While ranking all 32 NFL teams for their respective offseasons, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell connected the dots between the Packers and Texans wideout Kenny Stills, suggesting a trade between them involving Stills “makes total sense” for both teams. He explained his rationale after going into detail about what, in his estimate, went wrong for the Packers this offseason.
What went wrong: In an offseason in which the draft was full of wide receiver talent and veteran wideout prices were depressed, the Packers really couldn’t come away with more than Funchess? Taking Love was one thing, but using a second-round pick on bruising running back AJ Dillon seemed more egregious. It also seemed to hint that Aaron Jones’ future after the season lies outside of Green Bay, which is unlikely to make many Packers fans happy.
Barnwell later added the Packers should have traded up in the second round “get someone like Laviska Shenault Jr. or Denzel Mims” before putting a veteran wideout the top of their remaining needs heading into the 2020 season. Stills, 28, would check that box and wouldn’t cost too much for the Packers to take on, especially depending on what or who they would be asked to give up in exchange.
Texans Have Little Need Left for Stills
Stills’ future with the Texans has looked shaky ever since their pre-draft trade on April 10 saw them acquire Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Younger and faster than Stills, Cooks works into a three-man fold with Randall Cobb and Will Fuller, which would appear to push Stills to No. 4 on the depth chart in an offense that likely won’t need much from him.
That’s not to say Stills doesn’t have value for teams with heavier receiver needs, though. While only starting five games of his 13 games for the Texans last season, Stills finished the season with 40 receptions for 561 yards and four touchdowns — better marks than any of the Packers’ wideouts aside from Davante Adams last season.
Deshaun Watson hits Kenny Stills for a 35-yard TD. #Texans rolling over New England, up 21-3. 🎸🎸
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) December 2, 2019
Stills has also been reliable both in terms of health and consistent play while functioning mostly as a complementary receiver during his career. He has missed just five career games over seven NFL seasons while averaging 671 yards per season and 15.7 yards per reception.
Packers Might Just Stick to Guns
While fans might be clamoring for the Packers to make a move on another wideout, general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur have both expressed confidence in their returning group of pass-catchers and might be content to leave things as they are.
LaFleur specifically spoke to his high expectations for Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard for next season during a conference call last Friday. He is also excited to begin working with free-agent newcomer Devin Funchess, referring to the former Indianapolis Colts wideout as “a big, physical receiver that’s extremely talented and a good veteran presence.”
The competitive mix behind Adams might not contain the big-name appeal fans were hoping to find at this point in the offseason, but the potential is there for the current group to get the job done next season. If Lazard takes another big step forward, he could be a regular threat from the jump. If Funchess overcomes his past health issues, he could bounce back for a career season with the best quarterback he’s played with yet. If the Packers solve the mystery of MVS’ dramatic dropoff last season, he could become the deep-ball threat he was meant to be.
The Packers also have a promising list of lesser-known receivers behind that trio, including Jake Kumerow, Equanimeous St. Brown, former CFL standout Reggie Begelton, undrafted free agent Darrell Stewart Jr., Darrius Shepherd and Malik Taylor.
As 2019 also proved, the Packers aren’t looking to lean solely on their receivers in the passing game. Running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams were two of the Packers’ most productive pass-catchers during the 2019 season, while second-round pick A.J. Dillon has good enough hands to fill a similar role out of the backfield. There is also second-year tight end Jace Sternberger, who is the presumed starter after Jimmy Graham’s offseason release.