After becoming an unsung hero in the Packers’ 2016 playoff run, it was certainly a little bizarre that Green Bay was not keen on bringing Jared Cook back in 2017.

It all makes sense now.

Packers’ GM Ted Thompson rose from his annual free agency slumber and inked veteran Martellus Bennett to a deal which effectively replaces Cook with a similar-type receiver and a better blocker. Marty B struggled through various lower-body injuries in 2016 and just turned 30-years-old, but at 6’6”, 275lbs Bennett is a size upgrade over Cook (6’5”, 254lbs).That's the look of a man who leaves Tom Brady... and may actually get a QB UPGRADE.

Cook dealt with his own injury issues in 2016, too, but once he returned he actually caught hot fire – especially late into the season. In the Packers’ final 10 games (including the playoffs), Cook averaged a robust 4.2/55.3/0.3 (7.2 targets) per game. In that stretch, Cook saw 18.7% of the Packers’ targets and averaged 11.53 PPR points per contest. With that type of usage and production during his strong 10 game stretch, Cook would have ranked sixth (tied) among all tight ends in 2016 target share and finished as the TE11 in PPR points/game at the position. 

Albeit in a small dose, we saw what type of upside a good receiving tight end can have in the Packers’ offense from Cook in 2016.

What’s more, if we look at how Aaron Rodgers has distributed targets to his tight ends over the past three years, we find that new-Packer Bennett has a really strong top-12 floor.

Packer Tight End Production

Using data from Packers’ tight ends over the past three years combined, we can derive a baseline of what to expect—as a floor—from Bennett. Keep in mind, this includes Jared Cook, Richard Rodgers, Andrew Quarless, and “Justin Perillo” from 2014-16:

Filter

Targets

Rec.

ReYds

ReTDs

Target Share

PPR

Per Season

89.7

58.3

590.7

5.3

15.8%

149.4 (~TE12)

Per Game

5.6

3.6

36.9

0.3

15.8%

9.30 (~TE16)

At the very least, Martellus is walking into a low-end TE1 job. The Packers’ tight ends have combined for almost 90 total targets per season over the last three years, which would have ranked 9th-most at the position in 2016.

Perhaps most notably, though, is how often Aaron Rodgers throws to his tight ends when Green Bay is in scoring position. Over the past three years, Rodgers has targeted a tight end on 19% of his throws from inside of the opponents’ 10-yard line. That would have ranked 13th among all tight ends in 2016.

By the look of the baseline data, the Packers’ tight end job is ripe for production. Even with mediocre talent sans Cook, Rodgers has somehow maintained a low-end TE1, high-end TE2 for fantasy over the past three years. Bennett should prove to be a strong asset for Rodgers in scoring position, too. Green Bay has been noticeably starved for a big-body tight end to pepper from inside of the opponents’ 10-yard line.

Barring any systematic changes to the Packers’ offense, Bennett has a shot at a few top-8 tight end seasons with Rodgers at the helm. The opportunity is surely there.