Packers Urged to Consider Former Rival TE as ‘Insurance’

Rudolph Packers FA Target

Getty Kyle Rudolph #82 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on from the sidelines during the first half of the NFC Divisional Round Playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on January 11, 2020 in Santa Clara, California.

The Green Bay Packers will be eagerly looking to see how much progress Robert Tonyan Jr. has made in his ACL recovery when training camp opens on July 26. Should the need for insurance arise, though, there is a veteran free agent who is familiar with the NFC North who could make some sense for their roster.

Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine recently compiled a list of veteran free agents he believes the Packers should consider signing before camp starts and put former Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants tight end Kyle Rudolph at the top of his list.

Rudolph, 32, was a two-time Pro Bowler over his 10 seasons with the Vikings and remained steady during his one-year stint with the Giants in 2021, catching 26 of the 38 passes thrown his way and dropping none of the catchable ones. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, Rudolph has dropped exactly one pass (on 195 targets) since the start of the 2018 season. Reliable hands like that could be dangerous if integrated into Aaron Rodgers’ arsenal.

Here’s why Ballentine felt Rudolph could be a good pickup for the Packers:

Neither Josiah Deguara nor Marcedes Lewis became serious receiving threats in Tonyan’s absence, so it would make sense if the Packers were to use the free-agent market to find another veteran option.

Kyle Rudolph is a player they should be familiar with from his time with the Vikings. He isn’t going to threaten a healthy Tonyan, but he’s a reliable target with just one drop over the last four seasons.

The 32-year-old would provide good insurance if Tonyan struggles to recover from his injury or gets reinjured during the season.

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Tonyan’s Recovery Will Dictate TE Strategy

For right now, the prospect of the Packers signing Rudolph or any veteran tight end is pretty dim, at least until Tonyan takes the field and the team can properly chart how close he is to getting back on the field. All offseason reports about Tonayn’s recovery have been good with the most recent one — from David Lombardi of The Athletic — indicating he is on track for the start of the season. If that turns out to be true, then the Packers should be set at the position.

Like Ballentine suggested, though, if there is any sign that Tonyan will not be ready to go in Week 1, the Packers might want to consider their other options. Without Tonyan, the Packers would be putting all of their chips on Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara and Tyler Davis. Lewis has been mostly steady and Deguara has shown potential, but the risk is also higher than usual with a less solidified receiving corps to support their efforts.

David Could Be Meaningful Piece in 2022

If the Packers do decide to bet on their current personnel without outside additions, Davis could be a bit of a wild-card option for this year’s tight end room. The Packers signed him off the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad last season in late September and played him primarily on special teams over their final 14 games, but both general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur have spoken highly about his potential heading into the new season.

“I think we might have something there,” Gutekunst said after the Packers chose not to add to their tight end room in the 2022 NFL draft.

At the very least, Davis seems like he will be a part of the Packers’ efforts to revitalize their special teams under new coordinator Rich Bisaccia. He played on both sides of their kickoff and punt units as both a return protector and a coverage guy. He also recorded four tackles over his 114 snaps on punt and kickoff coverages, leaving an impression that even caught Bisaccia’s eye once he took the job with the Packers.

“He certainly made his mark on special teams and he’s a guy that I know Rich was really excited about when we hired Rich, just what he can bring,” LaFleur said, via “He’s a guy that’s going to give you great effort each and every snap and he can really run.”

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