Packers lose a receiver as Devin Funchess opts out of 2020 season
GREEN BAY - Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst waited until the wide receiver free-agent market was picked through quite a bit before settling on veteran Devin Funchess as a supplement to his mostly young receiving corps.
Funchess may have had an immediate impact this year given his production with Carolina from 2015-18, but the Packers will never know because Funchess has chosen to take the COVID-19 opt-out option available to every NFL player under the collective bargaining agreement.
Players have until at least Aug. 4 to declare that they won’t play in 2020 and Funchess became the first Packers player to do so.
On his Instagram account, Funchess wrote in capital letters, “Family is first.”
“Always has been,” he continued. “Always will be. In such unpredictable time. It’s been one of the constants on my mind as I’ve worked through one of the toughest decisions of my life.
“My closest family members have experienced the life-threatening impact of COVID-19 first hand and for their and my own safety, I’ve decided to opt out of the upcoming NFL season. This was not a decision I took lightly but it’s what is best for my family and myself at this time.”
Under terms of the opt-out clause, Funchess’ one-year, $2.5 million contract is tolled, meaning he will be under contract under the same terms in 2021. However, he will be able to keep his $1 million signing bonus paid when he signed with the team April 2.
NFL players considered high risk can receive a $350,000 stipend that doesn't count against future earnings, and an accrued NFL season if they choose to opt out. Players deemed low risk can still receive up to $150,000 if they choose to opt out, but their money is an advance on their 2021 salary.
The Packers will be able to wipe a portion of Funchess’ $2.265 million salary off their 2020 salary cap.
Close to 25 players league-wide have opted out of the season and more are expected to come in the next five days.
Without Funchess, the Packers are thin in experience at wide receiver.
His loss spotlights Gutekunst’s decision not to address the receiver position in the draft. The Packers general manager had a prime opportunity to draft a first-round receiving talent, but he chose to move up and select Utah State quarterback Jordan Love.
Despite being considered one of the deepest receiver drafts in several decades, Gutekunst did not select a single wideout, choosing to roll with what he had in-house.
Beyond No. 1 option Davante Adams, the most senior receivers are Jake Kumerow, Equanimeous St. Brown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, all of whom are entering their third season officially. Valdes-Scantling now ranks No. 2 among the receivers in NFL catches with 64.
The 6-4, 225-pound Funchess was entering his sixth season and had caught 164 passes for 2,265 yards and 21 touchdowns in 62 regular-season games. However, he missed all but one game last year with a shoulder injury and has missed 39 of 80 games during his five seasons, so he was no sure thing.
The Packers have high hopes for former CFL veteran Reggie Begelton, who caught 101 passes last season for Calgary..
He still has an opportunity to make a trade or pick up a veteran once cuts are made.
In another COVID-19 development, the Packers put outside linebacker Greg Roberts on the reserve/COVID-19 list. It means Roberts either tested positive for the virus or was in contact with someone who had it.
He will be eligible to return once he has passed the league’s health safety protocol.