The NFL’s unrestricted free agency period begins March 10th. The Green Bay Packers have until then to exclusively negotiate and reach a new deal with wide receiver Randall Cobb. The prevailing thought is that the Packers will get a deal done and keep the 24-year old, who is coming off of his best season as a pro, in Green Bay. While many are confident that’s what the end result will be, with each passing day, more questions arise about what the Packers’ plans are for Cobb. According to ESPN, the Oakland Raiders are said to be one of the teams that would likely be interested in making a run at Cobb if he hits the open market, and they currently have the salary cap space (projected $49 million according to Spotrac) to make a compelling offer. Surely there would be others as well.
For a team that lives and dies by the development of its own young talent, Cobb is the poster child for the type of player the Packers should lock up long term. Many felt that this should have been done during the 2014 season. With every passing week, Cobb’s price tag got higher and higher with each big play. The Packers, meanwhile, may have wanted to ensure that Cobb would finish the season healthy before committing big money. He appeared in just six games in 2013 after suffering a broken leg, although he showed no lingering effects this past season.
Either way, 91 catches, 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns later, the Packers are going to have to part with a good amount of cash to keep Cobb in green and gold. Cobb is reportedly seeking a deal worth around $9 million per year. That puts him just above Victor Cruz of the New York Giants and DeSean Jackson of the Washington Redskins. Most of the receivers above Cruz are outside, #1 receivers with a few exceptions. If Cobb gets what he’s asking for, he becomes one of the highest paid slot receivers in the league. And after the season he had in 2014, he is worthy.
Spotrac has the Packers projected to be just shy of $28 million under the salary cap heading into 2015. The cap increased $10 million for each team and Green Bay is rolling over $7.8 million from last season. At that number, it seems like a no brainer that they get a long-term deal done with Cobb before he hits the open market. Allowing him to reach free agency would likely start a bidding war and potentially drive the price up beyond what the Packers are willing to pay Cobb.
If the Packers are thinking about using the franchise tag on Cobb, they’ll owe him $12.8 million on a one-year deal if they can’t work out a multi-year contract. That doesn’t seem likely, nor wise, given what Cobb is seeking and with the cap room the team has.
After the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Cobb was asked about returning to Green Bay and he reminded everyone that he hasn’t signed on the dotted line yet. While it would seem logical that he would want to stay in Green Bay and paired with Aaron Rodgers, Cobb also realizes that opportunities to cash in on his past and future performances are limited. After the injury suffered last year, he knows all too well that his playing days could be over in a flash.
Perhaps the Packers are posturing a bit to make Cobb wonder if they’ll franchise him and see if he drops his price. Maybe they just believe in keeping their money in the bank as long as they can to earn every last penny of interest before paying a huge signing bonus. Last year, Green Bay waited until the very last minute before signing cornerback Sam Shields to a huge deal just days before he was set to hit the free agent market.
Either way, it would be very surprising to see the Packers let other teams enter the fray for Cobb’s services. He’s a proven commodity and was a mega part of the Green Bay offense in 2014. After Cobb and Jordy Nelson, there’s a drop off that gets exponentially bigger as one moves down the depth chart: Davante Adams, Jarrett Boykin, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis. Even if Adams makes a huge leap from his rookie season to 2015, he’s not likely to equal what Cobb brings to the table. As for the others, that list would be enough for me to break out the checkbook if I were Packers general manager Ted Thompson.
We have 14 more days to see if he agrees.
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: