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Packers 2020 Free Agents: Lazard should return, but what happens with Allison?

The Packers have a few easy decisions with their free agent receivers, but is there a chance they bring back one of 2019’s bigger disappointments?

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Each winter, Acme Packing Company breaks down the Green Bay Packers’ roster from the previous year by position to examine the team’s performance and needs in the offseason. Today we continue this series by looking at the wide receiver position.

Of the decisions that Brian Gutekunst faces in the next few weeks, two of the Green Bay Packers’ receivers should be among the easiest. The Packers have four wide receivers hitting free agency in one way or another, but two young players should be no-brainers to bring back on exclusive-rights free agent tenders for the 2020 season.

While Allen Lazard and Jake Kumerow should be locks to return, the Packers face a difficult decision with a four-year veteran this offseason. The receiver group is not a deep one, and an infusion of talent is required in some fashion. However, given the disappointments that the two players headed for unrestricted free agency provided in 2019, expect the Packers to look outside the organization to improve their receiver group, whether that comes in free agency or the 2020 NFL Draft.

Geronimo Allison

NFL Experience: 4 years
FA Status: Unrestricted
Expiring Contract: 1 year, $2.8 million total
2019 Stats: 16 games played, 6 starts; 55 targets, 34 receptions, 287 yards (8.4 YPR), 2 TDs, 2 fumbles

Coming off a major injury in 2018, Allison seemed poised to take a nice step forward for the Packers in 2019 as the new coaching staff seemed to be eyeing him as the team’s main slot receiver. While Allison did set a new career-high in receptions and played nearly 60 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, his efficiency numbers were abysmal in a big contract year.

Part of the issue is how Allison was used. Too often, he was asked to take a short pass in the flat or a receiver screen and make a defender miss, as his ugly 5.2 air yards per reception illustrates. Shiftiness is not one of Allison’s strengths, and he broke just one tackle all season (according to Pro-Football-Reference), calling into question his usage. To make matters worse, he fumbled the football twice and committed five drops, finishing dead last among Packers receivers (with more than five receptions) in yards per target at 5.2.

Heading into free agency, it would more surprising to see Allison back in Green Bay for 2020 than to see him depart. If he does return, his contract should be for a modest amount — surely less than the nearly $3 million that he earned in 2019.

Ryan Grant

NFL Experience: 6 years
FA Status: Unrestricted
Expiring Contract: One year, $805,000 (league minimum)
2019 Stats (including playoffs): 2 games, 9 targets, 4 receptions, 14 yards (all with Raiders)

What is there to say about Grant? He came, he practiced, he never saw the field in a game, all while earning just over a half a million dollars in game checks. If he couldn’t crack the active roster in 2019 while the Packers’ receivers struggled mightily, there is no reason to expect him to come back for another shot in 2020.

Jake Kumerow

NFL Experience: 2 years
FA Status: Exclusive-Rights
Expiring Contract: 1 year, $570,000 (league minimum)
2019 Stats (including playoffs): 14 games played, 4 starts; 21 targets, 12 receptions, 219 yards (18.3 YPR), 1 TD

No Packers player with more than one catch beat Kumerow’s 18.3 yards-per-reception average in 2019. While he was often praised for his run-blocking from the receiver position, Kumerow continued his trend from late in 2018 in that he would catch relatively few passes, but they would go for big yardage. 8 of his 12 catches went for first downs, and he had big numbers in air yards per reception (11.2) and yards after the catch per reception (7.1).

As an exclusive-rights free agent, the Packers can keep Kumerow around for the summer with a league-minimum contract tender and let him continue to earn more opportunities. It’s hard to imagine that they will send him on his way without at least a tender after he served as a substantial contributor both on offense (30.4% of the team’s snaps) and special teams (32.4%).

Allen Lazard

NFL Experience: 1 year
FA Status: Exclusive-Rights
Expiring Contract: 1 year, $495,000 (league minimum)
2019 Stats (including playoffs): 16 games played, 3 starts; 52 targets, 35 receptions, 477 yards (13.6 YPR), 3 TDs

Picked up off the Jaguars’ practice squad for week 17 last season, Lazard missed the cut to 53 in September. Luckily for the Packers, he cleared waivers, landed on the practice squad, then got a call-up back to the 53 before the opening game.

Lazard barely played on offense until the second half of the Packers’ week six game against the Detroit Lions, but there he cashed in with a huge touchdown in the fourth quarter to pull the Packers back within two points. He then made three receptions, two for first downs, on the game-winning drive. From that point on, Lazard was a major part of the Packers’ game plan, going under 50% of the team’s snaps in just two of the 12 games after that point as he earned #2 wide receiver status.

Like Kumerow, Lazard is an exclusive-rights free agent, and picking up his tender will be the easiest decision of Brian Gutekunst’s offseason.