The NFL media might still be buzzing about the Green Bay Packers’ need to go out and find a new No. 1 wide receiver, but Aaron Rodgers has confidence that Allen Lazard is more than capable of stepping into that role in 2022.
Rodgers spoke highly of Lazard when asked about him last week during Green Bay’s mandatory minicamp, stressing the importance of his experience heading into the new season with Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling no longer on the roster. He also acknowledged the opportunity ahead of Lazard in 2022 to potentially become a true No. 1 receiver now that the Packers are in need of a new top target.
“Excited about Allen Lazard,” Rodgers told reporters on June 7. “He’s been our dirty work guy for most of his career here. Now he’s getting an opportunity to be a No. 1 receiver. So, I’m not worried at all about him stepping into that role. I talk to him a lot. I know how he takes care of his body. I know he’ll be ready when he’s here.”
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Lazard Has Shown No. 1 WR Qualities Before
A quick glance at Lazard’s career stats might not suggest he is ready to take on a top receiving role, but it is worth noting how far he has come — and how much trust he has gained — over the past three seasons with the Packers.
Little was known about Lazard when the Packers’ signed him off of Jacksonville’s practice squad toward the end of the 2018 season. He was a big-bodied receiver who impressed at points during his first training camp with the team, but he was cut from the team’s initial active roster and, despite getting signed four days later, seemed like more of an afterthought in the first month of the season. All that changed in Week 6 against the Detroit Lions, though, when Lazard stepped in for the Adams-less Packers and played fourth-quarter hero, scoring the first touchdown of his career and catching four passes for 65 yards that helped fuel the team’s comeback.
Since then, Lazard has had several other “take over” moments for the Packers offense with none more distinguished than his 2020 performance against the New Orleans Saints. In another game where the Packers were without Adams, Lazard caught three passes on Green Bay’s opening drive against New Orleans and was near-unstoppable with a final tally of six receptions for a career-best 146 yards and a touchdown. What makes it more impressive is that Lazard sustained a core-muscle injury — one that would later require surgery — during the game and powered through it to finish the game.
Lazard has been consistently good when the Packers put a concentrated amount of focus on getting him the ball. He caught 11 of his 12 targets over the final two games of the 2021 regular season and finished the year with a career-high eight touchdowns. The biggest thing holding him back has truly been his usage, which might not be a problem in 2022 with two of his biggest competitors for starting reps on other teams.
When Will Lazard Sign Tender?
Before Lazard takes his shot at becoming the Packers’ top receiver, he will need to get under contract with the team for the 2022 season. Green Bay placed a second-round tender on him back in March, but he still hadn’t signed it as of the morning of June 12 and hasn’t been participating in the team’s on-field offseason workouts. If Lazard has not signed it by 4 p.m. ET on June 15, the Packers will have the option of lowering the cost of his tender from about $3.98 million to $935,000 for the upcoming year.
Now, there’s a good chance that still won’t happen. Lazard is likely holding out because he wants a long-term deal with the Packers (and also because he is a veteran receiver on the team now who doesn’t need to take away reps from new and rookie players), but it is possible he will sign at the deadline to preserve his best-case 2022 salary if it seems like the two sides are far apart on a possible extension. Either way, Lazard’s agent has made it clear that his client’s focus is on helping the Packers this year.