Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst got a chance to see his shorthanded team take on a top contender on the road on Thursday night. The result was an impressive win over the previously unbeaten Arizona Cardinals, but the Packers also lost starting tight end Robert Tonyan to a season-ending knee injury.
Gutekunst now has five days to determine if he has any legitimate holes in his roster and if he wants to use a trade to fill one before next Tuesday’s deadline.
Tight end could be one area he decides to address, especially after losing Tonyan, and there’s an intriguing option available. Mark Schofield of Touchdown Wire suggested the Packers make a serious run at New York Giants tight end Evan Engram, who was named a Pro Bowler over Tonyan last season.
After a slow start, Tonyan was heating up at the time of his knee injury; he caught seven passes for 112 yards and a touchdown over the last two games. And he was injured on a crucial 33-yard catch in the second half on Thursday night.
The Packers really don’t have another player like Tonyan, who was the offense’s primary receiving threat at tight end. Marcedes Lewis is the primary inline tight end, and Josiah Deguara and Dominique Dafney are both mostly H-back or move tight ends.
Gutekunst has been aggressive and wildly successful in replacing injured players with veterans this year. Randall Cobb, Rasul Douglas and Whitney Mercilus have all played key roles in recent wins.
Could Engram come in and give the Packers another receiving threat to help replace Tonyan’s impact?
Engram is a dynamic athlete at 6-3 and 240 pounds. He’s been a highly inefficient receiver in New York, especially over the last few seasons, but it’s hard to accurately evaluate his impact due to the quarterback play with the Giants. Although not guaranteed, a change in scheme to Matt LaFleur’s tight end friendly offense and an opportunity to play with Aaron Rodgers could help transform Engram from an inefficient and overused target in New York to a playmaking weapon in Green Bay.
LaFleur and Rodgers turned Tonyan into a playmaker. He averaged 9.0 yards per target and caught 79.5 percent of his targets over the last two seasons.
Engram is a free agent after this season and might not come with an expensive price tag, although interest could be high among contenders.
The Packers are in an interesting spot. This team just scored a huge win over a conference contender, and they’re expecting to get back stars such as David Bakhtiari and Davante Adams soon. Gutekunst has to view the Packers as Super Bowl caliber, and any and all avenues of helping weak spots – like at tight end – should be considered at the deadline.
Imagine a scenario in January where the Packers are facing 3rd-and-long in a big spot and a defense like the Buccaneers goes to double team Adams. Could a dynamic athlete like Engram split the seam of a two-shell coverage and create a big play?
We’ll see if Engram is the right fit at the right cost, but the Packers just lost a top target in the passing game and might not have an obvious replacement. If the Packers aren’t fully confident Deguara and Dafney can seamlessly assume Tonyan’s role, calling about Engram’s availability is something Gutekunst should do for his team, a true Super Bowl contender.
Packers TE Robert Tonyan suffers season-ending ACL tear
Packers RB Kylin Hill suffered season-ending knee injury vs. Cardinals
Good, bad and ugly from Packers’ 24-21 win over Cardinals