Fifth in a daily series looking at the Green Bay Packers' free agents in advance of the start of the 2016 league year March 9.
It was supposed to be Andrew Quarless’ year.
Coming off his best NFL season in 2014, much was expected of the Green Bay Packers tight end going into his seventh NFL campaign. His quarterback heaped praise on him throughout the offseason program. His head coach touted his leadership on the offense.
Even Quarless set the bar high for himself going into 2015.
“I consider myself in the top echelon of tight ends,” Quarless said at the Packers’ annual Tailgate Tour last April. “That's really where I see myself and that's really where I'm trying to take it. A couple other guys like 'Gronk' (the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski) and a couple guys who are up there, I put myself in that bracket.That's definitely where I'm training to be.”
Instead of another career year, however, it turned out to be the most challenging for the 6-foot-4, 252-pound tight end. He was arrested July 4 for discharging a firearm in public in Miami Beach, Fla. He eventually reached a plea bargain that resulted in a fine and probation, but still could be subject to NFL discipline.
A month later, Quarless and his longtime girlfriend lost an infant daughter during childbirth. Once he returned to the team, he got off to a slow start to training camp and lost the starting tight end job to Richard Rodgers. Quarless then tore his medial collateral ligament in Week 3 against Kansas City.
The injury was supposed to sideline him for four to six weeks, but instead cost him 11 games. He returned against Arizona on Dec. 27, but was placed on injured reserve two weeks later after it flared up on him again. Quarless finished the season with four catches for 31 yards in five games.
Now, he’s an unrestricted free agent facing an uncertain future. After January's 26-20 overtime loss to Arizona, the Packers began overhauling the tight-end position by firing longtime assistant coach Jerry Fontenot. Looking to get more from the position, the Packers could dip into either the draft or free agency this offseason.
The Packers have stood by Quarless through a lot, including a scary injury in December 2011 when he blew out his knee against the New York Giants. The injury sidelined Quarless for the 2012 season. He returned in 2013 and started 21 of the 32 regular-season games over the next two seasons.
The Packers are high on Rodgers, but likely will want to pair him with a veteran or another rookie going into 2016. The coming weeks and months will decide whether it’s Quarless that he’s running with.
Quarless, who won’t turn 28 until October, likely won't cost much. He's wrapping up a two-year, $3 million contract in March 2014.
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Andrew Quarless, 7th-year tight end
The skinny: Unrestricted free agent.
The snaps: 130 total (126 offense, 4 special teams).
The stats: Four catches for 31 yards in five games.
2015 salary: $1,575,000.