Growing up in Milwaukee, Lance Kendricks bled green and gold.
“I definitely grew up a Packers fan, so it was fun to see them win the Super Bowl,” Kendricks said at the 2011 Scouting Combine.
Now, he’ll play for his childhood team.
Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson struck again, adding the veteran tight end on Saturday. A day earlier, he pulled the stunning tight end switcheroo by yanking an offer from Jared Cook and signing Martellus Bennett.
“They’re excited,” Kendricks said of his family in an interview with Packers.com's Wes Hodkiewicz. “It means a lot since I grew up watching the Packers, and my family and friends, they’re all big Packers fans. It means a lot to be able to represent Green Bay and this community and this culture, and everything it stands for.”
According to agent Neil Cornrich, there was "significant" interest around the league in the former Wisconsin standout but Green Bay was Kendricks' first choice.
"It's a dream come true" for Kendricks, Cornrich said.
Kendricks and Cook were teammates with the Rams from 2013 through 2015. With Cook in Green Bay last year, Kendricks flourished in a full-time role with a career-high 50 catches. He turned those into 499 yards (10.0-yard average) and two touchdowns.
That was with rookie Jared Goff. Now, he’ll play with Aaron Rodgers — with whom he's worked out with and caught passes from at Proactive Sports in Westlake Village, Calif.
"He really loved that opportunity," Cornrich said.
Kendricks watched plenty of Rodgers on video while with the Rams.
“We’d watch a lot of film of the Packers to watch Aaron Rodgers and how he was able to get his guys open,” Kendricks said. “Not only them getting open, but him being able to separate the defender from the ball and make things happen with his feet, and extend the play, and draw the defense offside. There’s so much stuff that he does that’s really amazing and really intriguing.”
Kendricks caught about 70 percent of targeted passes in 2013 and 2014 but fell to 62.5 percent in 2015 and 57.5 percent in 2016. He also had a career-high six drops this past season, according to STATS. However, Kendricks will fit well in Green Bay's offense because he not only has experience as a traditional tight end, but split out like a receiver and in the backfield as a fullback.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Kendricks, who turned 29 in January, signed a four-year, $18.5 million contract in 2015 but was released on Thursday. He was due $4.25 million in base salary and roster bonuses in 2017 and 2018.
When he was released, Russ Ball, the Packers' vice president of football administration and team cap guru, quickly reached out, Cornrich said.
“I think we both have our own assets,” said Kendricks of Bennett. “He’s a very good down the field catcher. He’s a big target and I can work the seams, as well. With both of us out there, I think we’ll be able to create mismatches and things we’ll be able to take advantage of. There are so many weapons on this offense and to be able to contribute to it is a great feeling.”
Unlike Bennett, Kendricks won’t impact the compensatory-picks ledger because he officially was a street free agent.
The Packers are loaded at tight end with Bennett, Kendricks and Richard Rodgers. They combined for 135 receptions (55 by Bennett, 50 by Kendricks, 30 by Rodgers) and 1,471 yards (701 for Bennett, 499 for Kendricks and 271 for Rodgers) in 2016. That, of course, is assuming Rodgers remains in the picture. After the 2016 season, he received the “proven performance escalator,” which goes to third- through seventh-round draft picks who meet playing time thresholds. That meant Rodgers’ base salary went from $690,000 to $1.787 million and his cap number went from about $826,500 to $1.924 million.
Beau Sandland, an undrafted rookie last year, is the only other tight end on the roster. Looking ahead, this is considered the best tight end draft class in years. As many as eight could go in the first three rounds, a scout said. A combined seven were selected in the first three rounds the past two years.
Back to Kendricks, he's caught 204 passes for 2,132 yards (10.5) and 17 touchdowns since being a second-round pick in 2011.
At the 2011 Scouting Combine, Kendricks ran his 40 in 4.75 seconds with a 34.5-inch vertical leap.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.