Allen Lazard will be running it back with the Green Bay Packers.
According to independent salary-cap specialist Ken Ingalls, the Packers made qualifying offers to both Lazard and backup outside linebacker Randy Ramsey on Tuesday, securing contract rights for the last of their five exclusive rights free agents. The Packers had also tendered offensive tackle Yosh Nijman and wide receiver Malik Taylor on Monday along with cornerback Kabion Ento back in January.
While there was little doubt about Lazard’s return in 2021, the Packers have now managed to keep last year’s entire receiving corps intact with Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Lazard, Taylor and Equanimeous St. Brown all under contract for next year. They have also finally added Devin Funchess to the fray after he opted-out of the 2020 season and took a pay cut to remain with Green Bay.
Lazard will return to the Packers on a league minimum salary next season, but adding a third accrued season in 2021 will make him a restricted free agent in 2022.
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Lazard Caught Tough Break in 2020
Lazard began the 2020 season on a hot streak and hauled in 13 of his first 17 targets for a team-leading 254 yards and two touchdowns over the Packers’ first three games, including a blistering, career-best performance against New Orleans in Week 3. Unfortunately, the 25-year-old wideout sustained a core-muscle injury in the same game and was forced to undergo reparative surgery, missing the next six games.
After returning in Week 11, Lazard struggled to rediscover his step as he continued his recovery and finished the regular season with 33 catches for 451 yards and three touchdowns over 10 games. He did, however, cut loose in the Packers’ two playoff games, racking up seven receptions for 158 yards along with a crucial touchdown in the NFC divisional round against the Los Angeles Rams.
— NFL (@NFL) January 17, 2021
Lazard’s core-muscle injury was not unlike the one that greatly slowed tight end Robert Tonyan during the 2019 season. Some held it against Tonyan and discounted him as a legitimate option for the Packers’ tight end future coming into 2020, but that tune changed fairly quickly when he rebounded for a breakout year and secured career-high 52 receptions for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns.
If a core-muscle injury was restricting that kind of potential in Tonyan in 2019, it makes one wonder how much more successful Lazard could have been without his in 2020.
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Drafting WR Still Makes Sense for Packers
The Packers may well be convinced the current personnel in their receiving room is sufficient to compete next season. After all, they were the ninth-best passing offense in the NFL in 2020 and saw Aaron Rodgers throw for nearly 4,300 yards and 48 touchdowns as they secured the conference’s top playoff seed.
But this is also the same Packers front office that traded up to draft a quarterback in the first round last year and took a running back in the second round to prepare for Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams to become free agents in 2021. With some key roster decisions coming up in the next year for the position, it would make sense for general manager Brian Gutekunst to make an early-round investment in a 2021 receiver.
The Packers currently have zero wide receivers committed for the 2022 season with Adams, MVS, Funchess and St. Brown all due to hit unrestricted free agency next offseason and Lazard, as mentioned, expected to become a restricted free agent. While a contract extension seems likely for the All-Pro Adams — maybe even before the start of the 2021 season — the rest of the group will be fighting to keep their jobs this season.
Regardless of how the current wideouts shake out, Gutekunst may feel adding another top- or mid-tier receiving prospect is the best route with 10 picks in the 2021 NFL draft. According to Justin Melo of The Draft Network, the Packers have held pre-draft meetings with a few wide receivers, including Clemson’s Amari Rodgers.