What Will 2018 Hold for Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb?
The Packers and wide receiver Davante Adams have agreed to a four-year, $58 million extension. This deal makes Adams the league’s fourth-highest paid receiver, and gives us a glimpse into the team’s plans at the position in 2018.
Green Bay’s other veteran receivers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, will have an interesting offseason as the team ponders how to reshape their receiving depth.
The Packers won’t lead the league in spending at WR next season
Before this contract, the Packers had one of the highest paid receiving corps in the league. Adams’ extension now places Green Bay at the top with over $34 million committed to the position this year. The average NFL team spends $14 million on receivers.
To put the $34 million in perspective, the Falcons rank second in spending at receiver and are a full $7 million behind the Packers. Given they’ll begin negotiating a new contract with quarterback Aaron Rodgers this offseason, it’s unlikely Green Bay will enter 2018 leading the league in this category.
How much longer will Jordy Nelson play?
Jordy Nelson averaged 21 receiving yards a game with Brett Hundley at quarterback, and has had trouble beating coverage in one-on-one situations.
Has he lost a step? “I don’t know,” Nelson said earlier this week to beat writer Jason Wilde. “I’ll look at myself after the season. That’s the question I’ll have for personnel (people). I think it’s hard for me to judge it personally.”
He said before the start of the 2017 season he’d like to play up to two more years. If he does play next season at 33 years old, here’s how he stacks up against other Packers receivers:
Pro Football Reference lists a handful of receivers who had similar careers by quality and shape as Nelson. Four notables include Isaac Bruce, Muhsin Muhammad, Eric Moulds and Vincent Jackson.
Here’s their ages in their final NFL season, along with Nelson (assuming he plays in 2018):
The NFL has become a younger man’s game since Bruce, Muhammad and Moulds last suited up. This year, only Harry Douglas, Brandon Marshall and Larry Fitzgerald appeared in a game at or older than 33 years old. In the last five years, just 20 receivers have played at or older than 33 years old.
Nelson is owed $12 million in 2018. The Packers can save roughly $10 million in cap space if they release Nelson before the start of next season. If he wants to play next season, and the Packers want to renegotiate his contract, what will Nelson do?
“If they give me a call, I’ll listen and see what they want to do.”
How do the Packers plan to use Randall Cobb?
It’s likely the Packers begin trimming their cap obligations at receiver with Jordy Nelson, but Randall Cobb is reportedly likely to be in danger of being released if he doesn’t renegotiate his contract.
Last offseason, we wrote why restructuring Cobb’s contract wasn’t wise at the time. Cobb held the leverage – he’s young, a top performer in a high-powered offense, and the 2017 draft class was weak at wide receiver (only two rookie receivers will finish with over 500 receiving yards).
Now, it seems as if the leverage he had last offseason may be evaporating. Cobb put up almost identical stats in 2017 and 2016, and has caught over 70 percent of passes his way.
The consistency of approximately 60 catches for 600 receiving yards and a few touchdowns is important, but it’s hard to justify paying Cobb as a top-ten receiver along the likes of DeMaryius Thomas, Alshon Jeffery and A.J. Green. He’s good – just not that good.
It’s clear that after Rodgers was injured and Nelson’s production slipped, the Packers drastically altered how they used Cobb offensively.
Consider this – Cobb set a career-low for converting targeted passes for either a first down or a touchdown. 34.8 percent of targeted passes this season to Cobb moved the chains or put points on the board. Last season, he accomplished that on 47.6 percent of targeted passes.
He’s not catching fewer passes, as we saw above, instead they’re giving Cobb the ball closer to the line of scrimmage. As one of the team’s most reliable offensive weapons, it’s important he gets more opportunities on longer routes in the future.
Also worth noting – DraftAnalyst.com ranks just one wide receiver in this year’s draft as a bonafide first-round prospect, increasing Cobb’s leverage on the open market.
If the Packers want to restructure his $9 million base salary in 2018, it’s hard to see Cobb giving back more than $4 million annually. On the open market, it’s likely he could command a deal similar to DeSean Jackson’s in Tampa and Jeremy Maclin’s in Baltimore – between $5-6 million annually.
Because Cobb entered the league at 21, he’s just 27 years old. It may make the most sense for both sides to extend the receiver’s deal past 2018 to say, 2020, at a more manageable number.
If the Packers want to lower Cobb’s cap number for next season and the two sides cannot come to an agreement, Green Bay saves $10 million by releasing Cobb outright.