Packers Lose Out to Rams on Specialist Waiver Claim: Report

Packers Lose Claim Matt Orzech

Getty Head coach Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers looks on from the sidelines in the first half against the San Francisco 49ers during the NFC Championship game at Levi's Stadium on January 19, 2020 in Santa Clara, California.

The Green Bay Packers are not taking their 2021 specialist battles lightly.

According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the Packers attempted to claim third-year long snapper Matt Orzech off the waiver wire on Tuesday following his release from the Tennessee Titans, but the Los Angeles Rams — who had a higher waiver priority — landed him first.

Orzech, 26, has spent time with four different teams in his first two NFL seasons and never played a regular-season snap, but the Packers’ waiver interest in him could indicate how they feel about their current long snapper situation. Green Bay already has two at the position signed for 2021, including returning starter and 2018 seventh-round pick Hunter Bradley. They also added Joe Fortunato to give Bradley some competition in OTAs and training camp.

The Packers have one remaining spot on their 90-man offseason roster after signing quarterback Blake Bortles to a one-year contract on Wednesday.

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Bradley’s ‘Against the Wall’ in 2021

New Packers special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton told reporters back in March he and his specialists call their room the “Truth Room,” and the truth is Bradley has not been nearly effective enough for the Packers over his first three seasons.

The three-year starter cost the Packers on more than one occasion during the 2020 season with his poor execution. His miserable snap toward the end of the second quarter in the NFC divisional round botched Mason Crosby’s extra-point try and ended with the veteran kicker beneath a pile of Rams players. He also contributed directly to punter JK Scott’s issues with inconsistency in 2020, giving him a few snaps that might as well have been declared doomed from the start.

“They both know that they have to be more consistent in the things that we need them to do to be successful,” Drayton said, speaking about both Bradley and punter JK Scott. “They have a prescription that we’ve written for them to work on. They also have their own personal, what I call, kick doctors or specialist doctors that they’re working with who I’ve fostered a relationship with. They’re getting better and they will be better, and they understand that their backs are against the wall.”

Will Packers Add a 3rd Long Snapper?

In case Drayton’s conversations hadn’t rung true, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst brought in an additional player for each of his three specialist spots to challenge his starters throughout the 2021 offseason. Kicker JJ Molson and punter Ryan Winslow had each spent some time with the Packers last season, but Fortunato was a newcomer as well as Green Bay’s only outside free-agent signing prior to the draft.

The question now is whether the Packers are content to let Fortunato be the only one challenging Bradley after his rotten 2020 season. Yes, they would have three long snappers signed to their roster had they gotten Orzech before the Rams, but it is possible a success there would have resulted in Fortunato’s release before he gets a real chance to compete with Bradley.

How much heat the Packers want to apply to Bradley could also depend on how confident they are in his ability to bounce back in 2021. If Drayton’s words mirror how the Packers generally feel about him, rostering an additional two long snappers would not seem practical, especially as roster sizes get trimmers toward the start of camp.