When the Green Bay Packers shipped Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Washington before the 2018 trade deadline, they ultimately staged a coup in netting a fourth-round draft pick for a player who struggled in a burgundy and gold uniform. More recently, reports indicate that the Packers are set interview current Washington linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti for the same position in Green Bay. After potentially stealing two assets from Washington in less than three months, the Packers could have a chance at yet another in free agency.
The Packers, especially without an injured Randall Cobb for the majority of the season, struggled with converting third-and-short situations. While much of that had to do with offensive scheming and persistence from Aaron Rodgers to find the big play, Green Bay could greatly improve its short-to-intermediate passing game heading into the 2019 season by adding a dynamic slot receiver. Though he’s dealt with nagging hamstring and ankle injuries over the past couple of seasons, Washington’s Jamison Crowder could be a player that the Packers keep an eye on over the spring if he is not re-signed.
At just 25 years old, Crowder’s peak could still be well ahead of him. In Washington, he has been a catalyst for opening up the field for other receivers on offense while occasionally beating the defense deep himself. Crowder was most effective when targeted on first down for Washington, generating almost 11 yards per reception on that down over his four seasons. That kind of production could instantly help a Green Bay offense that gained 1.5 yards less on first down than the league average, according to Pro Football Reference.
As a slot receiver, Crowder’s career 11.9 yards per reception is well above the 10.0 mark Jarvis Landry had prior to signing a franchise tag with Miami last offseason and getting traded to Cleveland. Crowder’s injury history has helped keep him under the radar in comparison to Landry who hauled in a high number of catches. While the receiving market is thin in free agency, that could bode well for Green Bay’s chances of signing him to a more reasonable deal.
The Packers should know Crowder well, as the veteran has posted especially strong numbers in his two games against them. Crowder’s 20.14 yards per reception (141 yards on seven catches) is an average almost five yards more than he has against any other team. Crowder hauled in all seven of his targets in those games versus Green Bay while tallying a pair of receiving scores. At just over 5’9, Crowder would not be the biggest target for Rodgers and the Packer offense, but he has proven to be dangerous. With the Titans in 2018, Matt LaFleur used receiver Rishard Matthews in the slot before Matthews’ surprising mid-season departure from the team, while new Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett received great production from Marqise Lee in the same role in Jacksonville. It is fair to believe that the duo will seek a more-than-capable slot receiver in their new offense.
In addition to his skills as a slot receiver, Crowder has experience as a return man, notably on punts. Although those numbers have leaned toward the average level, his 2016 season resulted in a 12.1-yard average with a touchdown. As the Packers have waited on the development of Trevor Davis only to be burned by the injury bug, Green Bay could potentially fill that role with Crowder while adding a more polished receiving weapon than Davis seems likely to become.
While drafting a slot receiver may be the more typical and economical approach for a team like Green Bay, the Packers have enough money to spend in free agency on an offensive weapon, especially with the likelihood of moving on from Cobb. Welcoming an NFL-tested pass-catcher with a skillset that varies from the Packers’ current group of up-and-coming receivers would be a perk. While Green Bay certainly should not get into a bidding war for a slot receiver this offseason, Crowder’s contract demands and fit within a LaFleur-Hackett offense should be explored.