The Green Bay Packers traded away the best wideout in franchise history last offseason. Now, the most reliable target left in the receiver room may be on his way out as well.
Allen Lazard led the Packers in targets (100), catches (60) and receiving yards (788) last year, per ESPN statistics. He was also second in receiving touchdowns with six. And even while quarterback Aaron Rodgers has campaigned for Lazard’s return to Green Bay since the season’s conclusion, there is a good chance the undrafted receiver turned NFL starter will play in a new uniform in 2023.
If that happens, the Packers must consider with whom to replace Rodgers’ favorite target. Fans should expect Green Bay to look for a top-flight pass catcher via trade or free agency, but there’s a good chance they look wideout in the draft as well after selecting three such players last year — Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure.
“Hyatt was a force for the Volunteers, catching 67 passes for 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns on the way to winning the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s No. 1 wide receiver,” Davenport wrote. “Hyatt’s slender frame is a concern, but he and Watson could be a tremendous duo in the vertical passing game.”
Despite his prolific and award-winning production, Hyatt is a potentially under-the-radar prospect for Green Bay. At 6-feet, 180 pounds, Hyatt has not earned a top-25 overall grade based on Mel Kiper’s most recent ESPN big board, despite four other wideouts receiving ratings in that range. Kiper currently has Hyatt ranked as the 7th-best wide receiver available in the draft.
Lazard May Price Packers Out With Long-Term Contract Ask in 2023
Lazard wanted a long-term deal with the Packers prior to the start of this season but based on the rules of restricted free agency, he was offered just shy of $4 million for 2023 and had no real option other than to take it. That is not expected to be the case this offseason.
Unless the Packers choose to apply the franchise tag to Lazard, which would vastly overpay him to remain in Green Bay for one season, the wideout is going to be looking for a multiyear deal. Lazard’s market value, per Spotrac, was listed at approximately $11 million annually and north of $33 million for a three-year contract as of January 20.
The Packers are currently sitting with a cap deficiency of nearly $16.3 million, per Over The Cap, which will make signing Lazard long-term a precarious proposition even despite his consistency. Lazard spoke about the situation when asked by a reporter on January 8 whether he expected Rodgers to return to Green Bay for the 2023 campaign.
I don’t f****** know, s***. I don’t know where I’m going to be at. I can’t worry about somebody else. You know, definitely going into the game, I kind of had a realization that my first game [at Lambeau Field] and potentially my last game, which it is, was going to be versus the [Detroit] Lions.
I took a few moments just to kinda soak it all in and just, like, pat myself on the back, I guess. And just be thankful for this opportunity and this experience to be here for four-plus years now and just to see the growth that I’ve made, not only on the field but more so off the field.
List of Free Agent Replacements For Packers’ Allen Lazard is Thin
The free agent options to replace Lazard aren’t overwhelming, with a class topped by the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., JuJu Smith-Schuster and Parris Campbell. That fact lends itself to the notion of Green Bay looking wide receiver at some point in the upcoming draft.
The Packers own the No. 15 pick in the first round, which is probably too high to reach for Hyatt based on his draft grade. However, the team could look to add top-rated tight end Michael Mayer of Notre Dame at that spot and consider Hyatt in the middle of the second round. Drafting Hyatt with the 47th overall pick could end up looking like a steal a year or two from now, as drafting Watson 34th overall in 2022 now does.
Green Bay could also make a bigger bet at the position and draft Jaxon Smith-Njigba of Ohio State, Quentin Johnston of TCU or Jordan Addison of USC with the No. 15 overall pick, depending on combine results and who remains on the board when the league officially puts the Packers on the clock on Thursday, April 27.