The Packers made a rare foray into free agency this offseason, bringing aboard former Jets and Rams tight end Matthew Mulligan. Ordinarily, signing a back up tight end wouldn’t be a big deal, and in this case it isn’t either, except for one point: he’s enormous.
Now, I’ve gone on record as saying Bob McGinn’s “the Packers are soft” theory is silly. “Softness” in sports is a state of mind, not a physical condition. But I’ll agree with him that the Packers have been small at some positions, tight end included.
Small, however, is a word that does not apply to Matthew Mulligan by any stretch of the imagination. He’s listed at 6’4″ and 267 pounds, which makes him the heaviest tight end on the roster by 13 pounds. He’s also 22 pounds heavier than Tom Crabtree, whom the Packers used for a similar purpose last year: a second string, blocking focused tight end.
And when it comes to blocking, the Packers have lacked in that department as far as their tight ends go of late. Jermichael Finley is certainly no blocker, and other than Tom Crabtree, only Ryan Taylor had the size and strength to be an effective blocker last season.
So can Mulligan make the roster on the strength of his blocking alone? Well, that may be a tall order. Though he was limited athletically, Crabtree was used as a receiver from time to time. He caught eight passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns last year, although those yardage numbers were boosted a bit by an enormous 72 yard catch and run against Arizona. Inflated or not, Crabtree’s numbers last year alone surpass almost everything Mulligan has accomplished as a receiver in his entire career. He’s only caught fourteen passes for 144 yards and one touchdown in his entire career.
What’s more, every other tight end on the roster has a reputation as a pass catcher, meaning that Mulligan will likely have to show he can produce at least somewhat in the passing game to have value on the roster. After all, a tight end that doesn’t catch passes is really just an undersized tackle.
Mulligan’s ultimate roster competition will likely come from Andrew Quarless and Ryan Taylor. Quarless was an accomplished blocker before a knee injury derailed his career for a year, and Taylor has the size to virtually match Mulligan. He’s also a special teams standout, something the athletically challenged Mulligan might struggle to match. Though he might be bigger and stronger, we shouldn’t assume Matthew Mulligan will be able to hold down a roster spot.