Packers Rumors

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 7/11/20

We’ll keep track of today’s mid- to late-round draft pick signings here:

  • The Jaguars have signed fourth-round offensive tackle Ben Bartch. The six-foot-six, 305-pound rookie spent four seasons at Division III St. John’s University in Minnesota, including his first two as a tight end. He transitioned to offensive tackle before his junior season, and he earned first-team All-MIAC nod during his senior year. When Jacksonville used pick No. 116 on Bartch, he became the first Division III player to be drafted in five years, and he was the first St. John’s player to be drafted since 1974. Also, as if you didn’t like him already, Bartch previously relied on a, uh, unique smoothie of eggs, cottage cheese, grits, peanut butter, banana, and Gatorade to put on weight as an offensive lineman, thus leading to the nickname “Smoothie King.”
  • The Packers have signed center Jake Hanson to his rookie deal. The Oregon product was selected with pick No. 208, one of three offensive lineman selected by Green Bay in the sixth round (along with John Runyan Jr. (No. 192) and Simon Stepaniak (No. 209)). Hanson didn’t allow a sack through his first three seasons with the Ducks, and he ultimately started 49 games during his four-year career. The lineman earned a pair of AP second team all-Pac-12 selections during his time at Oregon. Third-round tight end Josiah Deguara is now the Packers’ only unsigned rookie.

Latest On NFL, COVID-19

While the NFL and NFLPA are reportedly close to agreeing to a set of gameday protocols that would nominally attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the two sides still haven’t officially worked out an accord regarding a training camp and preseason schedule. Let’s take a look at the latest as the league and the union work through a variety of health-related issues:

  • NFLPA president J.C. Tretter recently outlined the union’s stance on a number of items, including support for a NFL/NFLPA Joint Committee of doctors-recommended 48-day training camp schedule and the elimination of the preseason (the league prefers to keep two exhibition games in place). While the NFL didn’t publicly comment on Tretter’s piece, one source called the post “very disappointing and contrary to the sense of collaboration going back to the early days of mid-March,” tweets Tom Pelissero of NFL.com.
  • The timing of training camp and the length of the preseason remain key issues. The NFL wanted players to report for camp earlier than the CBA allows in order to fit in a longer schedule, but the union has declined to do so, per Pelissero (Twitter link).
  • The aforementioned Joint Committee recommended one-to-two preseason games, but the league is still standing firm on zero exhibition games, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post (Twitter link). Appearing on WEEI, NFLPA senior director of player affairs Don Davis questioned why two preseason games would be any safer than four. A source tells Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link) that preseason contests are likely to be used a bargaining chip.
  • Amidst the ongoing pandemic, a number of clubs have proactively announced that games will feature limited capacity seating. Of course, those teams are assuming that fans will be allowed to attend contests at all, which is far from a given at this point. So far, the Packers, Chiefs, and Ravens have each announced plans for reduced capacities.

Packers Sign Fifth-Round LB Kamal Martin

The Packers announced that they’ve signed fifth-round linebacker Kamal Martin to his rookie contract.

Martin may have been drafted earlier than the fifth round were it not for a knee injury that cost him several games during his senior season at Minnesota. The 6’3″, 240-pounder eventually underwent surgery and missed the combine, but former NFL scout and Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy tweeted that Martin would have a been a top-three senior linebacker had his medical history been less checkered.

Despite missing games in 2019, Martin was still named honorable mention All-Big-10 after posting 66 tackles and two interceptions in eight contests. Nagy says Martin is a prototypically “long and athletic space linebacker” who could prove to be something of a steal for Green Bay.

