Packers can’t let Robert Tonyan go

Amid a flurry of offseason speculation, one of the Green Bay Packers’ untapped superstars has been hiding under the radar: Robert “Bobby” Tonyan Jr. suffers a torn ACL in Week 8 against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Aaron Rodgers saga and some injury issues have resulted in some relief press for Tonyan as he enters his first year of free agency. Don’t let that downplay his importance to the pack, especially now.

Tonyan is one of a handful of Packers free agents who have an uncertain future at Titletown. Cap space is limited and Tonyan’s 2021 campaign was a far cry from the clinic he hosted in 2020.

After racking up 568 yards on 52 catches (59 targets) with 11 touchdowns in 2020, Tonyan had a measly 204 yards and two scores in 2021. The Indiana State alum’s catch percentage rose from 88.1 % in 2020 to just 62.1% in 2021, numbers that don’t necessarily scream franchise tight end.

The numbers don’t lie. But neither were the circumstances, and Tonyan’s drop in 2021 wasn’t solely his fault.

In 2020, Green Bay had the luxury of a healthy offensive line for most of the season. This allowed third-year pro Tonyan to step down the court because he was less focused on blocking and protecting Rodgers.

But last year, starters Josh Myers, Elgton Jenkins and Green Bay legend David Bakhtiari were all out for chunks of the 2021 season. Teams expect even the best tight ends to catch passes, block, and Tonyan did.

However, that doesn’t make up for his low pass catch percentage, the lowest of his four-year career. Still, the injuries are out of the player’s control. Who’s to say Tonyan wouldn’t have turned it on if he had the opportunity to play nine more games?

Tonyan’s value compares well to the rest of Green Bay’s tight core. He is an elite pass catcher and adequate blocker. Veteran Marcedes Lewis has proven to be an excellent blocker. However, he lacks speed and receiver traits as he prepares to enter his 13th season. Josiah Deguara will enter his third season in the NFL in 2022 and is arguably a stronger tackler than Tonyan. Still, Tonyan’s potential receiving ability is significantly higher than Deguara’s.

Green Bay has league-wide stars in every other talent position. Therefore, it makes the case for extending Tonyan attractive. He would be the last piece of the puzzle. And that some of those stars aren’t in Green Bay next season is essential.

Despite the recent announcement that Rodgers favorite coach Tom Clements will join the team, there is no guarantee the No.12 will return to Green Bay. There’s a good chance that elite wide Davante Adams will leave if Rodgers does.

If that scenario plays out, the Packers will need a Swiss army knife-like Tonyan to protect a new quarterback while also posing a threat on the field. If Rodgers and Adams stay, Tonyan could cement himself as Travis Kelce for Patrick Mahomes and Rob Gronkowski for Tom Brady for Rodgers.

While we can assume Tonyan and his side will be asking for more money this offseason, the fact that he’s spent a good chunk of 2021 on the sidelines could drive his price down.

The noise Tonyan made in 2020 turned heads across the league. If George Kittle, Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews are on Tight Elite Island, Tonyan is on shore in his boat. The 27-year-old has a massive upside and could prove not just valuable, but a necessity in the years to come.

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