Packers Work Out Ex-Raiders WR & Former Broncos Returner

Gafford/Packers Workout

Getty Wide receiver Rico Gafford #10 of the Oakland Raiders celebrates after scoring on a 53 yard touchdown reception against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of the NFL preseason game at State Farm Stadium on August 15, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona.

The dust is still settling on the Green Bay Packers’ disappointing end to the 2021 season, but general manager Brian Gutekunst and his staff are already hard at work scouting free-agent talent for their 2022 offseason roster.

According to the NFL’s transaction wire for January 25, the Packers hosted former Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Rico Gafford and onetime Denver Broncos running back/kick returner LeVante Bellamy for roster workouts on Tuesday. They also worked out cornerback Kiondre Thomas, who played a small special-teams role this past season for the Los Angeles Chargers as an undrafted rookie.

The Packers are currently projected to have 22 players become free agents when the new league year begins on March 16, including starters such as All-Pro wideout Davante Adams, tight end Robert Tonyan, inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell and cornerback Rasul Douglas. They also have some difficult personnel decisions to make in order to resolve their $40-plus million salary-cap deficit before March 16.

That said, nothing is stopping them from signing low-cost free agents to reserve/future contracts for the 2022 offseason. They signed 10 free agents to futures deals on Tuesday, all of which had some type of prior connection to the team. Now that the in-house guys are taken care of, though, don’t be surprised if the Packers start bringing in outside talent regularly for workouts — even if only to add to the list for a later date.

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Gafford & Bellamy Could Fill Depth Needs

As always, a new offseason means a fresh list of needs for the Packers’ roster, and it doesn’t take a genius to understand why Gafford and Bellamy might appeal to them.

Gafford hasn’t become a big-time receiver over his four seasons in the NFL, but he has flashed a bit of talent here and there over his time in the league. His biggest moment came in his second season in 2019 when he hauled in a 49-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr in the Raiders’ Week 14 loss to the Tennessee Titans. He also added a 17-yard reception against Denver in the final game of the season; though, he has not caught a pass since then and only received a few more targets.

Even without ample experience, Gafford could be a worthwhile addition given the status of next year’s receiving room. Randall Cobb and Amari Rodgers are the only two receivers currently inked for 2022, and Cobb is likely to be released before next season for cap relief that would range somewhere between $6.86 million (before June 1) and $8.25 million (after June 1). Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Equanimeous St. Brown and Malik Taylor are all set to become free agents.

As for Bellamy, the Packers don’t really need another running back with Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon and Kylin Hill all locked in for next season, but his capabilities as a return specialist could prove useful. The Packers struggled in the return game for much of the season after the rookie Hill tore his ACL in Week 8. Adding a fleet-footed runner to the mix for camp at least provides them with options for improving that aspect of special teams next season.

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