Releasing wide receiver Jake Kumerow during last summer’s roster cuts may have had farther-reaching consequences than the Green Bay Packers intended.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, part of the ongoing dispute between veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers stems from the three-time NFL MVP’s desire to be more involved with the organization’s personnel decisions. And evidently, Rodgers was miffed after one roster decision in particular last season that Rapoport’s source described as a “death knell” in his relationship with team management.
Here’s what Rapoport said Monday about Kumerow’s connection to the current Rodgers drama on NFL Network:
“And then Rodgers, I’m told, also wanted to be more involved in some of the personnel decisions. This is crazy, but it does seem like the one thing that drove Rodgers nuts was when the organization released Jake Kumerow just a day after he praised him publically, described as a little bit of a ‘death knell’ in the relationship. So much here to fix, and I know the Packers are now trying to fix it.”
From NFL Now: Summing up the #Packers situation with QB Aaron Rodgers, who also wanted more input in personnel decisions… and how the Jake Kumerow release (!!) played into it. pic.twitter.com/EOGG9aQg3R
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 3, 2021
The latest Packers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Packers newsletter here!
Join Heavy on Packers!
Rodgers Was High on Kumerow’s Potential
The Packers had a disjointed receiving picture at the start of 2020 training camp. They neglected to draft any new personnel for the position in the spring and lost their only free-agent signing, Devin Funchess, to an opt-out decision. As far as experience went, Kumerow appeared to be in a reasonable spot to compete for reps as the team’s third or fourth wide receiver.
Kumerow had only played on 30% of offensive snaps in 2019, but he caught 12 of his 21 targets for 219 yards and a 49-yard touchdown and also proved willing to lay down the occasional block to help out his fellow receivers or running backs. Even though he wasn’t the fastest or the most explosive on the roster, he brought a sense of familiarity in a pandemic-stricken season and a consistency that Rodgers appreciated throughout training camp.
“Jake Kumerow has been such a solid performer for us the last couple of years,” Rodgers told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Sept. 3, two days before the NFL’s deadline for 53-man roster cuts. “I love his reliability. I think he’s a fantastic, steady player, who’s very heady on the field. He makes plays, he plays with a lot of coincidence, and he’s a guy who you love having on the squad.”
Kumerow was one of four receivers Rodgers mentioned in the interview but the only one who was left out in the cold on cut day, as Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard all were and remain key pieces in the Packers offense.
Decision to Ditch Kumerow Has Worked Out
There were definitely some who were disappointed to see the 28-year-old wide receiver left off the initial roster last September, but it is hard to say the Packers were worse off because of it.
Rodgers threw a career-high 48 touchdowns passes with Adams (18) and tight end Robert Tonyan (11) on the receiving end of more than half of them. Valdes-Scantling reduced his inconsistencies to smaller stretches and developed into a stronger deep-ball threat (20.9 yards per reception). And Lazard, despite missing seven games with a core-muscle injury that required surgery, ate in the playoffs with seven receptions for 158 yards and a down-goes-L.A. touchdown.
Sure, the Packers were forced to make it work sometimes with less-than-ideal passing targets. Equanimeous St. Brown and Jace Sternberger were both underwhelming, while Darrius Shepherd played his way out of a job. But the Packers still finished as the league’s top scoring offense and won 13 games for a second straight season.