The Green Bay Packers have no reason to fret over getting a deal done before next Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline like some other teams, but there is plenty of reason for them to join other title contenders in souping up their rosters for a deep postseason push.
There are several areas the Packers could use upgrades, especially an inside linebacker group that has yet to find a true complement to NFL leading tackler Blake Martinez, but they could also use another offensive playmaker to help Aaron Rodgers in the passing game. Star wideout Davante Adams remains sidelined with a turf toe injury and could miss a fourth straight game this week when the Packers (6-1) travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs (5-2).
There are a few good fits, such as Emmanuel Sanders and Mohamed Sanu, that have already found new homes, while Cincinnati Bengals star wideout A.J. Green among the best reportedly drawing interest from the Packers on the trade market.
Here’s a breakdown of three of the next-best offensive options for the Packers to pursue before Oct. 29 deadline.
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DeVante Parker — Miami Dolphins WR
181 receptions, 2,501 yards, 12 touchdowns
The most talented receiver in Miami was reportedly drawing interest from the San Francisco 49ers before they cut a deal Tuesday to bring in Emmanuel Sanders from the Denver Broncos. Considering, though, the Dolphins haven’t won a game since early last December, they are likely entertaining whatever offers come their way.
Kenyan Drake is on the trading block, so why not Parker? The fifth-year wide receiver only has 18 catches for a Dolphins offense that has barely gotten by, but he is producing at a remarkable rate of 15.8 yards per reception that ranks 12th-best in the league among those with at least 15 catches. It also puts him on a fast track to a career season if he enters the stratosphere of an elite quarterback like Rodgers.
Parker has been disappointing to some playing second fiddle for most of his career to Jarvis Landry before his departure for Cleveland in the offseason, but Rodgers would make his current numbers soar. Parker would also supply the star quarterback with a reliable target to lean on in the absence of Adams.
The biggest trouble comes down to cost, as Parker just this offseason signed a two-year, $13 million contract with the Dolphins. He is owed $4.5 million base salary this season.
O.J. Howard — Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE
105 receptions, 1,173 yards, 11 touchdowns
Rodgers hasn’t exactly been picky about who is on the receiving end of his passes in 2019, as 14 different receivers have caught at least one from him this season. Jimmy Graham is the fourth-leading receiver on the team, while Marcedes Lewis and youngster Robert Tonyan have also been involved for a few big moments. The problem with the bunch — other than age for two of them — is none seem capable of being truly dynamic pieces.
In his third season, Howard has just 13 catches for 176 yards and no touchdowns after a career-best 2018 seasons saw him eclipse the 500-yard mark in just 10 games. But much of that could be blamed on him on the puzzling Bucs offense that has targetted him just three times per game through the first six, which isn’t helped when quarterback Jameis Winston has been more down than up. Giving Howard a clean slate with an MVP-caliber quarterback could see him ascend to a new level as a red zone threat.
Howard is a much more affordable option than Parker for the Packers in the third year of his four-year rookie contract, pulling in about $1.47 million base salary in 2019. A deal could be get done with some ease if only the Bucs were a little more willing. The New England Patriots were reportedly turned down, but perhaps the Packers could be more successful in persuading them to part with Howard?
Austin Hooper — Atlanta Falcons TE
185 receptions, 1,983 yards, 14 touchdowns
The long-term problem with Graham is for real, as speed has also been his downfall since his faster years in New Orleans and Seattle. Lewis isn’t a deep solution, either, even if he is a fine enough piece in small bursts. Investing in a rising star like Hooper, though, would be the perfect transfusion of talent to help the Packers build their offense for the future. But could the Falcons actually be persuaded to part with him?
The receiver is in the final year of his four-year rookie deal and would be tough to pry away from an Atlanta team that just Tuesday sold Mohamed Sanu to the Patriots for a second-round pick. But the Falcons are 1-6 and drowning five games behind the Saints at the bottom of the NFC South with hopes low for resurfacing in 2019. They might just be willing to trade away another leading pass-catcher, especially when Julio Jones is locked in place as the centerpiece of the offense.
The cost for Hooper would likely be the highest considering he has the most present value. He is well on pace for the first 1,000-yard season of his career with 46 catches for 526 yards and four touchdowns in just six games, leading the league’s tight ends in receptions and touchdowns. The price might just be worth it, though, if it means installing an impact tight end in Green Bay’s offense for potentially the rest of Rodgers’ career.