Contract ends as receiver comes off spectacular season
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.