RE­CEIVERS

Con­tract ends as re­ceiver comes off spec­tac­u­lar sea­son

Packer Plus - - Fan Mail / Line Up - By ROB REISCHEL

Big sea­son should bring big, new con­tract for Ran­dall Cobb.

Green Bay — It’s ev­ery player’s dream sce­nario, even though they might not ad­mit it pub­licly.

En­ter a con­tract year, pro­duce like never be­fore, then have 32 teams po­ten­tially bang­ing on your door.

From the tim­ing is ev­ery­thing depart­ment, meet Ran­dall Cobb.

Green Bay’s fourth-year wide­out en­tered the sea­son with much to prove. Cobb did that and more, post­ing ca­reer-highs in re­cep­tions (91), yards (1,287) and touch­downs (12). Cobb also played all 18 games after miss­ing 10 games in 2013 with a frac­tured fibula.

Now, when free agency be­gins March 10, Cobb will be in high de­mand.

“I would think he can get Jordy Nel­son money if he hits the mar­ket” one AFC ex­ec­u­tive said last week. “The only thing that hurts him and makes his deal a lit­tle trick­ier is he’s a slot guy. . . . and they don’t get what the guys on the out­side get.

“But Cobb’s young (24) and he’s been highly pro­duc­tive. He’s get­ting to free agency at a great time. I can’t imag­ine the Pack­ers will let it get that far, though.”

Nel­son signed a four-year, $39.8 mil­lion con­tract ex­ten­sion in July. And while the Pack­ers view Nel­son and Cobb as 1 and 1A, it seems un­likely they’d give Cobb more money than Nel­son.

If the Pack­ers and Cobb can’t find some mid­dle ground be­fore free agency ar­rives, Green Bay could place ei­ther the fran­chise tag or tran­si­tion tag on Cobb.

The fran­chise tag binds the player and team to­gether for one year. The tran­si­tion tag would give the Pack­ers the right of first re­fusal to match any of­fer from another team.

The pro­jected fran­chise tag for wide re­ceivers in 2015 is $12.80 mil­lion. The tran­si­tion tag is pro­jected to be $10.95 mil­lion.

Both sides typ­i­cally like to avoid us­ing tags, though. The in­flated num­ber of­ten causes the team short-term salary cap is­sues. On the flip side, the player loses out on the guar­an­teed money a long-term deal pro­vides.

Cobb has been adamant for more than a year that his pref­er­ence is to stay in Green Bay. The Pack­ers moved at a tor­toise-like pace, though, and in the process, Cobb’s value went up sub- stan­tially.

“Like I’ve said be­fore, this is a business,” Cobb said. “You don’t know how it’s go­ing to go, what di­rec­tion it’s go­ing to go in, so you just have to sit around. Hope­fully I’ve put my­self in po­si­tion where, you know, it will han­dle it­self. But only time can tell.”

If Cobb gets to the open mar­ket, he could have some se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion among the wide­out group. Dal­las’ Dez Bryant and Den­ver’s De­mary­ius Thomas would cer­tainly com­mand more money than Cobb, while Philadel­phia’s Jeremy Ma­clin could land a deal sim­i­lar to Cobb’s.

“Right now, it’s the best group of re­ceivers we’ve had in years,” the AFC ex­ec­u­tive said. “But odds are most of those guys will get locked up.”

Cobb cer­tainly gave the Pack­ers rea­son to lock him up.

Cobb’s 943 snaps were a ca­reer-high and might have an­swered any lin­ger­ing dura­bil­ity ques­tions. Cobb caught 72.8% of the balls thrown his way, the 10th-best per­cent­age in foot­ball.

Cobb had 603 yards after the catch, the fourth-best to­tal in foot­ball. Cobb broke or avoided 18 tack­les, the third­high­est to­tal in the league. And Cobb fin­ished tied for fourth in touch­downs (12), eighth in re­cep­tions (91) and 11th in re­ceiv­ing yards (1,287).

In ad­di­tion, Cobb has been a model cit­i­zen and a locker room leader.

“You know, like I’ve al­ways said, I’ve al­ways been my big­gest critic,” Cobb said. “I feel like there was still more out there to ac­com­plish.

“Ob­vi­ously when you look at how close we were to (the Su­per Bowl), that was my one and pri­mary goal and not to be able to ac­com­plish that, it def­i­nitely hurts. It def­i­nitely hurts the way that we went out.”

Green Bay’s top wide­outs cer­tainly car­ried their weight dur­ing the 2014 cam­paign.

Nel­son, like Cobb, had the best year of his ca­reer. Nel­son’s 98 catches shat­tered his old mark of 85 and ranked sixth in foot­ball. Nel­son’s 1,519 re­ceiv­ing yards were a new fran­chise record and ranked fourth in the league. And Nel­son’s 13 touch­downs were the sec­ond-most of his ca­reer and tied for sec­ond in the NFL.

Nel­son be­came just the eighth player in NFL his­tory to record 95-plus re­cep­tions, 1,500-plus re­ceiv­ing yards and 13-plus re­ceiv­ing touch­downs in a sea­son.

Rookie Da­vante Adams was up and down, as ex­pected. Adams took over the No. 3 role early in the sea­son and fin­ished the year with 38 re­cep­tions, 446 yards and three touch­downs.

Adams had huge games against New Eng­land (six catches, 121 yards) and Dal­las (7-117-1). And for com­par­i­son’s sake, Adams’ num­bers were bet­ter than any Pack­ers rookie re­ceiver since James Jones in 2007.

After the Pack­ers’ top three, though, they had next to noth­ing. And Green Bay was re­mark­ably for­tu­nate in­juries didn’t hit this unit.

Jar­rett Boykin opened the year as the No. 3 re­ceiver but flopped mis­er­ably. Boykin fin­ished the year with the same num­ber of dropped passes as re­cep­tions (three). Just one year ear­lier, Boykin was third on the team with 49 re­cep­tions.

Boykin now be­comes a re­stricted free agent, and it’s un­likely the Pack­ers will even make him an of­fer.

Rookie Jeff Ja­nis was ac­tive for just three games and caught two passes. But the speed­ster from Sag­i­naw Val­ley State showed prom­ise and could take on a big­ger role next sea­son.

Rookie Jared Ab­bred­eris had his sea­son wrecked by a torn ACL in Au­gust. He could fac­tor in next sea­son, as well.

Over the next two months, though, all eyes will be on Cobb.

“I haven’t signed on the dot­ted line yet so I can’t be for cer­tain on any­thing,” Cobb said. “I can only take it day by day, and . . . that’s pretty much it.”

The Pack­ers now must hope that’s not the end for Cobb’s time in green and gold.

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