The Packers now have just two members of their 2020 draft class that remain unsigned. Here’s the full list:

1-26: Jordan Love, QB (Utah State): Signed
2-62: A.J. Dillon, RB (Boston College): Signed
3-94: Josiah Deguara, TE (Cincinnati)
5-175: Kamal Martin, LB (Minnesota): Signed
6-192: Jon Runyan, G (Michigan): Signed
6-208: Jake Hanson, C (Oregon)
6-209: Simon Stepaniak, T (Indiana): Signed
7-236: Vernon Scott, S (TCU): Signed
7-242: Jonathan Garvin, DE (Miami): Signed

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rookie WR Brandon Aiyuk, Rookie QB Jordan Love Received Fully Guaranteed Deals

It sounds like players and agents are making progress in getting guaranteed money for all first rounders. ESPN’s Dan Graziano reports (via Twitter) that 49ers wideout Brandon Aiyuk (No. 25) and Packers quarterback Jordan Love (No. 26) received fully guaranteed rookie deals.

This is a significant difference from last year, when only the first 24 picks received fully-guaranteed deals. Last year’s 25th and 26th picks were Ravens receiver Marquise Brown and Redskins defensive end Montez Sweat, respectively. It’s worth pointing out that both the 49ers and Packers traded up for those aforementioned rookies, so it’s not shocking that the front offices were comfortable enough giving guaranteed money.

San Francisco sent No. 31, No. 117, and No. 176 to Minnesota for No. 25, which they used on Aiyuk. The Arizona State product earned first team All-Pac-12 honors in 2019 after hauling in 65 receptions for 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns. The wideout should have a chance to contribute immediately for San Francisco; Emmanuel Sanders departed in free agency while second-year pro Deebo Samuel recently suffered a broken foot. The 49ers signed Aiyuk to his rookie deal last month.

The Packers surprised many when they traded No. 30 and No. 136 to Miami in order to select Love at No. 26. The quarterback got into 13 games for Utah State in 2019, completing 61.9-percent of his passes for 3,402 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. While the three rookie QBs drafted in front of him will be starting sooner than later, Love will likely serve as Aaron Rodgers‘ backup for the next few years. The Packers signed their rookie quarterback earlier this week.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Sign QB Jordan Love

Aaron Rodgers‘ heir apparent is officially in the fold. On Wednesday, the Packers officially announced the signing of quarterback Jordan Love.

[RELATED: Packers Sign A.J. Dillon]

The Packers were rumored to be interested in the Utah State QB before the draft, but it was still a surprise to see them trade up to take Love in the first round. The Packers gave up pick No. 136 in the fourth-round to move up four spots, grabbing the promising youngster at No. 26 overall. In accordance with his slot, Love will earn $12.38MM over the full life of the four-year contract and collect a $5.56MM signing bonus.

Opinions were split on Love heading into the draft. He was viewed as a potential top pick after a dominant sophomore season where he averaged 8.6 yards per attempt with 32 touchdowns and six interceptions. Then, in 2019, Love regressed – he averaged just 7.2 yards per attempt with 20 touchdowns against 17 interceptions.

Meanwhile, no one’s quite sure of what this means for Rodgers.

I’m not going to talk about all that we talked about, but he was … let’s just say surprised that they went in that direction,” Rodgers’ predecessor Brett Favre said in May. I think he’ll play somewhere else.”

Favre’s “gut” tells him that Rodgers won’t finish his career in Green Bay. For now, he’s under contract through 2023 with cap numbers in excess of $36MM in 2021 and ’22.

With Love signed, the Packers have just three stragglers to go. Here’s the full rundown of their draft class, via PFR’s tracker:

1-26: Jordan Love, QB (Utah State): Signed
2-62: A.J. Dillon, RB (Boston College): Signed
3-94: Josiah Deguara, TE (Cincinnati)
5-175: Kamal Martin, LB (Minnesota)
6-192: Jon Runyan, G (Michigan): Signed
6-208: Jake Hanson, C (Oregon)
6-209: Simon Stepaniak, T (Indiana): Signed
7-236: Vernon Scott, S (TCU): Signed
7-242: Jonathan Garvin, DE (Miami): Signed

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Sign A.J. Dillon

The Packers have formally signed second-round pick A.J. Dillon, per a club announcement. The running back out of Boston College is set to earn $5.29MM over the course of his four-year deal, per the terms of his slot at No. 62 overall. That sum includes a $1.404MM signing bonus.

