Ex-Packers WR Amari Rodgers Immediately Lands New Role in AFC

Amari Rodgers Texans

Getty Former Packers wide receiver Amari Rodgers found a new home with the Texans on Wednesday, November 16.

Amari Rodgers didn’t have to wait long to find his next opportunity after the Green Bay Packers released the 2021 third-round pick earlier this week.

According to ESPN insider DJ Bien-Aime, the Houston Texans took advantage of their top waiver priority and claimed Rodgers for their 53-man roster on Wednesday, November 16, just one day after the Packers parted ways with the struggling receiver.

The Packers had traded away their third- and fourth-round picks to move up and land Rodgers in the 2021 NFL draft, but the 23-year-old slot receiver struggled to push his way into greater opportunities even as the squad was plagued with injuries. When the Packers needed reinforcements earlier this season, they were more willing to trust guys such as Samori Toure (2022 seventh-rounder) and Juwann Winfree (practice-squad elevation) with reps than Rodgers, who has played just 201 career offensive snaps.

Rodgers was also ineffective as both a punt and kickoff returner, where he got the majority of his opportunities with the Packers. He currently leads the league’s punt returners in fumbles with four and has seen his average number of return yards per punt drop from 8.3 to 7.0 yards on the same number of punt returns (20). He was also benched from kickoff return duties in favor of cornerback Keisean Nixon after the first six games of the 2022 season, making it difficult for Green Bay to justify keeping him.

As is the case with drafted rookies who have been claimed off the waivers, the Texans will take on the remaining two and a half years of Rodgers’ rookie contract.

How Will Texans Get Amari Rodgers Involved?

The Texans (1-7-1) have gotten reasonable production out of veteran Chris Moore as their slot receiver with him having 17 receptions for 241 yards, two touchdowns and nine first downs through his eight games of play in 2022, but Rodgers should get a chance to compete for reps behind him as a young player with more than two full seasons left on his rookie contract. Right now, the Texans have three 29-year-old receivers on their active roster with Nico Collins being their only true youngster, so attempting to mine the potential out of Rodgers could serve the well in the future.

Unfortunately, Rodgers hasn’t done much to prove he is worthy of getting extensive reps at receiver. While he did get the short end of the stick as a rookie when the Packers traded for Randall Cobb before the season and bumped him down the depth chart, he was unable to push his way into a more prominent role in 2022 when Cobb went on IR and has still made just eight career receptions for 95 yards on 16 targets. He does, however, have some rushing versatility as a motion/jet sweep option.

Houston could also consider Rodgers for either a punt or kickoff return role; although, the Texans might steer him clear of that role given how his tenure in Green Bay ended. Counting the botched lateral play that resulted in a fumble, Rodgers has a total of five fumbles on the 2022 season, which is the most among non-quarterback players. That said, Desmond King III hasn’t been marvelous as a punt returner (6.9 yards per return) nor has former Packers defensive back Tremon Smith as a kick returner.

Will Packers Stick With Nixon or Promote Westbrook?

The Packers made it clear that the decision to release Rodgers from their roster was a difficult one. Prior to his release, Packers special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia grew impatient with questions about Rodgers’ shortcomings and expressed how much he liked Rodgers, the person, despite that “No. 8 has put us in bad situations.” Head coach Matt LaFleur did the same thing when talking about his release on Tuesday.

“Amari, that one hurts a lot just because I know how much this meant to him, and he did everything we asked him to do,” LaFleur told reporters on November 15. “He was a great teammate, he worked his tail off. You could see him really growing just in terms of overall knowledge, but we are in a production-based business and it’s unfortunate, it truly is. I feel for him. He’s a guy I have a lot of respect for and care for deeply, and I’m confident he’s going to get another shot. Sometimes that’s the best thing for guys in this league is you go through a little adversity, you get a fresh start somewhere else, and I wish him nothing but the best.”

The Packers, however, won’t have the luxury of taking their time to figure out what the new plan is going to be with a prime-time date with the Tennessee Titans looming on Thursday Night Football. In all likelihood, Bisaccia will stick with Keisean Nixon on both punt and kickoff returns for the upcoming week, as Nixon has done a solid job on kickoff returns and replaced Rodgers following his fumble in Week 10. There is a new option for them to consider, though, after veteran wide receiver Dede Westbrook was signed to their practice squad on Tuesday afternoon.

Nixon — who had never returned punts in the NFL prior to Week 10 — averaged 9.5 yards on two punt returns and has touted an average of 21.4 yards on 11 kickoff returns, which is at least not putting the Packers in bad positions. At the same time, Westbrook’s volume of returns in his career could make him a better option on punts. He has maintained a career average of more than nine yards per return on 69 returns and finished three of his five seasons with an average of at least 11 yards on punts.

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