Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Packers encouraged to sign Pro Bowl replacement for Allen Lazard

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The Green Bay Packers will need wide receiver help this offseason, and if Allen Lazard goes free, the team could sign a Pro Bowl wideout to replace the 27-year-old.

After Green Bay’s 16-20 loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 18, Lazard made it clear in his post-game comments that he doesn’t plan to return in 2023, leaving a big hole at receiver for the Packers.

Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox agrees the Packers need an impact wide receiver this offseason. In her big list of top free agent targets for the Packers, Knox had Kansas City Chiefs receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster as the team’s top target.

Though the Packers need help at wide receiver, they may not be looking to pursue someone in free agency with top wideout potential if they’re confident that rookie Christian Watson can progress there.

The second-round pick had his growing pains early in the season. With a dropped 75-yard touchdown on his first NFL snap and injuries keeping him out of several games in the first half of 2022, it seemed like Watson was going to have a disappointing year.

However, the rookie caught fire on the track. Along with a three-point game and a four-game stretch for eight total touchdowns, Watson finished the year with 41 receptions for 611 yards and nine totals. At 6’5″, his size and top speed make him a threat that can turn into an explosive game.

Watson’s big-play potential is obvious, but for him to earn a No. 1 receiver in today’s NFL, he needs to become a more consistent route runner. This takes time for younger receivers, so the Packers could look to find more experienced veterans in free agency like Smith-Schuster to take the pressure off the promising rookie with star potential.

He may not be the star weapon he was hoping for in Kansas City, but Smith-Schuster is still one of the more intriguing receivers to hit the free hand this offseason.

After over 3,000 receiving yards at USC, Smith-Schuster was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. It wasn’t long before he made it to the pro level, catching 58 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie.

Smith-Schuster built on a strong first year by being named a Pro Bowler in 2018. He had career-high 111 receptions and 1,426 yards, and added an additional seven touchdowns. However, his production began to dip as Ben Roethlisberger began to show signs of aging, and he signed with the Chiefs on free agency ahead of the 2022 season.

The 26-year-old is re-entering free agency after a 78-catching season with 933 yards and three points. At 6’1″ and 215 pounds, he meets the height thresholds the Packers typically look for at that position, and his ability to play both outside and in the slot makes him the kind of versatile weapon that Matt LaFleur wants in the year could start in 2023. regardless of who is playing quarterback next season.

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