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Aaron Rodgers not sure why Packers would sign Dez Bryant after cutting Jordy Nelson

Dez Bryant has 531 catches for 7,459 yards and 73 touchdowns in eight NFL seasons. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

A signing of Dez Bryant by the Packers would seem to make plenty of sense, given that the team figures to be in win-now mode with 34-year-old quarterback Aaron Rodgers and has very little proven depth behind wide receivers Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. On Tuesday, though, Rodgers threw some cold water on that possibility, noting that Green Bay already had a highly accomplished veteran receiver on its roster to start the offseason and decided to part ways with him.

That receiver was Jordy Nelson, a 2014 Pro Bowler who caught 550 passes for 7,848 yards and 69 touchdowns in nine seasons with the Packers. Rodgers was reportedly unhappy when Green Bay released Nelson early in free agency, and he made it sound Tuesday like the team had explained to him that it preferred to go with a youth movement at the 32-year-old’s position.

“We like young receivers, so I’m assuming that’s the way they’re going to keep going,” Rodgers said (via ESPN). “I don’t know why you’d cut Jordy and bring in Dez, but he’s a talented player.

“He’s going to end up somewhere. If he ends up here, we’ll obviously welcome him with open arms and get him up to speed as quick as possible.”

A three-time Pro Bowler still under the age of 30, Bryant has been unemployed since the Cowboys released him over a month ago. There have been whispers of concerns among NFL teams about his work ethic and demonstrative nature, and Dallas’s scouting chief, Will McClay, said earlier this month that Bryant had lost the ability to beat defensive backs in one-on-one coverage.

The Dez-to-Green Bay rumors kicked into high gear after his former Cowboys teammate Jason Witten posited just that scenario last week on a podcast with ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “He’s motivated,” Witten, set to replace Jon Gruden as the color analyst for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” said about Bryant, “and I think he’s going to end up going to the Green Bay Packers. I think that’s a great spot for him.”

“Aaron Rodgers, he throws that back-shoulder throw so well,” Witten added. “And Dez has great chemistry with a good quarterback that can put the ball wherever he wants. I still believe Dez can high-point the football as good as any other wide receiver in the National Football League. So you partner him up with [offseason Packers acquisition] Jimmy Graham and Aaron Rodgers, I think that offense could put up a lot of points. … I look for [Bryant] to go there and really help them take the next step and get back on a playoff run.”

It’s still not out of the question that Bryant could end up in Green Bay, particularly if the team suffers some injuries at wide receiver or doesn’t like what it’s seeing from some of its young players as the offseason progresses. However, Rodgers’s skepticism follows a report last week by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that the Packers were not “engaged” in strongly considering Bryant and that “nothing is imminent.”

Bryant, who had 531 catches for 7,459 yards and 73 touchdowns in eight seasons in Dallas, could have become a member of the Ravens, but he turned down a reported three-year, $21 million contract offer from Baltimore. Had he signed there, Bryant would have joined wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who was released in March by the Raiders after they signed Nelson, but the former Cowboys star is thought to be more interested in a lucrative one-year deal that would allow him to retest the free agency waters next spring.

Bryant also still would prefer to join a team in the NFC East, according to reports, all the better to exact revenge on Dallas. NFL Network’s Jane Slater recently claimed that Bryant was waiting to see if the Giants decide they “have a need come training camp.”

The Packers, meanwhile, appear content to see if third-year player Geronimo Allison can emerge as a contributor in three-wide-receiver sets, and it drafted a trio of players at that position in April, including fourth-rounder J’Mon Moore, fifth-rounder Marquez Valdes-Scantling and sixth-rounder Equanimeous St. Brown. In addition, the signing of Graham gives Green Bay a tight end who has always functioned as much more of a pass-catcher than a blocker and whose end-zone skills preempt, to some degree, one of Bryant’s major calling cards.

Of course, Graham is set to turn 32 this season, indicating that the Packers haven’t entirely ruled out receiving options of a certain vintage. In any event, Rodgers made it clear Tuesday that his comments about Bryant don’t necessarily reflect the thinking of Green Bay management, saying, “I’m paid to play quarterback, so I don’t make those decisions.”

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