Surprised wasnít the word for it. Speechless didnít describe it.
The season went well. The exit interviews were excellent, but suddenly Matthew Mulligan was unemployed, a cap casualty of the salary-strapped St. Louis Rams.
One year after signing a two-year deal with the Rams, Mulligan was back to being a free agent just like he was after going undrafted out of the University of Maine in 2008 and again in 2011 when the New York Jets decided to non-tender him.
ďIt was a complete surprise. Really itís a shock to be quite honest. I had no idea,Ē said Mulligan of his reaction to the news. ďI signed a two-year deal Ö and they told me I met all their expectations and exceeded them. But thatís how the NFL goes. It changes with the wind. You canít feel like youíre comfortable.Ē
So Mulligan, his wife Stephanie and agent Kristen Kuliga plotted his next move, which came down to two contending teams in need of a big, able-bodied blocking tight end.
The San Francisco 49ers or the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers lost several bidding wars during this offseason from wide receiver Greg Jennings and tight end Tom Crabtree to St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson.
The battle for Mulligan, however, they won.
After losing Crabtree to Tampa Bay earlier this offseason, Packers coach Mike McCarthy made his intentions clear to find a bigger, more physical blocking tight end on the line.
Standing 6-foot-4, 267 pounds, both the Packers and Mulligan agreed he fit that prototype.
ďJust from a game-plan outlook and when I came here for the visit, Green Bay talked with me and told me what they were going to do, it just felt like a better fit,Ē Mulligan said.
ďI liked the area, but when you look at it as far as your career goes, you canít base it on area or who you feel most comfortable with Ė itís where youíre going to be able to be most successful and I felt like when it came down to it, although the 49ers were a good organization as well, I felt like Green Bay was the best place for my wife and I.Ē
The free-agency was busy in the NFC North. Minnesota opened its wallet for Jennings. Detroit brought in running back Reggie Bush and safety Glover Quinn while Chicago ponied up for New York Giants tight end Martellus Bennett and tackle Jermon Bushrod.
Meanwhile, the Packers signed the veteran Mulligan, along with four other street free agents who were out of the league last season.
One of the selling points for Mulligan was the fact the Packers don't venture into the free-agent market for just any veteran. They obviously saw something they needed in the 28-year-old.
Now, Mulligan's the heaviest of the seven tight ends currently on the roster and a veteran of 50 NFL games. He only has 14 career receptions for 144 yards and one touchdown, but his blocking ability is whatís made him a serviceable fifth-year veteran.
ďThatís what they told me coming in is they need someone to fill that slot,Ē Mulligan said. ďBut Iíll do whatever they want me to do. Things change. In the NFL ... you never know. Whatever they want me to do Iíll do it to the best of my ability. Thatís what I do best Ė run-blocking. I havenít caught a lot of passes in my career, but thatís not where Iíve made my hay. Run-blocking is what I can do and hopefully I can utilize that.Ē