With starting tight end Andrew Quarless dealing with the aftermath of being arrested early on July 4th, the Packers could be missing a key member of their offense in 2015, either due to suspension or release.
Quarless was arrested after firing a weapon in public while in Miami yesterday morning. The team released a statement on their official website, noting they will not make any decisions until they have more information.
“We are aware of the matter involving Andrew Quarless and are in the process of gathering more information. We will withhold further comment.”
More information seems more likely to hurt Quarless than help him, and many fans and pundits expect his release. He is in the second year of a two-year deal that he signed last offseason, and is due a base salary of $1.3MM plus roster and workout bonuses.
Although he was a starter, he caught only 29 passes for 323 yards last season, and has career totals of only 85 catches and 909 yards in his four years with the team. Still, whether Aaron Rodgers needs big production from tight end or not, losing a starter is rarely a good thing, and he will need to be replaced.
If they choose to look to free agency, Jermaine Gresham remains available as one of the best overall players on the market. He should be easy to sign on a short-term deal, and has experience both as a pass catcher and blocker as a former first-round pick in Cincinnati.
The 6’6″ Gresham has had consistent production since coming out of Oklahoma has a big-time playmaker at the position. His numbers came in between 45 and 65 catches each of his professional seasons, catching between four and six touchdowns each year. While those numbers were underwhelming considering his hype coming out of college, he was a reliable option for Andy Dalton, and could thrive in the Green Bay offense.
Zach Miller, formerly of the Seahawks, could also be a relatively cheap option, but after Gresham the market is weak for tight ends. Miller is entering his age-30 season, and hasn’t produced much of anything since leaving Oakland for Seattle in 2011. He missed most of the 2014 season with an ankle injury, but is not the player he once was even if he gets healthy.
Besides Gresham and maybe Miller, the list of available players at the position (courtesy of Spotrac.com) is full of uninspiring choices who either have no history of producing on the field or a long gap since the last time they were effective players.
Signing or trading for an impact player at the position is out of character for the Packers and general manager Ted Thompson anyway. The most likely scenario is an upgrade in role for second-year tight end Richard Rodgers, who caught 20 passes for the team in 2014. They also drafted Kennard Backman in the sixth round, who could see some action in a backup role.
Either way, smart money says it will not be Quarless catching passes in Green Bay this coming season.