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Packers bolster punt-return game by retaining versatile Tyler Ervin

Ryan Wood
Packers News
Green Bay Packers running back Tyler Ervin (32) runs for first down on a reverse during the firsts quarter of their divisional playoff game Sunday, January 12, 2020 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. The Green Bay Packers beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-23.

GREEN BAY - After watching Tyler Ervin immediately transform potentially the worst punt-return unit in NFL history, the Green Bay Packers were not going to risk regression.

The Packers are in agreement to re-sign Ervin, their return specialist and a burgeoning threat on offense as a running back, to a one-year deal worth $1.047 million, a source confirmed to PackersNews. The contract includes a $137,500 signing bonus.

ESPN was first to report Ervin would re-sign with the Packers.

Ervin didn’t join the Packers until early December. At the time, the Packers had minus-8 punt-return yards on the season. They were in serious jeopardy of becoming the first team in NFL history with negative yards returning punts for an entire season.

In four games, Ervin gained 106 punt-return yards. The Packers still finished last in the league with 98 yards on the year, becoming only the second team in almost four decades to have fewer than 100 in a season (2015 then-San Diego Chargers), but that was mostly a byproduct of a small sample size. Ervin changed the return unit overnight.

His first punt return with the Packers went for 10 yards against Washington, pulling them out of the red. At the time, the Packers’ longest punt return of the season was only 1 yard.

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Eventually, Ervin became a threat on offense. He had two carries for 25 yards in the NFC divisional round against the Seattle Seahawks. He caught a 7-yard pass in the NFC championship game at San Francisco. Coach Matt LaFleur showed creativity with Ervin. Both carries against the Seahawks were on end-around tosses, using his speed to catch the defense with misdirection.

LaFleur similarly brought Ervin across the formation from the backfield for a 7-yard screen pass against the 49ers.

Ervin started the 2019 season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he played six games. With a full offseason to learn LaFleur’s system, it’s possible his role on offense can increase. But the Packers certainly appreciated the injection of production Ervin gave as a return specialist, a role he’ll retain in 2020.