Devin Funchess will get another shot with the Green Bay Packers.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Funchess has agreed to take a pay cut of roughly $750,000 to remain with the Packers for the 2021 season. The 26-year-old wide receiver had signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the team last offseason but decided to opt out of 2020 in July due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A couple of players reworked their deals to stick for 2021:
— #Bills C Mitch Morse cut his salary by nearly $2M to stay in Buffalo, source said.
— #Packers WR Devin Funchess took a roughly $750K paycut to stick in Green Bay after opting out last year, source said.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 9, 2021
Funchess has not played since hurting his clavicle in the 2019 season opener with the Indianapolis Colts and will have spent two full years off the field before the start of the 2021 season, but he caught 161 passes for 2,233 yards and 21 touchdowns for the Carolina Panthers during the first four years of his career. Now, the Packers will have an opportunity to see if he can regain his old form at an even lower cost.
The Packers could have netted $605,000 in salary-cap savings had they released Funchess this offseason, but it is unclear how much cap space his pay cut creates for them or where the deductions were made in his contract. Green Bay is projected to still need to clear more than $11 million before the start of the new league year on March 17, according to Over the Cap projections based on a league cap of $180.5 million.
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Will Funchess Earn Roster Spot?
Nothing was guaranteed for Funchess after he decided to opt-out of his first season with the Packers. While his contract rolled forward onto the 2021 books, the Packers were facing a much harsher financial reality than in their previous offseason and had to consider whether it was worth paying a $1.2 million base salary to a wide receiver who has not played a full game since November 2018.
After his pay cut, though, Funchess is primed to finally make his comeback with the Packers in 2021 … so long as he can prove his abilities have not waned over his years away from the game. He has certainly looked the part of an NFL wide receiver when posting conditioning updates on his Instagram page over the past several months, but the real test will come in next summer’s training camp when he has to compete for a roster spot.
The Packers have three solid-lock receivers for next year’s roster: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard. Behind them, the rest of the field is open with Funchess capable of climbing as high as No. 4 on the depth chart if he can prove himself more capable than Equanimeous St. Brown and Malik Turner — who both finished 2020 on the Packers’ active roster but made minimal contributions.
Funchess could always fail to make the roster and bust, but his ceiling could be a dangerous, wild-card weapon for the Packers’ offense in 2021. There was a time when Ron Rivera and the Panthers considered Funchess to have the potential of a No. 1 receiver, so there’s no telling how effective he could become with a better quarterback and a system that more likely needs him to be a No. 3 or No. 4.
Just how much more competition will the Packers add to the fray, though?
Will Packers Draft More WRs?
The promise of Funchess’ return fortifies the Packers’ receiving room for the immediate future and also probably eliminates the possibility of them signing another free-agent wideout this offseason, but the 2021 NFL draft still presents them with the opportunity to add some significant talent to the position before next season.
The Packers have now gone two straight drafts without taking a wide receiver but are entering contract years with both Adams — who will expectedly be extended — and Valdes-Scantling, increasing the need for them to add younger and capable bodies to the room. They could always take a similar approach to 2018 and draft multiple wideouts in the later rounds to stock up the position, but targetting a gifted prospect in the early rounds could add another starting candidate to their ranks.
The Packers have been particularly successful in the past at finding high-quality wide receivers in the second round, landing Adams in 2014 along with former stars Randall Cobb (2011) and Jordy Nelson (2008) before him. The Packers could also consider using a first-round pick on a wideout for the first time since 2002.