Tight end Marcedes Lewis returning to Packers for his 16th season
GREEN BAY - It's no secret how much veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis means to his quarterback. On Wednesday, the Green Bay Packers indicated how much he means to their offense as a whole.
The Packers are re-signing the 16th-year veteran, who turns 37 years old in May, to a two-year, $8 million contract, according to multiple reports. ESPN reported Lewis' deal includes $4.2 million guaranteed, while NFL Network reported the contract includes $2.1 million guaranteed.
Either way, it's a substantial deal for a tight end with as many miles as Lewis accumulated in his first 15 professional seasons. Coach Matt LaFleur loves having an in-line blocker at tight end in his offense, and in Lewis the Packers believe they have one of the league's best. Lewis, one of Aaron Rodgers' favorite teammates, also is revered for his leadership in the locker room.
Lewis is among five NFL tight ends to play 15 seasons, joining Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates and Jackie Smith. Before last season, Lewis told PackersNews he was intent on trying to at least match Gonzalez's record 17 seasons at the position. It's a record Witten tied last year with his 17th season before retiring for a second time.
"It's definitely well within my reach," Lewis said. "How I feel right now, I definitely want to play beyond 2020. I think that's very attainable."
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Lewis' contract extends through his 17th season. After playing 422 snaps last season, he appears to have plenty left. Lewis caught 10 passes for 107 yards and three touchdowns in 2020, his most scores since 2017. It's his blocking the Packers value most.
"He is a premier Y (tight end) in this league," LaFleur said of Lewis in October. "I don't think there's anybody that can block better than him. So that definitely gives us a lot of flexibility with his ability, not only in the run game but in the pass game, in the pass protection, some of the play passes. But also, shoot, every time we've called his number in the pass game, when we're releasing him, he's come up for us and made some key plays for us. You can't have enough Marcedes Lewis-type players on your football team."
Competition for Bradley
When the Packers used a seventh-round pick to draft long snapper Hunter Bradley in 2018, a minimal expectation would have been securing the position for the long term.
Instead, the Packers brought in some offseason competition for Bradley after a slow start to his career. The team announced Wednesday general manager Brian Gutekunst signed long snapper Joe Fortunato, who will get a chance to unseat the drafted Bradley.
Fortunato, a first-year player out of Delaware, originally signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2017. He spent some time with the Dallas Cowboys during the 2020 offseason. A former college walk-on, Fortunato has never snapped in an NFL game.
Bradley has been the Packers' starting long snapper in each of the past three seasons, playing all 52 games (counting playoffs) in his career. He has shown good zip on his snaps but has been wildly inconsistent with his accuracy. One high snap at Houston last season led to JK Scott's blocked punt, while a low snap at San Francisco forced Scott to scoop the football and led to a punt that was almost blocked. In the NFC divisional playoff win against the Los Angeles Rams, a snap into Scott's body led to an aborted extra-point attempt.
The ideal scenario would be for Bradley to win the snapper job this offseason, allowing him to at least finish out his rookie contract with the Packers. For now, the Packers are intent on having him work for it.