Just about any Packers fan knows (and laments about) how Green Bay kept 3 fullbacks on the 2009 roster. Could tight end be the position for roster overcrowding in 2010? As I mentioned on Cheesehead Radio last week, I think there’s a decent chance. Let me expand on that thought…
In 2009, the Packers selected Quinn Johnson in the 5th round of the NFL draft. Johnson had a hot and cold college career, but was unquestionably looked at as a physical specimen with athletic ability and raw talent that will require some time to develop.
In 2010, the Packers selected Andrew Quarless in the 5th round of the NFL draft. Quarless had a hot and cold college career, but was unquestionably looked at as an immature kid with athletic ability and raw talent that will require some time to develop.
In 2009, the Packers did not want to lose Quinn Johnson, by taking a chance on putting him on the practice squad. Certainly, a team like Carolina, who signed Tyrell Sutton and then later had to use him at fullback, would have taken Johnson in a heartbeat. If Johnson can learn to use his skills wisely and improve his pass blocking, the Packers will be very pleased with this pick in a few years.
In 2010, they have drafted a tight end that has a similar skill set as Jermichael Finley, and fits the mold of the modern-day NFL tight end. Putting Quarless on the practice squad is probably not an option. Let me tell you, as a Penn State fan that has seen him play in person several times, the kid has talent. If he can grow up and focus on his job, the Packers will be very happy with this pick in a few years.
In 2009, the Packers were supposedly putting an emphasis on special teams (not to say that it worked, though). Not being very deep at talent in the running back position, rather than keep a 4th RB that would never see the field, they kept 3 fullbacks, holding on to Hall and Kuhn, special teams contributors.
In 2010, the Packers are putting a major emphasis on special teams again (no. really! Mike McCarthy said so!). This year, with the drafting of James Starks and signing of Quinn Porter, keeping 4 running backs and two fullbacks is a more logical possibility. That means they probably lose a special teams contributor (Kuhn or Hall) at FB, but can gain one somewhere else – the logical choice would be at tight end.
While most people assume Donald Lee is the odd man out at the tight end position, I say, no so fast. Since I’m convinced Quarless will make the 53-man roster, that leaves Spencer Havner, Donald Lee and Tom Crabtree battling for one or two spots.
Lee has blocking skills the others don’t. And in the years (2005-06) before he became a full-time starter, Lee was a big contributor on special teams. The Packers have asked him to once again contribute there, working him heavily into the ST mix during OTAs. Lee is the “good soldier” type of guy that will play wherever he’s told to, something the Packers value highly. At the same time, Spencer Havner showed he could be a contributor in only his first year of playing tight end, so he’s not going anywhere.
In short, the Packers have four tight ends and very good reasons to want to hold on to each of them. At least for this year, when a run at the Super Bowl is definitely on the Packers Organization’s radar. Lee makes just over $2 million in 2010 and the Packers have shown they are not afraid to pay veterans to be backups and special teams guys (Poppinga, Chillar, etc.).
So don’t be surprised or upset, if much like 2009 was the year of the fullback for unconventional roster decisions, 2010 will become the year of the tight end. The Packers could keep Finley, Havner, Lee and Quarless. Yeah, four tight ends – that’s the ticket!——————
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.