Dillon dazzled as a frosh, running for 1,589 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was slowed a bit by a leg injury in 2018, but he came roaring back last year. In his final year at BC, Dillon posted 1,685 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns while putting together one heck of a highlight reel. Among his brightest moments – a pair of 200-yard games, against NC State and Syracuse.

Dillon, who once thought his football future was at linebacker, stands at nearly 6’0″ and weighs roughly 250 pounds. The powerful runner will now look to make a dent as a pro, playing alongside incumbent starter Aaron Jones.

Here’s the full rundown of the Packers’ 2020 NFL Draft class, courtesy of PFR’s tracker:

1-26: Jordan Love, QB (Utah State)
2-62: A.J. Dillon, RB (Boston College): Signed
3-94: Josiah Deguara, TE (Cincinnati)
5-175: Kamal Martin, LB (Minnesota)
6-192: Jon Runyan, G (Michigan): Signed
6-208: Jake Hanson, C (Oregon)
6-209: Simon Stepaniak, T (Indiana): Signed
7-236: Vernon Scott, S (TCU): Signed
7-242: Jonathan Garvin, DE (Miami): Signed

Jordy Nelson Discussed Packers Return With Aaron Rodgers

Before the start of last season, Jordy Nelson discussed a potential Packers return with Aaron Rodgers (via Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal). However, with the 2020 season on the horizon, the wide receiver insists he’s happy in retirement. 

[RELATED: Matt LaFleur Promises Better Play Calling]

We’re not coming back,” Nelson recently told Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal. “There’s no doubt about that. We’re done.”

Nelson, 35 in May, was released in March of 2018. After that, he hooked on with the Raiders, where he had 63 catches for 739 yards in his lone season in silver and black. The Raiders dropped Nelson last March and, two weeks later, he announced his retirement. Somewhere in that timeframe, Rodgers and Nelson chatted about un-retirement, but it sounds like the Packers front office wasn’t on board.

I don’t know how serious they got, just because there’s only so much control that we had over it. There’s other people in the organization who make those decisions.” Nelson said. “So I wasn’t going to dive into a hardcore conversation unless I knew there was a chance to come back. I think [Rodgers] knew deep down that if there was an opportunity right after Oakland, I probably would have [returned]. But obviously it’s not up to us.”

Over the course of his career, Nelson snagged 8,500 receiving yards, 72 touchdowns, and a Super Bowl ring. He wasn’t in top form with Oakland, but he still managed 12.2 yards per catch, up from his career-low 9.1 average in his final Packers season.

Nelson admits that he had the itch to play football over golf last year, but he says he’s sticking with retirement.

Packers Notes: Rodgers, LaFleur, Bakhtiari, Taylor

The Packers’ offense lacked its usual punch in 2019 and, so far, they have yet to add a playmaker this offseason. If the Packers aren’t able to address that need between now and September, head coach Matt LaFleur believes that he can make a difference from the sideline.

It does start with the playcalling, maybe taking a few more chances to try to help generate those plays down the field,” said LaFleur (via ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky). “Typically, if you’re getting explosives, you’ve got a much better chance at scoring points.”

Last year, the Packers ranked 20th in explosive plays – passes of 20 yards or more and runs for at least ten yards. But, as Demovsky notes, it wasn’t the result of a conservative strategy. Aaron Rodgers had the league’s fifth-highest rate of pass attempts for 15+ yards and placed third in attempts for 20+ yards.

For now, the Packers are hoping that wide receiver Devin Funchess, second-round running back A.J. Dillon and third-round tight end Josiah Deguara will make a difference.

