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Packers’ 2020 Additions: Minimal investment in new wide receivers leads to minimal return

The Packers of course did not invest much in bringing in wide receivers from outside the organization in 2020. But they got even less production than they had hoped.

Tennessee Titans v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Over the next two weeks, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2020 season. Today, we examine the wide receivers.

During the weeks leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft, the biggest question in the media surrounding the Green Bay Packers wasn’t if the team would draft a wide receiver early in the draft, but which one they would take. General manager Brian Gutekunst went completely off-book, perhaps in part due to the players available at the Packers’ picks and perhaps because the team just loves quarterback Jordan Love.

But the Packers missed out on first-round picks like Justin Jefferson, Jalen Reagor, and Brandon Aiyuk by the time they made their selection, passing up on early second-rounders like Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman, Jr., and Chase Claypool to move up for Love. After determining that the value wasn’t right in round two either — and drafting running back AJ Dillon instead — Gutekunst would later say that they did not feel that the players available later in the draft were upgrades over the receivers on the roster.

And so, the Packers went into 2020 with effectively the same receiving corps as they had the year before. There was one notable new face, however, a former college tight end-turned-NFL wide receiver who was supposed to help bolster the team’s depth. But he never played a down this year, opting out of the season. That meant that just one player who was not in the organization in 2019 played a single snap at wide receiver in 2020, and he was a late-season free agent acquisition.

Here’s a look at the two new arrivals at wide receiver in 2020. While the team did have a new face on the 53-man roster in Malik Taylor, he spent the entirety of the 2019 season on the practice squad and thus is not under consideration here.

Devin Funchess

How acquired: Unrestricted free agent signing
Contract: 1 year, $2.5 million
Stats: None (opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19)

After striking out on some notable free agent wide receivers in March — partially due to a lack of viable cap space — the Packers agreed to a one-year contract with Funchess, the former Carolina Panther and Indianapolis Colt, about ten days after the league year began. Funchess would get a $1 million signing bonus and a total package of $2.5 million after a 2019 that saw him suffer an season-ending injury in the opening week.

When the Packers did not draft a wideout in April, Funchess’ acquisition took on some added importance, as he was expected to play a more prominent role as one of the big-bodied secondary weapons for Aaron Rodgers. However, he elected to opt out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tavon Austin

How acquired: Street free agent signing
Contract: 1 year, $1.05 million (league minimum)
Stats: 4 games played, 5 receptions, 20 yards

Austin spent his 2020 training camp with the San Francisco 49ers after signing in August as a free agent, but he landed on injured reserve and was released with an injury settlement in late October. When the Packers saw return specialist and offensive gadget Tyler Ervin go on injured reserve, they brought Austin in to fill that specific role.

Austin ended up playing only a handful of snaps on offense and taking punt returns, but there was little to be excited about with him largely acting as a decoy. He caught just five passes for 20 yards, all off jet or orbit motion, and he returned two punts for 17 yards while fumbling once.

Others

Reggie Begelton, a CFL star, signed with the Packers and spent the season on the practice squad. He was elevated to the active roster for one game and played two snaps on offense and two on special teams.

Green Bay also added wideouts Juwann Winfree and Seth Roberts to the practice squad in October. Winfree played in two games (8 offensive snaps, 21 special teams snaps) while Roberts did not get a gameday elevation.