A bombshell dropped on Monday evening. According to multiple reports, the Green Bay Packers have considered acquiring superstar tight end Darren Waller from the Las Vegas Raiders. The initial report indicates the Packers and Raiders discussed including Waller in the deal that sent disgruntled receiver Davante Adams from the Packers to the Raiders earlier this offseason, but league rules surrounding a team’s inability to trade a franchise tagged player (Adams) for a non-franchise tagged player (Waller) allegedly helped nix the reported agreement.
With the 2022 NFL Draft fast approaching this weekend, the Packers and Raiders could revisit such discussions involving Waller immediately. The Packers currently own two first-round selections (No. 22 and 28 overall), and would likely be unwilling to part with one of these selections in exchange for Waller. However, the Packers also own two second-round selections (No. 53 and 59 overall), and could benefit from flipping one of those picks in return for Waller. It’s a scenario that would leave the Packers with three top-60 selections and a proven commodity such as Waller. The Raiders aren’t scheduled to make their first selection until the third round (No. 86), and could realistically part with Waller in exchange for some much-needed immediate draft capital.
Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst would be wise to acquire a high-level pass catcher such as Waller given the team’s current pass-catching situation. The deal that sent Adams to the Raiders currently leaves the Packers’ passing offense without a dominant target hog. Green Bay recently agreed to a one-year contract with Sammy Watkins, but it would be foolish to rely on the former Clemson standout whose best football is well behind him. Watkins joins an underwhelming receiver room that includes the aging Randall Cobb, the unproven Amari Rodgers and Allen Lazard.
Franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers agreed to return to the organization after some offseason discussions that Rodgers would play elsewhere. Rodgers ultimately signed a three-year contract extension with the Packers worth $150.8 million, with $101.5 million guaranteed. The historical deal all but guarantees that Rodgers will retire a Packer and places added pressure on the Packers organization to win another Super Bowl in the dwindling Rodgers era. It’s a situation that makes acquiring Waller an immediate risk worth taking. And make no mistake, there’s more risk involved than what appears on the surface. Waller will turn 30 years old this September and is coming off an injury-plagued campaign, missing six regular-season contests in 2021 due to recurring injuries. Waller ultimately totaled 55 receptions for 665 yards and two touchdowns. All three statistical outputs were significantly less than what he managed during breakout seasons in 2019 and 2020. Waller played second fiddle to wide receiver Hunter Renfrow down the stretch, and with Adams now commanding 10-plus targets on a weekly basis, the Raiders could realistically cash in on Waller by moving him for draft picks. Waller has two years remaining on his contract. For a Packers franchise that is desperate to win while Rodgers remains under center, worrying about what the future may hold for Waller two or three years from now is a worthless exercise. Waller makes the Packers better immediately, and the immediate is all that matters for a desperate and contending franchise with an aging quarterback.
Adding Waller would also alleviate some of the pressure off Gutekunst’s shoulders to draft a first-round receiver that is ready to contribute immediately. The Packers have historically rarely spent high draft picks on receivers. Although that’s largely expected to change this week, Gutekunst would be wise to pair an exciting first-round receiver prospect with a more proven weapon such as Waller. Green Bay’s passing offense should take steps to avoid becoming overly reliant on the projected production from a first-year player that is acclimating to the professional ranks. Waller’s presence would make life significantly easier on a rookie receiver.
A deal that would send Waller to the Packers makes a ton of sense for both sides.
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