Packers free agent review: WR Allen Lazard

The Green Bay Packers are exiting the 2022 season and entering the 2023 offseason in need of making decisions on a number of important free agents. Over the next weeks, we’ll review the individual situation for all the major players with expiring contracts.

First up: wide receiver Allen Lazard.

Season stats

Over 15 games, Lazard set career-highs in targets (100), catches (60) and receiving yards (788). He caught six touchdown passes, giving him 14 over the last two seasons, and averaged 7.9 yards per target, 13.1 yards per catch and 52.5 yards per game. Per Pro Football Focus, Lazard averaged 1.61 yards per route run, which ranked 25th among receivers with at least 100 targets. On contested targets, Lazard caught nine of 23. He had a catch of at least 20 yards in eight of 15 games, and 45 of his 60 catches either gained a first down or scored a touchdown. Six of his catches of 20 or more yards came on third or fourth down. He also drew two defensive pass interference penalties. His passer rating when targeted was just 85.8 thanks to five interceptions thrown his way.

Snap counts

Lazard played a career-high 863 snaps on offense, meaning he was on the field for 89 percent of the offense’s snaps in 2022. In 2021 and 2022, Lazard played 73 percent of snaps, so his play time got a big boost as the de facto No. 1 receiver. He played 80 percent or more of snaps in 13 of his 15 games. Lazard missed Week 1 with a foot injury and Week 8 with a shoulder injury.

2022 season review

Lazard’s forced attempt to be a No. 1 receiver was mostly a failure, even if he remained an efficient and reliable weapon in the passing game and an important and versatile part of the blocking plan in the run game. Lazard had a touchdown catch or at least 50 receiving yards in 12 of his 15 games, but he also finished with 75 or more receiving yards in just three games. He ranked tied for 51st in the NFL in catches, 39th in receiving yards and tied for 24th in touchdown catches. Of his six touchdown catches, five came during the first eight weeks. The Packers were great when he was most efficient; Green Bay was 4-0 when Lazard averaged 9.0 yards per target or more. He was also on the field for a career-high 344 run plays, highlighting what he means to the offense as a blocker. By DVOA, Lazard ranked 29th out of 85 qualifying wide receivers.

Future value to Packers

High, although he’ll have plenty of value to other teams seeking a versatile wide receiver on the open market. Lazard is an ideal fit in Green Bay, where his consistent ability to make plays on third down and in the red zone meshes perfectly with his willingness and ability as a do-it-all blocker in the run game. Is Lazard a true No. 1 receiver? Probably not in the traditional sense, but he won’t need to be in many places, including Green Bay. Regardless of who is playing quarterback for the Packers in 2023, Lazard has real value as an efficient complementary weapon. The questions will be: Can the Packers afford to keep him, does he make sense contractually long-term, and does Lazard even want to return?

Stay or go?

It’s certainly possible – given the Packers’ salary cap situation and the weaknesses of the wide receiver free agency class – that Lazard will find a more attractive offer from one of the other 31 NFL teams come March. At his locker following the season-finale loss to the Detroit Lions, Lazard seemed resigned to his fate knowing the defeat was probably his last game playing for the Packers. He played on cheap deals each of the last three years and didn’t get a long-term offer, which probably has him ready to see what the open market has to offer. If Aaron Rodgers returns to Green Bay in 2023, keeping Lazard could become a top priority. But even in that scenario, the financial side of the equation might not work out. The guess here is that Lazard understands his value, chooses to maximize his return in free agency and departs Green Bay for a better deal elsewhere.

Poll: Vote on Twitter!

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire