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Packers 2021 Free Agents: The Packers have some decisions to make at tight end

Will a cap crunch and old age bring a career to a close? And how much will the Packers gamble with their best tight end?

NFC Championship - Tampa Bay Buccaneers 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. We also will examine the players on each unit who will be free agents in 2021. Today, we examine the tight ends.

The Green Bay Packers have two very different decisions to make on their free agent tight ends this offseason, and while it’s likely we see both back in green and gold, it’s not a sure thing. If Jace Sternberger had taken a step forward and Josiah Deguara not torn his ACL things might be more interesting than they are, but with no immediate upgrades in sight, and an offensive philosophy that needs its tight ends, the offseason should be pretty simple.

Robert Tonyan

NFL Experience: 3 accrued seasons
Free Agency Category: Restricted
Expiring Contract: 2 years, $1,320,000
2020 Stats: 52 receptions, 586 yards (11.3 Y/C), 11 TDs

Tonyan is fresh off of one of the most efficient seasons in Packers history, but it’s worth noting that much of his value to the team comes from the lack of an obvious replacement behind him. Tonyan was productive and will remain more productive than Jace Sternberger for the foreseeable future, and his outstanding hands and plus speed play well with Aaron Rodgers.

That said, Tonyan benefits a lot from the system he’s in, and while he’s valuable to the Packers, his value in a vacuum is more limited. If he receives an original round tender for around $2.24 million, he will unquestionably have suitors, and so he’s likely to see the 2nd round tender for just over a million dollars more ($3.422 million). Tonyan is well worth the price, but if another team feels similarly, a 2nd round pick for a former UDFA is worthy compensation, and it’s unlikely that any other team will get similar production from Big Bob. I suspect he’ll be sticking around.

Marcedes Lewis

NFL Experience: 15 accrued seasons
Free Agency Category: Unrestricted
Expiring Contract: 1 year, $2,250,000 contract
2020 Stats: 10 receptions, 107 yards (10.7 Y/C), 3 TDs

Marcedes is rich, old, a crushing blocker, and a nice fit in Matt LaFleur’s offense. He bails out the occasionally overmatched TE, pancakes linebackers on power runs, and leaks out for the occasional 10-yard gain that would have been 20 with a slightly faster player.

While Lewis can go anywhere, he seems happy as a Packer, and if you’re chasing a ring, it’s a pretty good spot to be in. The only question is whether Lewis still wants to keep playing, but he recently answered that, telling TMZ that he has no plans to retire and hopes to come back to Green Bay for another go. If the Packers are still interested in his one-trick pony routine — and it’s a good trick — he could and should return. But given the coming cap crunch, the $2 million it would take to re-sign him is more important than usual.