Here’s more out of Green Bay:

  • After taking a pay cut in late May, Packers guard Lane Taylor will earn just $910K in base salary this year, according to Demovsky (on Twitter). He’s now set to count for $2.4MM against the cap in his final year under contract, saving the team roughly $3MM against the cap. The Packers now have about $14MM to spend, which could give them some room to add a playmaker for Rodgers.
  • The extra cap room could also help the Packers lock up left tackle David Bakhtiari. In 2016, the Packers made Bakhtiari one of the five highest-paid tackles in the NFL with a four-year, $48MM extension. Now set to enter his final year, Bakhtiari’s value is tough to peg, as Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette writes. Bakhtiari, 29 in September, is one of the league’s best outside protectors, but he did regress slightly in 2019. Last year, he was flagged 12 times, his highest penalty total since 2015. For his part, Bakhtiari says that it was the product of adjusting to a new system. “The false starts are … I mean, that’s just unacceptable,” Bakhtiari said. “That just really comes down to thinking more about the concepts. Also just being new to a bunch of new things that are going on, So I’m taking my thought process away from the cadence. I think I kind of situated that and ironed that out.”
  • The Packers inked rookie Jon Runyan Jr. late last week, officially bringing one of Bakhtiari’s new backups into the fold.

Packers Sign Jon Runyan Jr.

The Packers signed sixth-round guard Jon Runyan Jr., according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Michigan product is, of course, the son of longtime NFL tackle Jon Runyan

The younger Runyan was the first of three linemen selected by the Packers in the sixth-round. After calling his name at No. 192 overall, they nabbed Oregon center Jake Hanson (No. 208) and Indiana tackle Simon Stepaniak (Indiana). With Runyan, Stepaniak, and seventh-rounders Vernon Scott and Jonathan Garvin under contract, the Packers still have five rookies left to sign from this year’s class.

Like his dad, Runyan has a pro-ready build for the tackle position. He stands at 6’4″ and 307 pounds, a few inches shorter than his pops but only ~20 pounds lighter.

Here’s the full rundown of the Packers’ class, via PFR’s 2020 NFL Draft Tracker:

1-26: Jordan Love, QB (Utah State)
2-62: A.J. Dillon, RB (Boston College)
3-94: Josiah Deguara, TE (Cincinnati)
5-175: Kamal Martin, LB (Minnesota)
6-192: Jon Runyan, G (Michigan): Signed
6-208: Jake Hanson, C (Oregon)
6-209: Simon Stepaniak, T (Indiana): Signed
7-236: Vernon Scott, S (TCU): Signed
7-242: Jonathan Garvin, DE (Miami): Signed

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Sign Rookie Simon Stepaniak

The Packers are making headway on their rookie class by starting from the bottom. On Monday afternoon, the Packers announced the signing of sixth-round guard Simon Stepaniak.

Stepaniak started 31 games for the Hoosiers across four years, including the last two years in which he served as the team’s first-string right guard. In accordance with his slot, he’ll get a four-year deal worth just under $3.5MM.

At 6’4″ and 315 pounds, evaluators are high on his raw natural strength. He’ll still have to shake some rust from his December ACL tear, but his future looks bright, especially since he can offer support at right guard, left guard, and center.

Stepaniak’s deal comes on the heels of completed contracts with seventh-round safety Vernon Scott and seventh-round edge rusher Jonathan Garvin. As shown in PFR’s 2020 NFL Draft Pick Signing Tracker, the Packers now have three of their nine selections under contract:

1-26: Jordan Love, QB (Utah State)
2-62: A.J. Dillon, RB (Boston College)
3-94: Josiah Deguara, TE (Cincinnati)
5-175: Kamal Martin, LB (Minnesota)
6-192: Jon Runyan, G (Michigan)
6-208: Jake Hanson, C (Oregon)
6-209: Simon Stepaniak, T (Indiana): Signed
7-236: Vernon Scott, S (TCU): Signed
7-242: Jonathan Garvin, DE (Miami): Signed

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.