The Green Bay Packers finished the 2020 NFL season with the highest scoring offense in the NFL. Clearly, there were very few weaknesses on the offensive side of the ball, much to the surprise of many. Perhaps infamously, the Packers did not take a wide receiver in the draft last year. Their main free agent signing at the position, Devin Funchess, opted out of the year due to COVID concerns. While the receiving core played well, there was one spot in the core that could use a tune up: slot receiver. One who has been linked to the Packers in the past is Curtis Samuel, and this may be the year the Packers pull the trigger to get him.
Curtis Samuel’s Career
If the Packers acquire Curtis Samuel, it still mean that Aaron Rodgers will not have a former first round pick at receiver to throw to. Samuel was taken in the second round of the 2017 draft by the Carolina Panthers, who he has spent his entire career with so far.
In each of his four seasons, Samuel has increased his number of receptions and receiving yards. Last season, though his touchdown numbers were down, he had the best season of his career. In 16 games (five starts), Samuel recorded 77 receptions for 851 yards. He also had a 79.4% catch rate, by far the best of his career. In addition, Samuel added 41 rushes for 200 rushing yards, good for 4.9 yards per attempt.
Interestingly, these 2020 numbers, as the team’s third receiving option, were by far and away better than his 2019 numbers when he was the team’s second option. In 2019, he played 16 games (15 starts), and had 54 receptions for 627 yards and six touchdowns.
How Samuel Will Fit with the Packers
The addition of Curtis Samuel makes perfect sense for both sides. As mentioned, the Packers could really use a slot receiver. They have not had an effective player at that position since Randall Cobb.
Last season, the offense was most effective when Tyler Ervin was able to move prior to the snap and keep defenses honest. Samuel could provide this kind of help to the offense, and likely will garner more production than Ervin. He is a good rusher, he has sure hands, and has all the intangibles the Packers would like to see from the slot.
For Samuel, the Packers make sense because, as mentioned, he is best as a third option. The Packers, of course, have Davante Adams as their number one receiver. Allen Lazard and MVS both had bright moments in 2020 and could slide in as the second starter again in 2021. If everyone stays healthy, the Packers could have five receivers (including Robert Tonyan) go over 500 yards receiving in 2021.
The Cap Question
Of course, any free agent signing or trade largely depends on what the Packers can do with their cap situation. Tough decisions are going to be made and some familiar faces will not be back in 2021. That being said, Russ Ball is a cap magician, as he has shown in the past. Samuel will not command top dollar on the free agent market and could be had for a reasonable price.