The Packers were expected to make some significant additions to their wide receiving corps during the past offseason but decided instead to roll with much of the same personnel as last year, save for free-agent signing Devin Funchess. Now that Funchess has opted out of the season, though, some believe the Packers should finally take their big swing.
At least, that’s what one longtime NFC team scout would do if he ran the show in Green Bay.
“They’re back to square one,” an anonymous NFC scout recently told ESPN’s Rob Demovsky about the Packers’ receiving situation without Funchess. “Same guys as (last season). If I was them, I’d go sign Antonio Brown. You just use him for one year. Let’s say Aaron Rodgers has got two great years left? I’ve got to go for it. If I was (general manager Brian Gutekunst), I would’ve signed Robby Anderson, and I might have made a trade for another linebacker.”
Brown was recently given an eight-game suspension without pay for multiple violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy, a ruling that stemmed from the league’s investigation into his off-the-field behavior over the past year. At the same time, Brown — who is still an unsigned free agent — has now also received some clarity as to when he might return to the field.
It wouldn’t be the first time the Packers have been named favorites to land the five-time All-Pro wide receiver. According to BetOnline.ag, some oddsmakers are giving the Packers the best odds (2/1) to add Brown this season ahead of teams such as Seattle and Baltimore, who have also been linked to the former Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots wideout.
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Packers Remain Committed to Current Group
Oddsmakers and outsiders can say and predict whatever they want, but there is nothing to suggest the Packers actually have an interest in signing another wide receiver, especially one who has been as volatile and disruptive as Brown over the past year.
“I wouldn’t say we’re any more active than we have been looking for help at any position,” Gutekunst said during a Zoom conference call last Friday. “It’s a little bit different year because there’s not going to be preseason games to evaluate, so I think we’re going to have to heavily rely on a lot of other ways to evaluate players on other teams and the players that are available through the waiver wire and other means.”
The Packers have continually expressed confidence in their returning group of wide receivers throughout this offseason and are counting on many of them to take the next steps in their development during the 2020 season. Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have the most experience, but others such as Equanimeous St. Brown (missed 2019 with injury) and Jake Kumerow are poised to challenge for playing time behind star Davante Adams.
Of course, that would still leave the Packers with just five wide receivers for their initial 53-man roster, which would seem at least one too few given last year’s production issues. A free agent could potentially fill that spot, but it seems more likely that head coach Matt LaFleur will want to first test out his remaining prospects, including CFL standout Reggie Begelton.
The Packers also brought back 2019 practice-squad receivers Darrius Shepherd and Malik Taylor and signed former Michigan State wideout Darrell Stewart as an undrafted free agent.
Would Packers Consider Signing Brown Late in 2020?
Now, let’s say the Packers are closing in on the halfway point in the season and find themselves needing more help at the wide receiver position, would they actually sign Brown if he was still available after serving his suspension?
Culture has been a critical component of LaFleur’s coaching approach in Green Bay, building the locker room into a brotherhood where players are expected to hold each other accountable for their actions on and off the field. Brown’s recent history doesn’t exactly suggest he would fit seamlessly into something like that.
There is also the potential for Brown’s suspension to be extended beyond eight games, as NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported on July 31. Brown still has a pending civil suit in Florida and could receive additional punishment from the NFL if, once settled, it shows he committed further violations of league policy.