#LookingAhead: Packers could add pass-catching RB threat Forte & TE in Colts Allen or Fleener
From Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor
~As usual, thankfully, the Packers end a season and look forward to a new one without many glaring needs or holes to fill.
Sure, there are a few, like at tight end and inside linebacker perhaps.
But if you aren’t improving, you’re falling behind.
How could the Packers improve? Add a running back who’s actually a good receiver out of the backfield.
Lacy and Starks and Crockett may be adequate at times as receivers. They’ve each had some success this year on screens, which were actually the offense’s best plays for awhile.
But they aren’t ‘weapons’ at all who are mismatches for most linebackers. They aren’t guys who can run real routes down field, and beat defenders, create mismatches for the defense. Matt Forte is.
Forte would be a nice compliment to Eddie Lacy. One guy is lean and stays in shape, and is a great route-runner with good hands. The other is a bull.
From B/R: Forte is arguably the league’s most underrated back given his versatility and health through his first seven seasons, but his biggest knock entering free agency will be his age.
He’s already eclipsed the 30-year-old mark that is a general indicator of decline among running backs, which will affect his market value in dollars and years.
Forte earned $7.05 million in base salary in the final year of his last deal, but that figure seems steep moving forward, per Spotrac, which estimates that he’ll haul a base deal at $6.3 million over three years:
First off let’s be clear here: It’s extremely unlikely that at 30 years old, Matt Forte pulls in a contract averaging $7M+ per year. The reality here is that in terms of calculated production, Forte sits as an above average running back and an above average wide receiver. In 2014, Forte was 4th in the NFL with 102 receptions. When he’s healthy (and he has been most of his career), he’s still a yards from scrimmage hog, and his ability to be flexed around offensive schemes makes him valuable to plenty of franchises. His pay will likely be based on how a team plans to use him. He’s worth much more as a receiver than a running back.
At tight end, the Packers tight ends are the slowest unit assembled since the Ed West days. Even he got more separation than the current tight ends. Andrew Quarless has suffered too many knee injuries now. I think his days are done in a Packer uniform. He is one of the last few guys who were part of the 2010 Champion team.
In Indianapolis, the Colts have two good tight ends who’s contracts are up. Both were fairly high draft picks and are talented players. Both were rated much higher in their pre-draft scouting reports than anything the Packers have right now.
Coby Fleener was an early second rounder, while Dwayne Allen was the 64th pick. Allen is just 25 years old, Fleener is 27. Fleener is a thoroughbred who measured 6′ 6″ and ran a sub 4-6 forty at his combine. He’s buddies with Luck, from Stanford, and the Colts figure to choose to keep him, although he will cost a lot more than Allen.
Allen has battled injuries, which is something the Packers are used to and sick of. He’s only 6′ 3″, but big at 265. He had eight touchdowns last season when Andrew Luck was healthy, or playing a full year.
Another tempting option would be in San Diego, with 25-year old Ladarius Green.
Like Fleener, he has great size at 6′ 6″, and 240 pounds.
Playing behind Antonio Gates, Green has not been featured, but he’s learned from the best. He’s only caught 77 passes in his 4-year career, in 120 targets, so a completion percentage of nearly 65%.
He’s scored seven career touchdowns, including beating Clay Matthews for a score this season in Lambeau.
He was a 4th round pick in the 2012 Draft, out of Louisiana-Lafayette.
Not only would he be the Packers tallest target at tight end, he’d also be their fastest. He’s faster than Jermichael Finley was. The Packers have lacked a tight end capable of getting past linebackers and up the seam since Finley. Green would be a sensational addition and I’d sign the 25-year old to a four or five-year deal and not worry about TE in the draft this May.
I don’t expect any of these guys to command huge money. Forte is oldish at just-turned-30, has plenty of mileage, and running backs aren’t nearly as ‘valuable’ as the olden days. Forte could be had, in my opinion. He’s a good person off the field, a devout Christian much like Peppers, Rodgers, Jordy, Randall, Eddie, HaHa, Abbrederis, McCarthy. He’d fit right in, as Peppers has.
Remember, former Packer running back Edgar Bennett headed south to the Bears after the Packers let him go. Might it be time for Forte to head north?
Here’s more on Forte and his free agency situation. Please, Teddy, make a move for once and scoop him up. Don’t let Belichick grab another solid veteran. It’s no wonder why the Patriots have been in six of the past 12 or so Super Bowls. They draft well, but add proven smart pieces in the off-season as well.
Fleener will be too costly. I’m not sure how much Allen will command, or Green. But I’d love to see LaDarius added to our own LaDarius Gunter. Nobody else in the NFL would have two LaDarius on the roster, at least until the draft perhaps.
On passing downs, imagine Forte and Green added to the receivers coming back. I don’t think the passing game will be a weakness again as it was this year, even if Jordy doesn’t return to form.
Imagine, 51 weeks from now, entering the 2016-17 playoffs, this lineup on passing downs:
Forte has to be accounted for out of the backfield. He’s had 102 catches in one season, last year. He can run all kinds of routes.
LaDarius Green, as seen above, is very similar to Jermichael Finley, except a tad faster and is listed one inch taller. He can get past linebackers and pull safeties down the middle.
Jordy and Janis have now both shown that despite their pigmentation, they are able to run past cornerbacks and use their 6′ 3″ size to their advantage. Janis should only get better, and he’s really just started to scratch the surface of what he’s capable of. Remember, besides running past people now, he scored a short, improvised touchdown last night in Arizona.
As seen above, we could be loaded at wide receiver. I listed 6, already giving James Jones #89 jersey to Green. But we usually don’t keep 6 wide receivers, and we usually only play 4, so there aren’t enough balls to go around for all those guys. In my opinion, Adams is the one who adds the least, well except amount of passes dropped.
Ty Montgomery did very well in his third of a season. Rodgers’ passing rating when targeting Ty was over 100, which is pretty impressive for this season.
I suppose with Ted Thompson, we’d be lucky to add one of these guys. If only one, would you rather add the RB Forte or the TE Green? For me, that’s a tough call because I think we need a tight end that can get open, and get deep. That dimension has been missing since J-Mike was injured. And he’s younger than Forte by 5 years.