The Green Bay Packers traded the best wideout in franchise history this past offseason. Now the most reliable target in receiver room could also be on the way out.
According to ESPN stats, Allen Lazard led the Packers in goals (100), catches (60) and yards received (788) last year. He was also second in receiving touchdowns with six. And while quarterback Aaron Rodgers has campaigned for Lazard’s return to Green Bay since the end of the season, there’s a good chance the undrafted receiver-turned-NFL starter will play in a new uniform in 2023.
If that happens, the Packers will have to consider who to replace Rodger’s favorite target with. Fans should expect Green Bay to be looking for a quality pass catcher through trade or free agency, but there’s a good chance they’re well into the draft as well after picking three such players last year – Christian Watson , Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure.
Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport suggested Thursday, Jan. 19, that a strong option for the Packers is Tennessee Volunteers WR Jalin Hyatt, who has entered the NFL draft.
“Hyatt was a force for the Volunteers, catching 67 passes for 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns en route to winning the Biletnikoff Award as the No. 1 wide receiver in college football,” Davenport wrote. “Hyatt’s slim build is a problem, but he and Watson could be a great vertical passing duo.”
Despite its prolific and award-winning production, Hyatt may be an under-the-radar company for Green Bay. At 6 feet and 180 pounds, Hyatt didn’t earn a top 25 overall score based on Mel Kiper’s recent ESPN Big Board, though four other wideouts have received ratings in that area. Kiper currently ranks Hyatt as the seventh best available wide receiver in the draft.
Lazard wanted a long-term contract with the Packers before the start of this season, but due to restricted free agency rules, he was offered just under $4 million for 2023 and had no choice but to accept. That probably won’t be the case this off-season.
Unless the Packers choose to assign Lazard the franchise tag, which would significantly overpay him for a season in Green Bay, the wideout will be looking for a multi-year deal. Lazard’s market value was about $11 million a year and over $33 million for a three-year deal as of Jan. 20, according to Spotrac.
The Packers currently sit with a cap deficit of nearly $16.3 million per over the cap, which will make signing Lazard a precarious long-term proposition despite its consistency. Lazard spoke about the situation when asked by a reporter on Jan. 8 if he expected Rodgers to return to Green Bay for the 2023 campaign.
The free agent options to replace Lazard aren’t overwhelming, with a class led by the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., JuJu Smith-Schuster and Parris Campbell. That fact leads to the notion that Green Bay has a wide receiver at some point in the upcoming draft.
The Packers own the number 15 pick in the first round, which is probably too high for Hyatt to achieve given his draft class. However, the team could look to add Notre Dame’s top-flight tight end Michael Mayer at this point and consider Hyatt midway through the second round. Drafting Hyatt for 47th overall could look like a steal in a year or two, as drafting Watson for 34th overall does now in 2022.
Green Bay could also make a bigger bet on the position, calling up Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, TCU’s Quentin Johnston or USC’s Jordan Addison with the No. 15 overall standings, depending on combination results and who’s on when The League officially puts the Packers on the clock Thursday, April 27th.