett, Kendricks offers a degree of athleticism in the passing game while also holding up as a blocker on running plays. The tandem could see Mike McCarthy utilize two-tight-end sets with more regularity, something he has done in the past. Kendricks doesn't have the same grip on his job as Bennett, but he appears a near lock to stick around Green Bay for 2017.

Aaron Peck

Year: Rookie
Age: 22
How acquired: Signed as undrafted free agent on May 5

A former wide receiver, Aaron Peck looks more like an H-back than a typical NFL tight end at 6-foot-2, 239 pounds. Those types of projects have made the Packers' roster in the past, most notably Brandon Bostick and Spencer Havner. Still, with multiple big-name tight ends ahead of him as well as returning options such as Rodgers and Sandland, it seems Peck's best chance at sticking around in Green Bay goes through the practice squad.