Former Packers Veteran WR Signing With NFC Nemesis: Report

Devin Funchess 49ers

Getty Devin Funchess #11 of the Green Bay Packers reacts after getting a first down in the first half of a preseason game against the Houston Texans at Lambeau Field on August 14, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Veteran wide receiver Devin Funchess is healthy once again and looking to return to action in the NFC … just not with the Green Bay Packers.

According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the San Francisco 49ers are signing the 27-year-old Funchess to their practice squad, marking his first new NFL opportunity since the Packers waived him off injured reserve with a settlement on August 27.

The Packers originally signed Funchess to a one-year, $2.5 million contract during the 2020 offseason but were forced to delay their plans with him when he elected to opt-out of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He took a $750,000 pay cut to get another shot with the team in 2021 and had been favored to win a depth spot in their receiving rotation before he suffered a hamstring injury during one of the Packers’ joint practices with the New York Jets in mid-August.

In the end, Funchess played in just one preseason game for the Packers and caught six passes for 70 yards from Jordan Love. He will now head to San Francisco looking to earn an elevation opportunity and play his first regular-season snap since Week 1 of the 2019 season — when he broke his collarbone in the Indianapolis Colts’ season opener.

While it has been more than two years since Funchess last played in the regular season, he was quite productive during his four seasons with the Carolina Panthers. He caught 161 passes for 2,233 yards and 21 touchdowns during his 61 games with the Panthers, reaching career-high production in 2017 when he caught 63 of his 111 targets and finished with 840 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

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Could Funchess Find Active-Roster Role?

Funchess is a big-bodied (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) receiving threat who has more size and experience than any of the other wideouts on the 49ers’ practice squad, which also houses fourth-year River Cracraft (seven career receptions) and rookies Connor Wedington and Austin Watkins Jr. Still, it is not exactly clear whether 49ers general manager John Lynch envisions a specific role for him and simply wants to add depth.

The 49ers currently have five receivers on their active roster with Deebo Samuel (55 receptions, 994 yards) and Brandon Aiyuk (29 receptions, 341 yards) leading the charge alongside star tight end George Kittle. They have also sparingly turned to Jauan Jennings, who is 6-foot-3, as a taller, more physical passing target; though, he has just five receptions in nine games this season. Otherwise, San Francisco has gotten very little out of Travis Benjamin (zero catches) and Trent Sherfield (four catches) as their backups.

Now, the 49ers will eventually be getting back Mohamed Sanu, who had caught 15 passes for 115 yards in eight games before landing on injured reserve with a knee injury on November 15, but it isn’t too difficult to see how a once-productive guy like Funchess could contribute to a team still in the hunt for a playoff spot. The question is whether they will actually test him out or leave him buried on their practice squad.

Packers Could Solve WR Depth In-House

Whether Funchess and the Packers communicated at all throughout his recovery process about a possible reunion is unknown, but Green Bay might need a little more receiving help heading into Week 12’s matchup with the Los Angeles Rams.

The Packers are stacked in their top three positions with Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Randall Cobb all playing well for the team, but Allen Lazard and Malik Taylor are both banged up with injuries at the moment. While they will have a bye to recover in Week 13, it is possible those injuries will keep them out of the lineup this week when the Rams come to town. Then again, the answer to their depth problem could be as simple as giving Juwann Winfree another practice-squad promotion.

Winfree has been temporarily promoted to the game-day roster three times this season but still has one more standard promotion available before the Packers would need to sign him to the active roster (or leave him on the practice squad). Given they used one of their four weekly practice-squad protections on him on Tuesday, via the NFL’s transaction wire, it seems to be a safe bet he will get his fourth shot against the Rams.

Winfree also looked decent against the Arizona Cardinals when the Packers were playing without Adams, MVS or Lazard. He caught four of his six targets for 30 yards in the win and nearly snagged his first career touchdown on a below-average throw from Aaron Rodgers. He also had a fumble that almost proved to be costly for the team, potentially causing the coaching staff to lose a bit of confidence in him. He did, after all, only play six offensive snaps against Minnesota in Week 11.

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