The Green Bay Packers took several swings at adding a high-level threat to their passing attack prior to, and during, last season. That effort ultimately failed, but a second chance may be just around the corner.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported on Tuesday, January 24, that the Las Vegas Raiders “will trade big names” beyond quarterback Derek Carr, who is certain to be either dealt or cut in the coming weeks. Among the big names rival NFL franchises are keying on as a likely trade target is Pro-Bowl tight end Darren Waller.
“I’ve talked to a few people around the league who expect coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler to continue aggressively tweaking the roster,” Fowler wrote. “McDaniels is big on ‘culture fits’ and will want his own guys. Teams will be keeping an eye on tight end Darren Waller and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow in that process.”
Packers Made Trade Offer For Waller Prior to 2022 Regular Season
The Packers make a ton of sense as a team in play for Waller considering both a faltering pass offense in 2022 and the fact that they tried to deal for the tight end prior to the season as part of the Davante Adams negotiations, but were unable to push that proposal due to obscure league rules.
Green Bay tried again later in the year, making an “aggressive attempt” to acquire Waller ahead of the trade deadline, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. According to Vic Fartur of The Athletic, the Packers pitched the Raiders a trade that would have sent a second-round pick to Las Vegas in return for Waller.
“The Packers, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions, tried to deal a second-round pick for tight end Darren Waller at the trade deadline last week, and the Raiders passed,” Fartur wrote. “Waller hasn’t played in a month. Why would a 2-5 team (then) that is admittedly half-looking to the future not make that trade? Maybe because the new regime now thinks it needs to win some games this season to secure the coach a second season.”
The Raiders have done enough to keep McDaniels in his job, at least for the time being, finishing the season 6-11 and setting up a three-time Pro-Bowl QB in Carr as the fall guy for their woes after a calendar cycle that saw the team break the bank on upgrades such as Adams and pass rusher Chandler Jones.
Moving on from the three-year, $51-million extension the 30-year-old Waller signed in 2022 would be a logical step for a team with a talented, younger and far less expensive backup tight end in Foster Moreau. That becomes especially true if the Raiders take a run at free agent QB Tom Brady in the offseason and/or another expensive veteran under center.
Thus, a scenario could very well play out in which the Packers are able to acquire Waller with their second round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, which falls at No. 47 overall.
Packers Top 2 Tight Ends Tonyan, Lewis Hit Free Agency in Offseason
There is no debating that a $51 million investment in a tight end who has missed 14 of 34 regular season games over the last two seasons is a substantial risk. However, if the Packers are going to keep quarterback Aaron Rodgers interested in playing football in both the NFL and Green Bay, the next couple seasons will require the franchise to assume a business model defined by a greater risk tolerance in hopes of yielding higher rewards.
There is also no debating that Rodgers loves him some Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis after the four-time MVP called each of them out by name when discussing how the Packers could entice him to return and claim his $59 million check in 2023.
“A guy like Marcedes Lewis, he’s an important cog in the wheel of the locker room and the momentum of the team. That’s a guy I want to finish my career with,” Rodgers told the Pat McAfee Show on January 17. “Allen Lazard, [Robert] Tonyan, David Bakhtiari — there’s a lot of interesting names that we’ll see [the Packers’] desire to re-sign these certain guys who are glue guys in the locker room.”
Despite Rodgers’ public endorsement, it’s unlikely that both Tonyan and Lewis will return to the roster next year as both are unrestricted free agents heading into the offseason. Tonyan tore his ACL in 2021 and played last year on a one-year deal, putting up 53 catches for 470 yards and two touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference. While solid, those numbers don’t command a lucrative long-term contract. Lewis, meanwhile, will be entering his 18th NFL season if he returns in 2023, making him one of the oldest players in the entire league.
If the Packers do want to move on from both Tonyan and Lewis, perhaps the only way to do so without angering Rodgers is to bring in a quality target like Waller to replace them. Waller is a clear upgrade over both players and if he remains even relatively healthy should be worth the investment by adding another layer to Green Bay’s passing attack and supplementing breakout wide receiver Christian Watson.