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Packers Free Agents: Richard Rodgers still has value as a depth & special teams player

The Packers could settle some depth questions at tight end by bringing back the four-year veteran.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

As we examine a few of the Green Bay Packers’ remaining unsigned unrestricted free agents, we turn our attention from the defense and the cornerback position over to the offense. The Packers signed Jimmy Graham early on in the free agency period as their new starter, making him the third notable free agent signing at the position in as many years.

Meanwhile, the Packers still have some questions around the depth at the position, and a player who can allay many of those questions is still on the market and is familiar to the team: Richard Rodgers.

The Packers drafted Rodgers in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft, a year that saw few particularly impressive tight end prospects. Eric Ebron is by far the most accomplished of the group, with Rodgers and Austin Seferian-Jenkins probably next in line. (Cameron Brate for the Buccaneers can be in that list as well, though he went undrafted.) Over his four years, Rodgers has been a starter, a backup, and a third-stringer, and he has several particularly memorable plays to his name: the game-winning touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in the 2014 Divisional playoff game and the Hail Mary touchdown to beat the Detroit Lions in 2015, to name a few.

Rodgers is not particularly fast or agile, to be sure. His 40 times (mid 4.8s) seem about right, and his agility results were in the bottom third of players at his position. Rarely does he make much happen after the catch, and almost every one of his 15 career touchdowns (including two in the playoffs) has come in the end zone rather than with yards after the catch.

While Rodgers isn’t a great athlete, one thing he does do well is make the catch; he has caught more than 63% of his targets in each season in the NFL, topping out at 68.2% in 2015 when he had his biggest season. However, that year he had jut an 8.8 yards per reception average; in fact, his average remains at 9.7 for his entire career.

As a depth piece, however, Rodgers makes for a fine #3 tight end. Those types of numbers are just fine for someone who’s playing around 25% or less of a team’s offensive snaps. Furthermore, Rodgers pitches in on special teams, lining up on 109 snaps in 2017 (just over 25% of the team’s total special teams plays) and 102 (23.0%) in 2016. That versatility certainly adds to his value.

Ultimately, the Packers would be wise to keep in touch with Rodgers in the next few weeks. Offering him a deal around the league minimum for a third tight end role is appropriate, and while he does not offer explosive receiving ability, that’s not what your third-stringer is there for.

Recent Stats

2017: 19 targets, 12 receptions, 160 yards, 1 touchdown
2016: 47 targets, 30 receptions, 271 yards, 2 touchdowns
2015: 85 targets, 58 receptions, 526 yards, 8 touchdowns

Current Packers TE Depth Chart

Starter: Jimmy Graham
Backups: Lance Kendricks, Emanuel Byrd, Robert Tonyan