How Much Longer Will WR Randall Cobb Play?
There is little debate over new Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst’s priorities this offseason. Solving the team’s quagmire at wide receiver is near the top of that list.
As of today, the Packers would begin the 2018 season with more than $40 million devoted to their wide receivers. No NFL team spent more than $27 million at the position this year.
How will the newest GM in the league reign in spending on this position group?
That question likely balances on the future of receiver Randall Cobb. The Packers’ second-round draft pick in 2011, Cobb is in the midst of the second contract in his NFL career. Green Bay agreed to a four-year, $40 million extension in 2015 with Cobb, but his play hasn’t quite lived up to his pay.
How much longer will Cobb play at a high-level?
At 5-10 and 192 pounds, Cobb is one of the league’s smaller receivers. Will that affect his longevity?
103 receivers since 1970 were listed at or below Cobb’s size and started at least 16 games over their career. Only 21 percent started for more than six seasons, a mark Cobb will reach in the final year of his contract extension (2019) if he stays healthy.
Given Cobb’s style of play, there are four receivers in recent memory I’d consider to be similar in pedigree and skill: Wayne Chrebet, Deion Branch, Lee Evans and Wes Welker. All four were listed at 5-10 or shorter, played in more than 100 games and have a similar Approximate Value as Cobb.
The five receivers each caught a handful of passes a game for about 50 yards and scored a touchdown once every three games:
- Wes Welker: 5.2 receptions, 56.7 yards, 0.3 TDs
- Randall Cobb: 4.5 receptions, 53.6 yards, 0.4 TDs
- Lee Evans: 3.2 receptions, 50.9 yards, 0.4 TDs
- Wayne Chrebet: 3.8 receptions, 48.5 yards, 0.3 TDs
- Deion Branch: 3.7 receptions, 47.5 yards, 0.3 TDs
Only Evans failed to play beyond age 30, too:
The average length of an NFL player’s career has been diminishing, as teams choose younger players with upside over veteran experience more regularly. The careers of these four receivers were mostly wrapped up before 2011’s collective bargaining agreement, which incentivized teams to stock their rosters with younger players.
Cobb entered the league at 21, too. He’ll be 28 next year, his eighth season in the league. Compared to the four above, Cobb will be two years younger than Welker, Branch, and Evans and a year younger than Chrebet in his eighth season.
Of those four, only Welker had a higher yards per reception after his seventh NFL season (11.5) than before (10.7).
Gutekunst has been with the organization for Cobb’s entire career and likely has an idea of how he perceives Cobb’s NFL future. Whether he believes Cobb is worth the investment in 2018 remains to be seen.