The Green Bay Packers will be tempting fate if they head into the regular season with their offense as currently constructed.
Simply put, quarterback Aaron Rodgers currently has no No. 1 wide receiver. As it stands now, the most likely scenario is that the tea will thrust that responsibility onto the shoulders of a player who either lacks the skill set and production history of a top target (Allen Lazard) or isn’t likely ready to step into that role (Christian Watson).
Rob Demovsky of ESPN laid out the situation as part of his training camp preview.
“The spotlight will shine brightest on the receivers and who will emerge as Rodgers’ go-to guy now that Davante Adams is gone,” Demovsky wrote on Sunday, July 24. “Allen Lazard seems like the safe bet, but rookies Christian Watson (second round) and Romeo Doubs (fourth) seem to have the biggest upside. It’s also a huge summer for Sammy Watkins to show he still has something left.”
A potential complication that could compound the lack of proven, in-his-prime talent in Green Bay’s wide receiver room that must be addressed is the reality of injury to one, or more, of the aforementioned pass catchers. Watson will already miss a portion of training camp after he was placed on the active/physically unable to perform (PUP) list with an undisclosed health issue.
Despite 11 wide receivers already on the roster heading into camp, it would serve the Packers well to consider spending some money and/or assets to either land a free agent wide receiver or acquire one via a trade. The latter option is a possibility when it comes to Pittsburgh Steelers’ Pro Bowler Diontae Johnson, from whom the AFC powerhouse may soon be looking to move on anyway.
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Packers’ Trade For Steelers’ Johnson Makes Sense on Both Sides
The reason the Steelers might be willing to part with Johnson, who is inarguably a rising talent in the NFL, is simple and singular — money.
Pittsburgh drafted the wideout in the third round back in 2019. Johnson’s four-year contract is up at the end of the season and Steelers insider Mark Kaboly of The Athletic has noted that the team is not likely to pay Johnson what he will seek.
“They aren’t offering him anything near [Terry] McLaurin or anybody else that got more than $20 million per year,” Kaboly wrote on July 5. “They will offer him something, and it won’t be what he thinks he can get on the market, and he will get paid next year somewhere else. That’s the way I see it working out now.”
Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report on Monday suggested a blockbuster trade that would allow the Steelers to sell high on Johnson, receiving a 2023 second-round draft pick in return from the Packers, while equipping Green Bay with a young talent who had a breakout season in 2022.
Without a top-tier pass-catcher on the roster, [Packers] general manager Brian Gutekunst can take a big swing for 38-year-old Aaron Rodgers.
Johnson hasn’t publicly threatened a holdout. He reported to mandatory minicamp, which means the fourth-year wideout may head into the 2022 season with a $3.1 million cap hit, a bargain for a player [with his statistics].
Pittsburgh has a deep wide receiver group with Chase Claypool, rookie second-rounder George Pickens and rookie fourth-rounder Calvin Austin III. The front office may be willing to deal Johnson for the right price, and if that’s the case, Green Bay should be on the line with a strong proposal.
Johnson has improved his receiving numbers every year, but he’s not a big-play star wideout, averaging 10.9 yards per catch for his career. The Packers may be able to acquire him with a second-rounder.
Johnson’s Career Trajectory is Promising After Breakout 2021
Johnson fits the bill of a rising NFL superstar in every way. He has played three seasons in the league, all of them impressive and all of them building on the production that came the campaign prior.
The Steelers wideout made his first Pro Bowl in 2021 on the strength of 107 catches for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference. For his career, Johnson has hauled in 254 catches for 2,764 yards and 20 touchdowns. His career yards per catch average is 10.9, which is the same total he posted last season.