If one is good, two is better, apparently, as the Packers added a second tight end in as many days Saturday, signing free agent Lance Kendricks.
General manager Ted Thompson announced the move, which comes a day after Green Bay inked unrestricted free-agent tight end Martellus Bennett to a three-year, nearly $21 million deal. The terms of Kendricks' contract were not made available.
Kendricks, a Milwaukee native and former Badgers standout, was selected by the Rams in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft and played the last six seasons in St. Louis. He appeared in 93 games with 79 starts for the Rams, including starting all 16 in 2016, when he set a career high with 50 receptions for 499 yards (10.0 average) and two touchdowns. For his career, Kendricks has 204 catches for 2,132 yards (10.5 average) and 17 touchdowns.
The move adds depth at tight end for the Packers, who will have Bennett as the starter and primary receiving target, as well as veteran holdover Richard Rodgers. It’s possible Thompson viewed Kendricks as needed insurance, in case Bennett – who played through nagging ankle and shoulder injuries last year – gets hurt. Last season, Green Bay’s offense was at its best with athletic, field-stretching tight end Jared Cook – who missed six games due to injury but was a much-needed playmaker in the playoffs – healthy and contributing.
Despite the career year, last season ended in an unhappy way for Kendricks from a business standpoint. He came up one yard short of a $250,000 incentive bonus and was released by the Rams with two years still remaining on his four-year, $18.5 million contract. Kendricks would have earned $4.25 million this season in combined salary and bonuses.
Kendricks is a Rufus King High School graduate and University of Wisconsin alumnus who said he grew up an avid Packers fan.
"It means a lot to be able to represent Green Bay and this community and this culture, and everything it stands for," Kendricks told the team’s website. "Just the tradition and culture here of people loving the game of football. I went to Madison. It’s a very similar, if not the same, culture of people being passionate for their Badgers or Packers or whatever it is. That and seeing how much fun the players have.
"It definitely was a big part of my decision knowing this is a winning organization and this team has won, and will continue to win."
Kendricks’ best attributes are his athleticism – he was a member of the Badgers’ track team in 2007 – and his durability, having played in 15 or 16 games in each of his six NFL seasons. His flaws include his smaller size (6-foot-3, 250 pounds) and lack of significant production, though the Rams’ deficient quarterbacking was partially to blame for that. From 2013-15, Kendricks backed up Cook in St. Louis, before the latter signed with the Packers last offseason.
The quarterbacking won't be a problem in Green Bay, where Kendricks will be receiving passes from Aaron Rodgers, who seemed happy with the Bennett signing, as well.
Kendricks is the second Milwaukee native on the Packers’ current roster, joining safety Marwin Evans, who made the team as an undrafted rookie last year.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.