The Green Bay Packers are adding another veteran wide receiver to the mix on the same day that Randall Cobb returned to practice for them.
According to the NFL’s official transaction wire for November 15, the Packers made a flurry of roster moves on Tuesday that included signing veteran wide receiver Dede Westbrook and fourth-year outside linebacker Tim Ward to their practice squad.
The 28-year-old Westbrook has caught 170 passes over his five seasons in the NFL, having been a 2017 fourth-round pick and 25-game starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He delivered consecutive 66-reception seasons in 2018 and 2019 for a total of 1,377 receiving yards and eight touchdowns and has also returned nearly 70 punts over his career with both the Jaguars and the Minnesota Vikings (for the 2021 season).
The Packers also released wide receiver Amari Rodgers — a 2021 third-round pick — and running back Kylin Hill — a 2021 seventh-rounder — from their active roster and awarded a full-time promotion to Patrick Taylor from the practice squad to be their new third-string running back behind Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon.
Additionally, the NFL transaction wire revealed that Cobb — who was eligible to return from injured reserve this week — was indeed designated for return to practice on Tuesday as the Packers prepare for their Thursday Night Football matchup with the Tennessee Titans. The move opens Cobb’s 21-day window to be re-activated to the 53-man roster but also gives him a chance to play again for the first time since Week 6.
Westbrook Offers Veteran Experience at Both WR & PR
There are a couple of key advantages that come with the Packers signing Westbrook. While he is not a world-shaking addition at wide receiver, he did deliver consecutive 66-reception seasons for the Jaguars in 2018 and 2019 that saw him amass a total of 1,377 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. That’s more than double the combined career totals of their other three practice-squad receivers — Juwann Winfree, Travis Fulgham and Jeff Cotton — which is a nice safety net to have after all the injuries this year.
With the Packers also cutting ties with Rodgers on Tuesday, Westbrook could have an opportunity to earn a spot on the active roster if he can win the punt returner job. The Packers pivoted to Keisean Nixon after benching Rodgers during their Week 10 win over the Dallas Cowboys and might choose to stick with him on both punts and kickoffs, but they will have three practice-squad elevations to burn with Westbrook to see if he can offer them a new weapon on that front.
Westbrook struggled with consistent punt return opportunities in 2021 with the Vikings, averaging just 8.3 yards on 22 returns. He has also struggled with ball control and muffed a few punts over his 69 career punt returns. But he also did something that Amari Rodgers never got close to doing: Took one to the house for a touchdown.
Could Packers Sign Juwann Winfree to Active Roster?
The Packers are now down to just four wide receivers on their active roster after releasing Rodgers on Tuesday. That number could jump to five before the end of the week if Cobb is cleared to play, but it is still fewer than the seven they had available when they began the season — which could be an opening for Juwann Winfree.
Winfree has been the go-to option for the Packers when they have needed additional depth on short notice this season, even if his production tapped out at one reception for 17 yards on four passing targets. If the Packers want to continue to explore his potential for their offense, though, they will need to give him an active-roster contract since he has expended all three of his elevation opportunities already. It might not have been as justifiable in previous weeks with the Packers understandably putting Rodgers and fellow youngster Samori Toure to the test, but it does now that Rodgers is gone.
Don’t forget that Aaron Rodgers was impressed with Winfree in training camp and that Winfree might have actually won a roster spot if not for the Packers’ general policy of giving preference to draft picks — in this case Rodgers and Toure. That’s not to say he will get promoted and pop off for their offense, but if he can offer enough for them on special teams, it could finally be his opportunity to show what he can bring to the table.