The Green Bay Packers are going to need help at wide receiver this offseason, and if Allen Lazard leaves in free agency, the team could sign a Pro Bowl wideout to replace the 27-year-old.
Following Green Bay’s 20-16 loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 18, Lazard made it clear in his postgame comments that he is not planning on coming back in 2023. His likely departure, along with fellow veteran Randall Cobb hitting the open market, leaves a big hole at receiver for the Packers.
Kristopher Knox with Bleacher Report agrees that an impact wide receiver is needed for the Packers this offseason. In their big board of top free-agent targets for the Packers, Knox had Kansas City Chiefs receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster as the team’s top target.
“There isn’t a true No. 1 target in this year’s free-agent pool, but Kansas City Chiefs wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster is close,” Knox said. “Smith-Schuster is a big-play threat who can play on the perimeter or in the slot. With both Cobb and Lazard headed to free agency, Smith-Schuster could be targeted to help replace one or both of them.”
Can Christian Watson Become a No. 1 Receiver?
Although the Packers need help at wide receiver, they may not try to go after anyone in free agency with top wideout potential if they feel confident that rookie Christian Watson can develop into that.
The second-round pick had his growing pains early in the season. With a dropped 75-yard touchdown on his first NFL snap and injuries keeping him out of multiple games in the first half of 2022, it seemed like Watson was going to have a disappointing year.
However, the rookie caught fire down the stretch. Along with a three-score game and four-game stretch with eight total touchdowns, Watson finished the year with 41 receptions for 611 yards and nine total scores. At 6’5″, his size and top-end speed makes him a threat to turn into play into an explosive one.
The big-play potential is evident with Watson, but in order for him to become a No. 1 receiver in today’s NFL, he needs to become a more consistent route runner. This takes time for younger receivers, so the Packers could try to find more experienced veteran in free agency like Smith-Schuster to take some of the pressure off of the promising rookie with star potential.
What Could Smith-Schuster Bring to Green Bay?
He may not be the star weapon he was hoping to be in Kansas City, but Smith-Schuster is still one of the more intriguing receivers hitting free agency this offseason.
After racking up over 3,000 receiving yards at USC, Smith-Schuster was taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. It didn’t take long for him to have an impact at the pro level, catching 58 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie.
Smith-Schuster built upon a strong first year by being named a Pro Bowler in 2018. He posted career-high numbers with 111 receptions and 1,426 yards while adding another seven touchdowns. However, his production began to drop off as Ben Roethlisberger showed signs of age, and before the 2022 season he signed on with the Chiefs in free agency.
The 26-year-old is entering free agency again coming off of a 78-catch season with 933 yards and three scores. At 6’1″ and 215 pounds, he meets the size thresholds that the Packers typically look for at the position, and his ability to play both outside and in the slot makes him the kind of versatile weapon that Matt LaFleur could use in 2023, regardless of who is playing quarterback next season.