Mulligan Adds Power as Run-Blocking Tight End

Matthew Mulligan was devastated when he was surprisingly released by St. Louis. That disappointment turned into elation when he was signed by the Packers. Rather than catch passes, Mulligan relishes doing "the dirty work that nobody else wants" to do.

The Green Bay Packers typically handle free agency like a live grenade.

One minor transaction, however, could provide major dividends.

Big tight end Matthew Mulligan won't be pushing Jermichael Finley for playing time but he looks to be a major upgrade doing the rough-and-tumble work in the run game.

"Obviously, we haven't had that body type at the position since Andrew (Quarless) was healthy," tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said of the 6-foot-4, 267-pound Mulligan. "He definitely gives us something in terms of that type of body type. We haven't had that."

According to's film study and grading, Mulligan was the 10th-best blocker among tight ends last season, when he played with St. Louis, and the ninth-best in 2011, when he played for the Jets.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Mulligan is "going to be a force" as a blocker.

"You never shy away from a job, you never shy away from the dirty work," Mulligan said. "You might not be catching passes like a lot of guys. Obviously, my career speaks for itself — I don't have a lot of pass catches — but I don't care. To be quite honest, I'll be the guy that does the dirty work that nobody else wants to. That's the way I've been able to stay in the league for six years."

If Mulligan plays to his track record, he'll provide a lift to a running game that coach Mike McCarthy has vowed several times would be improved.

Out of 62 tight ends receiving 25 percent playing time, Finley ranked 43rd in run blocking and Tom Crabtree was 55th — far behind Mulligan's lofty score. Had D.J. Williams received enough snaps, he would have ranked 12th, but at 240-ish pounds, he'll never be a consistent winner at the line of scrimmage.

Mulligan essentially replaced Crabtree on the roster. Crabtree had been the unit's designated blocker but, at 245 pounds, too often lacked the power to gain movement. Thus, the Packers didn't offer him a restricted free agent tender and didn't retain him when Tampa Bay stepped to the plate.

Mulligan, meanwhile, landed on his feet after being caught off-guard by his release.

"But, to be quite honest, I shouldn't be (surprised)," he said. "This is the NFL and anything can happen, any day. But when you sign a two-year deal and you get some good money up front, they love you, your exit interview went extremely well — better than I ever could have imagined — you don't expect to get let go. But this is the National Football League and nothing's guaranteed."

Mulligan's post-release hangover didn't last long. The Packers and the 49ers were among the teams in hot pursuit. Mulligan, a native of Maine, liked the feel of Green Bay — both as a home and his fit in the system.

"I'm a big faith-based guy and I've always believed that where one door closes, another door opens," he said. "I was just saying that to my wife and family: What a blessing it was to go from a situation in St. Louis, which I loved and had a great year. When they cut me, I was devastated. When Green Bay starts calling, when San Francisco starts calling, you're stepping up again because these teams have proven themselves. So, from one thing you really love to, in my opinion, something even better."

Mulligan downplays the possibility that he'll be a savior to a running game, but he could become a major asset as he joins draft picks Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin in the backfield and the shuffled offensive line in the new-look rushing attack. Green Bay averaged 3.9 yards per rush in 2012 (even with Randall Cobb's 13.2 skewing the figure), 3.9 in 2011 and 3.8 in 2010.

"I'll try the best that I can," Mulligan said. "That's been my forte. That's been where I've been able to hang my hat on is the run game. At the same time, it's not just one guy. We all must work together. One guy's not going to be able to make the biggest difference. If I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing, it doesn't work. This group, from what I've seen this offseason, is real comfortable together. Everybody shows up ready to work. I don't think that you'll see that (poor average) again this year. I think you're going to see a change."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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