The NFL free agency period begins in less than five days and the Green Bay Packers and free agent receiver Randall Cobb don’t appear to be close to a new contract to bring him back to the team that drafted him and helped him become the top receiver on the market.
Cobb is just 24 years old, which is something that seems to get lost in this situation. While teams should be smart about how they allocate their money, we’re talking about a guy who is just a bit older than many rookies just coming into the league. A guy who also now has four seasons under his belt and had over 1,000 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Needless to say, he’s a favorite target of the guy who throws the ball for the Packers and that counts for a lot, too. So should the Packers and general manager Ted Thompson break from their traditional thinking, in terms of what they’re willing to typically pay one of their own productive free agents? If the market is likely to yield more than the team is willing to pay, should they consider that they’re still getting the very prime years of Cobb’s career and lock up the known entity?
Only Ted can answer that question but my guess is that he likely won’t have to.
Every year there’s jockeying that goes on in free agency between teams, players and their agents. Cobb’s agent is Jimmy Sexton and he has a long history of working teams over for every last dollar. And he should, that’s his job. Whether is’t been Sexton’s doing or not, we have seen multiple reports about the type of money Cobb is seeking in a new deal. I’ve seen $9, $10, and $12 million tossed around. Reports have also come out that the Packers offered Cobb between $8-$9 million per year on a multi-year deal and it was rejected. Since that report came out, fans and the media have gone nuts speculating what it means and where any potential negotiations between the Packers and Cobb are headed. To all of them I say R-E-L-A-X.
That doesn’t mean it’s a foregone conclusion that Cobb stays in Green Bay next season and beyond, but the Packers will do the right thing. Last year, cornerback Sam Shields was set to hit free agency and test the waters after a few productive seasons on his rookie deal. Reports emerged a few days before free agency started that Shields and the Packers would not agree on a contract and that Shields would become a free agent. He had every right to do so after having to sign a one-year tender in 2013 when he was a restricted free agent. Many had Shields headed out of Green Bay when the time came that other teams could begin talking to him. He signed with the Packers just hours later. The deal was in line with some of the top cornerbacks in the league. I see a similar scenario happening with Cobb and the Packers this year. He’s going to join the top half of the NFL receivers in terms of pay when this deal gets done, wherever it is.
Give Ted some credit for being able to keep most of his prized veterans in place and keep to his “draft-and develop” philosophy that has had the Packers contending in the NFC for the better part of the past decade. He’s not afraid to get shrewd and let talks to to the last minute. He has a line that he won’t cross and no agent has really ever bullied him over it. Draft-and-develop aside, Thompson has his line drawn with Cobb and the ball is in Randall’s court now. It’s been argued that the Packers have to keep Cobb at all costs if they’re going to avoid big free agency pay days and instead pay their own but there has to be a walk-away point.
Cobb is a slot receiver and any such reports that he’s asking $12 million per year sound like posturing to me. I could be wrong and he may find that type of money thrown his way on day one of free agency next week. The Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars have a lot of cap space and the Raiders and general manager Reggie McKenzie are very familiar with what Cobb is and can be. John Dorsey, also formerly with the Packers personnel department, and the Kansas City Chiefs could additionally be looking to free up some space and enter the fray. If that happens, the money may become too prohibitive for the Packers to continue to play. What they’ve reportedly already offered Cobb should have sealed the deal, in my opinion. Good money with a well-respected franchise that almost went to a Super Bowl this past season and, by the way, also with the best quarterback in football.
If Cobb chooses the money, and he has every right to do so, he may find out what former Packers receiver Greg Jennings has likely learned over the past two seasons: life isn’t as easy when the guy throwing you the ball isn’t that great. Cobb is likely going to get yet another chance to cash in and get paid in four to five years. While ideally teams should pay for what a player will do for them, there’s an element of what they’ve already done that creeps into the contracts. How much can he accomplish in Oakland or Jacksonville compared to what he stands to do in Green Bay? Derek Carr or Blake Bortles await him if he chooses to depart to those destinations. No matter how you rearrange the letters in their names, they never spell Aaron Rodgers.
Cobb’s argument that he’s not just a slot receiver, but a dynamic offensive player is a valid one. He rushed 11 times out of the backfield in 2014 and can also return kicks on special teams. He’s a “get the ball in his hands” type of player, much like Percy Harvin has been since coming into the league in 2009. No doubt Cobb is a special talent and should continue to add quite a bit to whichever team he’s on in 2015. In two playoff games in 2014, Cobb had 15 catches, nearly 12 yards per catch and two touchdowns. On third down and with six or more yards to go in 2014, Cobb had 14 catches, a 20.9 yards-per-catch average and three touchdowns. His big grab against last year’s Super Bowl champion New England Patriots sealed a big win in that game. He’s caught late, clutch game-winning touchdowns on at least two occasions that I can remember off the top of my head (in Detroit in 2012 and in week 17 against the Chicago Bears in 2013). The results are there and Cobb knows it. Mid-way through last season, he was asked about a potential contract extension and he responded by saying “I guess I have more to prove. .”, meaning he may have already expected the Packers to be working on a new deal well ahead of free agency.
Cobb bet on himself last year and won. He’s going to earn some top money for his services over the next four or five years. Now the question is what else does Cobb want to prove? Will it be how big his checkbook can be or how much more success he can forge before he’s again at the negotiating table before he reaches 30 years old?
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: