Matthew Mulligan may never become the fan favorite Tom Crabtree was, but the free-agent tight end could fill the departed Crabtree’s role in the Green Bay Packers’ offense with his blocking ability.
As first reported by WCSH-TV in Portland, Maine, on Sunday, the Packers officially announced Tuesday that they’d signed Mulligan, who spent last season with the St. Louis Rams.
A five-year NFL veteran, the 6-foot-4, 267-pound Mulligan appeared in all 16 games with nine starts for the Rams last season, recording career highs with eight catches for 84 yards (10.5 avg.) and his first career touchdown.
Crabtree, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on March 16 after the Packers didn’t tender him as a restricted free agent, had eight receptions for 203 yards and three touchdowns last season, when he played 389 snaps and was the team’s best blocking tight end.
Last season with St. Louis, Mulligan played 411 snaps according to ProFootballFocus.com and graded out as the team’s top blocking tight end.
Prior to his time with the Rams, Mulligan played three seasons with the New York Jets (2009 through 2011), appearing in 34 games with 11 starts and catching six passes for 60 yards (10.0 avg.).
Mulligan originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Miami Dolphins in May 2008. A two-year letterman at Maine, he appeared in 21 games with 18 starts in 2006 and 2007 there.
Last month at the NFL Meetings, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the team needed another in-line blocking tight end, since Crabtree departed, Ryan Taylor played mainly on special teams, Andrew Quarless missed the entire season and starter Jermichael Finley and D.J. Williams are more pass-catchers than blockers.
“When I look at the tight end group, everybody has a different combination,” McCarthy said in Arizona. “Maybe everybody has a different way of looking at it. I don’t know, I’ve never asked anybody else. (But) I’d like to have one, possibly two on-the-line tight ends. The bigger body, the 255, 260 (pound guys).
“We expected Andrew Quarless to come back. That was a serious knee injury in New York two years ago, so it’s not a surprise that he didn’t make it, but we kind of had some hope there. So really with all five of those guys that played tight end, they’re more movement on and off the line of scrimmage.
“Having Andrew, he looks great, he’s been there the whole time and hopefully add another bigger-bodied guy there with our athletes. Because we do like the flexibility of Ryan Taylor, D.J. Williams and Tom Crabtree when he was there. And obviously Jermichael’s more of an on-and-off type player. That formula of getting the athlete and having one or two big guys, it factored a little bit in how we played last year.”