Detroit Lions, NFC North positional previews: Tight Ends
Green Bay Packers
Key returning players: Jimmy Graham, Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis
New additions: Jace Sternberger (R)
Key losses: Lance Kendricks
Though the Green Bay Packers have never had a standout star at tight end during his tenure, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a habit of helping many of his receivers elevate their performance thanks to his demanding leadership and powerful right arm. That could be a necessity in 2019, as the Packers have question marks at the position.
They return veteran Jimmy Graham, who seemed to lose a step last season, and carries an exorbitant cap hit of over $12 million into 2019. Graham did manage to eclipse 600 yards receiving for the seventh time in his career, but had difficulty gaining consistent separation at age 32, and only reached the end zone twice. It’s probably unreasonable for the Packers to expect much more than that from him at this point, despite his hefty price tag.
Veteran Marcedes Lewis also remains on the roster at press time. Though he is almost strictly a blocker at this point – just three receptions in 2018 – he could once again serve as an important veteran voice in the locker room, should he be retained. He is also fairly durable, missing just six games over the past four seasons
With some aging members in the unit, the Packers will look for second-year man Robert Tonyan and rookie third rounder Jace Sternberger to make an impact in 2019. A converted receiver, Tonyan is still learning the position and totaled just 77 yards through the air last year, though 54 of them came on this reception. Could more big plays be in store?
Sternberger arrives from Texas A&M with a reputation as a prolific receiver and an underdeveloped blocker. Not satisfied with his role at Kansas, he joined the Aggies as a transfer and put up impressive numbers in his junior year, including ten touchdowns. With just one true season of consistent playing time and production, he is still relatively raw for the position. The Packers may be forced to look to him early however, due to the aging and unproven options that comprise the rest of this unit.