This is a debate you will not see Aaron Rodgers commenting on.
The one deciding between his favorite targets: Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. It’s like a parent trying to pick their favorite child.
Nelson is heading into the final year of his team-friendly, three-year $12.6 million deal – a contract that made him just the 27th-highest paid receiver. The six-year pro finished last season with career highs in receptions (85) and receiving yards (1,314). He is one of the most sure-handed receivers in the league, making those tiptoe, sideline grabs look second nature.
Nelson made his case for big money stronger last season on the field, while Cobb and Jermichael Finley were hurt. Defenses were zeroed in on stopping the 6-foot-3 wideout and couldn’t do it.
Cobb, on the other hand, is one of the most dynamic players in the game. He’s right up there with the Eagles’ LeSean McCoy in that category based solely on versatility. His four-year, $3.209 million rookie deal from 2011 obviously needs to be sweetened. What helps Cobb, despite last season’s injury, he has proven his durability.
He played in 15 games his first two years in the league, before being limited to six games because of a fractured right fibula last season. The 23-year-old came back strong in the regular-season finale and the playoff game against San Francisco.
According to overthecap.com, the Packers have an estimated $13.9 million of cap space for 2014. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, the Green Bay would like to lock up at least one of the receivers before the start of the season.
Judging from the career arc Nelson has taken from year four to year six, Green Bay needs to place a priority on Nelson.
There will likely be comparisons to Greg Jennings, the most recent Green Bay receiver to hit the open market. The biggest difference between the two, however, is that Jennings’ last season with the Packers was as a declining injury-prone 29-year-old, not an ascending 28 year-old.
It could also be argued that Cobb is still trying to find his niche on the team. In 2012, he had 10 carries for 132 yards in addition to fielding 31 punts and 38 kickoffs. He wears so many hats for the Packers, his potential as a true No. 1 receiver are yet to be seen.
You just don’t see No. 1 wideouts do what he’s doing. You don’t see the likes of A.J. Green on punt or kick return teams. Even lowly No. 1 receivers like the speedy Torrey Smith aren’t on return teams. Why? Simple: The Ravens aren’t risking their No. 1 threat in the passing game to get destroyed trying to return a punt.
But Green Bay has that luxury.
Rodgers has had a strong stable of receivers dating back to Donald Driver and continuing with Nelson and Cobb. Last year proved that without Cobb and Rodgers, the offense could still get chunks of yards because of Nelson’s crisp route running and vise grip hands.
Rodgers has said that Cobb can be a 100-catch receiver. Cobb is a man-to-man matchup nightmare. His ability to find another gear was evident against the Bears and 49ers in last year’s final two games (4 catches, 106 yards, 2 touchdowns).
The problem for Cobb lies with his role in the offense. Arguing his contract worth is one similar to what Jimmy Graham is having with the Saints right now. The All-Pro tight end is stating that he should be paid receiver money. Could Cobb’s camp argue that he should be paid like a receiver and then some because of his usage as a running back and returner?
Who to pay, however, seems simple. Nelson is fast becoming a master of the position. Amazingly, he was just 23rd in targets last season, behind guys like Mike Wallace and Julian Edelman, yet still ended 10th in receiving yards. Heading into last season, Wallace was rewarded with a five-year, $60-million deal — a contract that Nelson should easily bypass.
Cobb has shown that he can do many things well, but he isn’t on the level of being a bona fide No. 1 receiver, yet. Then again, he’s only 23 and, while trying to master the receiver position, he’s asked to do so many other things.
Maybe the decision isn’t so simple, after all.——————
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn