In a series of Saturday roster moves, the Packers elevated second-year wide receiver Juwann Winfree from the practice squad as a COVID-19 roster replacement for the game-day roster and could call upon him in Week 10’s home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Gotta call this at least once for Winfree tomorrow pic.twitter.com/ryE9adVyai
— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) November 14, 2020
Winfree, a 2019 sixth-round pick, lost his job with the Broncos during the preseason as he continued to face problems with his availability. He had played just 14 offensive snaps in three games as a rookie and then injured his hamstring in August, effectively sealing his fate at the roster cutdown deadline. He spent less than a month as a free agent, though, before the Packers signed him to their practice squad on Oct. 1.
Winfree could be asked to step up as the Packers’ No. 4 wide receiver on Sunday with both Equanimeous St. Brown (knee) and Darrius Shepherd (shoulder) both questionable to play. If neither plays, the former Bronco would be just one of four healthy wideouts available against the Jaguars behind Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Malik Taylor.
One of the things that makes Winfree’s elevation interesting is that he was chosen over other practice-squad receivers like Reggie Begelton and Seth Roberts. Begelton was promoted once already this season in Week 4 against Atlanta — though, if you blinked, you might have missed him — so it would make sense if they wanted to test a new option. Roberts, however, has quite an extensive resume with 183 receptions over 85 career games.
A clearer picture of how the Packers plan to use Winfree against the Jaguars should emerge when the teams release their inactives lists in the pregame.
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Packers Found Success With Another Ex-Bronco
The Packers may not need anything from Winfree in his debut on their game-day roster, but it wouldn’t be the first time they get solid contributions from a former Broncos castaway.
Veteran defensive lineman Billy Winn was signed to the Packers’ practice squad after Kenny Clark went down with an injury in Week 1 and only needed to wait 10 days before getting his first elevation opportunity on game day. After back-to-back quality performances in Weeks 3 and 4, the Packers eventually signed him to an active-roster contract on Oct. 24.
Maybe the only similarities between Winfree and Winn are their previous Broncos ties and their close-sounding names, but the Packers’ scouting department may want to keep an eye on talent coming out of Denver if Winfree also proves he belongs on their 53-man roster.
Winfree Has Impressed . . . When Healthy
The Broncos believed they had found a sleeper in Winfree when they traded up in the sixth round of the 2019 draft to select him following his underwhelming career at Colorado.
While he collected just 49 receptions, 649 yards and four touchdowns during his two seasons with the Buffaloes, Winfree proved to have devastating capabilities as a route-runner and was capable of using his 6-foot-1, 210-pound frame to make plays in tight spaces. He was also a bit of a bruiser as a run blocker.
“We feel like he’s got some real upside,” Broncos president and general manager John Elway said of Winfree after the 2019 draft, via The Denver Post.
The biggest gamble? Winfree’s availability. He never played more than eight games in a single season at the college level, including his six-game freshman season at Maryland in 2014 before he transferred into the Pac-12. Sure, he flashed the potential to ascend to the highest levels of the game, but health is everything to a consistent NFL player.
Unfortunately, the Broncos’ bet didn’t pan out as quickly as they were hoping with Winfree. The wideout position was a massive weakness for them during his rookie season in 2019, and yet his health failed to hold up consistently enough for him to generate any production. He may have made it all the way to August, but the writing was on the wall the moment the Broncos drafted wide receivers Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Tyrie Cleveland in 2020.
Now, the Packers will take a chance on Winfree after watching him developing on their practice squad over the past six weeks.