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Despite receiver-heavy draft, Dez Bryant makes sense for the Packers

Drafting three receivers shouldn’t stop Green Bay from pursuing the ex-Cowboys star to fill a critical hole in their starting lineup.

Dallas Cowboys v Atlanta Falcons
Dez Bryant may not be in his prime, but he can still help Green Bay’s offense.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Green Bay Packers fans may soon be saying what Cowboys fans have been saying for years: Dez caught it. Former teammate-turned-analyst Jason Witten said in an interview he believed Dez Bryant would sign with the Green Bay Packers, one of the teams initially mentioned in connection with the Cowboys star.

Brian Gutekunst should make this happen.

With little word from the Bryant camp over the last few weeks and a draft featuring three receivers for the Packers, the ex-Dallas pass catcher must have been the furthest thing from the minds of most fans. It seems like the same has been true of most NFL teams, as no one is banging down the door to sign him.

That could actually work in Green Bay’s favor. If teams aren’t excited to bring him in, the price to actually ink him to a deal comes down with each passing day. Witten could know Bryant would like to go to the Packers, or at least play on a winning team with a good QB, and that’s only going to happen if Dez agrees to take a hefty pay cut.

But let’s assume he’s willing to do that and come in on a reasonable deal. Can he help this offense? He’s no longer in his prime and his numbers have been on a downward spiral for the last few years.

The question for the Packers isn’t “Is Dez Bryant still prime Dez?” It’s “Is Dez Bryant better than Geronimo Allison?” and I think we all know the answer to that question.

Green Bay played with three wide receivers (11 personnel) on 60% of snaps last season, which means even with the addition of Jimmy Graham, a de facto receiver, the Packers will play a third receiver on most offensive snaps.

That’s a lot of playing time for Allison, who has never been relied upon as a consistent starter and who has only shown flashes as deep complementary piece. It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say his fumble against Carolina cost the Packers their season.

Critics will insist Bryant doesn’t fix what’s wrong with this offense: a lack of speed and dynamic playmaking. Cool. Neither does Allison.

More to the point, neither will these rookie receivers. Chances are none of them are ready to come in and play 60% of snaps as rookies. J’Mon Moore would be the fifth receiver out of the last 98 drafted at his spot or later to start half his teams games. Moore, along with Equanimeous St. Brown and Marqueze Valdes-Scantling, won’t be more than tertiary pieces in this offense. They may not be ready to combine to play more than 20 or 30% of plays.

If we go back to 2016, likely a more comparable example, the Packers played 11 personnel closer to 50% of the time, but used four receivers on 18% of offensive snaps. That’s the sweet spot for someone like Allison in this offense. He’s not the guy you want playing a majority of offensive reps.

In those 18% of plays, the Packers could rotate in these rookies, something they could do from 11 personnel as well. Green Bay likes to get a rotation at receiver to keep players fresh throughout the game. Adding a big body like Bryant would only deepen that rotation.

Finally, please save your faux-outrage over the development of these young receivers. Yes, they have to play to become better, but this team also wants to win games and Bryant as the third option — the second outside receiver — gives this team a better chance to win games than Allison starting outside. Frankly, if the Packers signed Bryant, a player like Allison might not even make the team and honestly may not need to. Between Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Jimmy Graham, and Bryant, how many more veterans does an offense need?

Green Bay could upgrade on the outside and bid farewell to a player who was already limited — someone who the Packers think so much of that they drafted three guys to eventually replace him.

I’m not suggesting the Packers throw star money at Bryant, but don’t let anyone tell you he can’t play anymore. He can. I’d take him over Allison 11/10 times. Any concerns about his “character” misunderstand that any time Dez has ever had issues with his team, coaches, or teammates it’s been because he cares so damn much about winning games. He’s a competitor, not at all a risk to quit on his team like a certain high-priced acquisition last offseason.

There’s only question that matters for Green Bay assuming the price is minimal: does Bryant make the Packers better? We already know the answer is yes. Clearly people who know Dez believe he would want to play in Green Bay. That means all that’s left to worry about is the price before cheeseheads can be rooting for Dez to catch touchdowns instead of insisting he didn’t.