Free-agent countdown: WR Jarrett Boykin
Editor's note: Prior to the start of the new league year in March, Press-Gazette Media is counting down the top unrestricted, restricted and exclusive right free agents the Green Bay Packers will have to decide on this offseason.
The scene was set. This was supposed to be Jarrett Boykin's year.
The Green Bay Packers' third-year receiver was coming off a remarkable sophomore campaign in which Boykin caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns in a span of 12 games after Randall Cobb broke his tibia in a 19-17 win over Baltimore.
The former undrafted free agent, who first came to Green Bay on a tryout, was on the verge of a starting job when the Packers allowed James Jones to walk in free agency. They drafted Fresno State receiver Davante Adams in the second round, but it was widely assumed the No. 3 receiver job would fall to Boykin.
"He's taken the next step," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy when asked about Boykin's development in training camp. "I just love the way he plays. He's physical, his toughness, he's relentless. I think he's exceptional at the top of his route. You see his strength and balance to separate from a DB. I think he's had an excellent camp."
Then, it all fell apart. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman shutout Boykin in the regular-season opener and held him without a target. Boykin had only two catches for 17 yards with a pair of drops in his first three starts.
He suffered a groin injury in the week leading up to a Sept. 28 game in Chicago that sidelined him for the next three weeks. Adams took his place in the starting lineup and Boykin caught only one more pass the remainder of the season.
It's not exactly clear why things unraveled for the 6-foot-2, 218-pound receiver. Boykin routinely declined interview requests throughout the season and the coaching staff provided little insight into why he took a step back.
A restricted free agent, there's uncertainty pertaining to Boykin's future in Green Bay. At the beginning of the season, it was expected Boykin would fetch at least a first-right-of-refusal tender as a restricted free agent. Now, it's possible the Packers might not even offer him the low tender worth $1.5 million.
The veteran minimum for a three-year veteran will be $660,000 in 2015. The Packers rolled the dice and didn't offer tight end Tom Crabtree a contract in 2012 with the hope of re-signing him at a cheaper rate. He then signed with Tampa Bay.
Last year, the Packers tagged inside linebacker Jamari Lattimore with a first-right-of-refusal offer worth $1.4 million out of fear he'd sign elsewhere if they relinquished his rights. It'll be up to general manager Ted Thompson to decide which direction to go with Boykin.
Boykin is still only 25 and been a fixture on special teams for three years. He had four special-teams tackles and forced Chicago's Patrick O'Donnell into a botching a punt in a 55-14 win over the Bears on Nov. 9.
The Packers have young options at receiver, too. McCarthy reiterated Thursday at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis how optimistic he is about 2014 seventh-round pick Jeff Janis' progression. Fifth-round pick Jared Abbrederis is also on schedule to return from reconstructive knee surgery.
Jarrett Boykin, fourth-year receiver
The skinny: Restricted free agent.
The snaps: 432 total (238 offense, 194 defense).
The stats: three catches for 23 yards, four tackles
2014 salary: $570,000.