Packers free agent review: TE Marcedes Lewis

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Brandon Carwile
·4 min read
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The Green Bay Packers are going into the 2021 offseason needing to make decisions on a number of important unrestricted free agents. Over the next few weeks, we’ll review the individual situation for all the major players with expiring contracts.

Next up: Marcedes Lewis, also known as “Big Dog,” the Packers’ veteran tight end coming off his 15th NFL season:

Season stats

AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith

Lewis is in Green Bay for his blocking, and his best days as a pass catcher are long gone, but when he does get his chances in the passing game, he tends to make the most of them. Lewis caught 10 out of 17 targets in 2020, totaling 107 yards and three touchdowns. The three touchdowns were the most Lewis has scored since he had five in 2017. His top play of the season was arguably his 18-yard touchdown grab against the New Orleans Saints when he made a contested catch on the sideline before falling into the end zone. In three seasons with the Packers, Lewis has only caught 28 passes, but each one always seems memorable. However, Green Bay predominately uses Lewis as a blocker rather than a pass catcher. His skill set has benefited Aaron Rodgers and the backfield, including Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and, as of this past year, A.J. Dillon. Rodgers won this third NFL MVP in 2020, and the Packers finished with the eighth-best rushing offense. It’s not a stretch to say Lewis had a hand in both. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the eighth-best run-blocking tight end for the year. In pass protection, Lewis allowed just three pressures in 54 snaps. Lewis finished the year with more catches than he had in a single game all season with three receptions for 28 yards in the NFC Championship Game.

Snap counts

Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

Lewis played 15 games this season and was on the field for both playoff games. The only game he missed was Week 4 against the Atlanta Falcons as he dealt with a knee injury. Lewis played 422 offensive snaps, and almost 55 percent of those snaps came as a run blocker. Including the playoffs, Lewis played roughly 41 percent of the team's snaps on offense. He only topped 50 percent of the total snaps on offense in three games, including the divisional round facing the Los Angeles Rams. His season-low was against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 8. Lewis played only 20 snaps, which accounted for 27 percent of the total snaps on offense. From Year 1 to Year 2 in Matt LaFleur’s offense, Lewis’ snap count decreased by 124. He was also cut out on special teams. In 2019, Lewis played 59 snaps on special teams, but this year, he didn't play a single snap during the regular season.

Season review

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Even at 36 years of age, Lewis has proven he can still play at a relatively high level. However, it can only be on a minimal basis. He’s Green Bay’s best run-blocking tight end, but that can also serve as a tell for the opposing defense because, on more than half of his snaps, the Packers are running the ball. Still, the offense is extremely effective at running the ball when Lewis is on the field. As a pass-catcher, Lewis is limited in his route running and his ability to get yards after the catch, but he is still reliable in the passing game. He doesn’t drop passes, and on plays where he is in pass protection, it’s almost like having a third offensive tackle out there. However, Lewis didn’t play as large of a role as he did in 2019. His snaps on offense decreased, and he hardly contributed at all on special teams. However, it was still a good year for Lewis, all things considered.

Future value to Packers

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Lewis spoke to TMZ this past weekend and said he has no plans to retire. He also expressed his desire to remain in Green Bay. This should be doable on the Packers' end because even with little cap space, Lewis is willing to play for the vet minimum. Green Bay should be jumping on this move based not only on Lewis’ role in the offense but his presence in the locker room. He and Rodgers have formed a powerful relationship over these last three years and everyone else speaks highly of Lewis’ work ethic. From a playing standpoint, the Packers don’t have anyone who is quite ready to take over Lewis’ place as a dominant blocking tight end. It appears they are grooming Isaac Nauta and possibly Josiah Deguara or Dominique Dafney for that position, but both would be a significant downgrade compared to Lewis. Re-signing Lewis on another one-year deal should be a quick, easy decision for Green Bay.

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