When Brian Gutekunst took over as the top personnel executive for the Green Bay Packers he declared that he would be more aggressive in free agency. The statement and the actions so far by Gutekunst is quite a difference from how Ted Thompson ran the Packers roster. This spring, Gutekunst has added Muhammad Wilkerson, Jimmy Graham, and Tramon Williams via free agency. But as the crop of free agents dwindled this spring, Gutekunst made sure to tell fans that the Packers would still be seeking additions all the way up to training camp. This past week, Gutekunst and the Packers showed that was the case, when they brought on another player via free agency. Addition of Marcedes Lewis provides more depth for the Green Bay Packers.
Addition of Marcedes Lewis Provides More Depth for the Green Bay Packers
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that head coach Mike McCarthy would bring in another tight end. McCarthy played tight end in college and has a soft spot in his heart for the tight end position. But the addition of tight ends isn’t about McCarthy’s personal feelings. McCarthy prioritizes tight ends in his offense and has talked for many seasons about bolstering the position.
With Graham and Kendricks already in the fold, Lewis rounds out the position. The Packers now have three proven NFL tight ends on their roster.
Lewis is a former first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He played 12 seasons for the Jaguars accumulating 375 receptions for 4,502 yards and 33 career receiving touchdowns. Just last season, Lewis hauled in five touchdowns. It appears that Lewis still has a place in a passing game, but for the Packers, he will need to contribute in another way.
With Graham, the Packers have a tight end who they can split out and stretch the middle of the field. Graham is considered more of a big wide receiver than a tight end. He has shown throughout his career that he struggles as a blocker.
Kendricks also brings his own attributes to the Packers offense. He can be used as a moving tight end and even as an h-back. Kendricks can be lined up wide like Graham, but he also can be lined up in the backfield as a fullback. With the ability to line up as a fullback, Kendricks can give Aaron Rodgers a receiving option out of the backfield. Kendricks is a willing blocker and is a better blocker than Graham, but still, it isn’t something he thrives at.
With Graham and Kendricks not the best of blockers, that is where Lewis enters the picture. Lewis was known for his run blocking ability while playing for the Jaguars. In fact, as pointed out in a recent article by Joe D’Aloisio of Fansided.com, Pro Football Focus graded Lewis out as the top run-blocking tight end from last season. During his time with the Jaguars, six running backs rushed for 1,000 yards. That includes last season when then-rookie running back Leonard Fournette rushed for 1,040 yards.
Running Game Impacts
The Packers will need a tight end who can block at a high level. It appears they have the pieces to have a sound running game with Jamal Williams, Aaron Jones, and Ty Montgomery returning. Lewis can help take the trio of ball carriers to the next level and take the pressure off of Rodgers and the passing game.
Lewis can help in the running game, but also in pass protection. The starting right offensive tackle position for the Packers is up in the air. The usual starter, Bryan Bulaga, is coming off another knee injury and his status for the start of the season is questionable. His top two backups, Kyle Murphy and Jason Spriggs, are also coming off season-ending injuries. What Lewis can do in the passing game is help whoever will be the starter. The most important thing for the Packers offensive line is to protect Rodgers. Lewis and his willingness to block can do just that.
Three Equals One
All NFL teams would like a tight end who thrives at everything that is asked of them. But that is very rare to find in today’s NFL. That is why Gutekunst and the Packers have brought in Graham, Kendricks, and now Lewis. The addition of Marcedes Lewis brings in another tight end who thrives at something the other two don’t. Although much will be made of Lewis’ blocking ability, he still can be utilized in the passing game.
With the release of wide receiver Jordy Nelson, the Packers will need to find other receiving options to take over his contributions. It might come from one of the young wide receivers on their roster, but it also could come from one of the three tight ends. It wouldn’t be shocking if McCarthy has a package that gets all three tight ends on the field at the same time.
Some Monday morning general managers might feel that Gutekunst is doing the same thing Thompson did. Thompson brought in Martellus Bennett and Kendricks last off-season and it was a disappointment. But Graham and Lewis are different players who have different mindsets than Bennett did. We won’t know until the season starts if any of these pickups will be the right call. But as of right now, it appears that Gutekunst is doing the right things.
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