In his six seasons with the Green Bay Packers, tight end Jermichael Finley had 223 receptions for over 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns (https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/F/FinlJe00.htm). His presence in Green Bay was nothing short of spectacular. According to Bleacher Report in 2012, Finley was named number six out of the top ten tight ends in the league. The article said: “He might be the most skilled player at the position in the NFL… His skill set is absolutely off the charts. He is a special talent.”(http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1220819-nfl-ranking-the-top-10-tight-ends-in-the-league)
When is the last time you heard something like that about a tight end on the Green Bay Packers? The Packers haven’t had a dominating tight end since Finley’s career ending neck injury in 2013. If they have had a “dominating” tight end, they certainly haven’t been to Finley’s level. The backup to Finley, Andrew Quarless, still had 89 receptions, for 940 yards and six touchdowns in his time with the Packers (https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/Q/QuarAn00.htm).
The Packers may have a talented tight end from 2008 to 2013 on their roster. But what has happened since then? Richard Rodgers, who was drafted in the third round in 2014, had a decent rookie season and an even better sophomore season. In those two seasons, Rodgers caught a total of ten touchdowns, catching eight in his second season. It looked promising for the Packers, that they had found their next star tight end. Since then, Rodgers has only caught two touchdowns.
The Packers have tried several different tight ends since Finely was injured back in 2013. Andrew Quarless was the backup to Finley, and he started in 2013 and 2014. It seemed as if Q would be a solid tight end for the Packers. Then the Packers drafted Richard Rodgers. He was what the Packers were looking for. His NFL.com Draft Profile praised the way he moved his body on the field. He had good hands, and was a tight end the Packers could depend on. His weaknesses included: “Tight hips. Average speed and suddenness — dull in/out of breaks and struggles to separate” (http://www.nfl.com/draft/2014/profiles/richard-rodgers?id=2543569). This couldn’t be more apparent than the past two years. It looks like Richard Rodgers was too slow and simply just couldn’t get open. The Packers knew they needed a faster player at the tight end position.
After the Packers signed Jared Cook to a 1-year, $3.6million deal, he had 30 receptions, for 377 yards, and one touchdown (https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/C/CookJa02.htm). It was production. It was something the Packers needed, a breathe of fresh air from skill players that weren’t producing. Luckily, Aaron Rodgers and Cook found some camaraderie. The Packers would not have made it to the NFC Championship game last season if it weren’t for the Cook and Rodgers connection. The Packers however, were ready to move on from Cook after just one season with the team. It was almost as if the Packers were looking for something better yet. That is when they went out and signed Martellus Bennett. They signed Bennett to a 3-year, $21-million deal (http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000792399/article/packers-sign-martellus-bennett-to-threeyear-deal). This seemed like it would be a consistent deal. A deal that would allow a veteran tight end to implement his experience into the Packers. It wasn’t only Bennett that the Packers signed. It was also Lance Kendricks. They signed him to a 2-year; $4 million deal this past offseason.
The three Packers tight ends, Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks, and Richard Rodgers, have combined for 33 receptions, 365 yards, and only one touchdown this season. This is comparable to WR Randall Cobb, who has 28 receptions for 261 yards and one touchdown (https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/C/CobbRa00.htm). One might say that this isn’t comparable to a wide receiver because the tight end position is much different – which it is, but the Packers need more production from their tight ends in general.
The struggles that the tight ends have had this season can’t be entirely their fault. With the offensive lineman woes that the Packers have had this season, it makes sense that the Packers have played more two-tight end sets than usual. They have needed Martellus Bennett to become more of a blocker. At the same time, it could be true that both Bennett and Kendricks have been needed in the run game or in pass protection. Only once this season have the Packers used the same offensive line in consecutive weeks. Bennett has simply not been the player that the Packers expected. It could be that he just simply isn’t on the same page as Aaron Rodgers in the passing game. There could be a lot of factors.
Now that Martellus Bennett might retire after this season, who knows what the Packers tight end situation could look like after this year? The Packers signed him to a 3-year deal, which means he would still have two years left on it if he retires after this season. There is a lot to think about this season for the Packers, and this is just another task to that list.