Throughout his tenure as general manager of the Green Bay Packers, Ted Thompson has been steadfast about how he builds a team — he believes in drafting, developing and keeping your own talent.
It’s a wise philosophy that Thompson has followed since he arrived in Green Bay back in 2005 and its successful implementation is a big reason why the Packers have made the playoffs five years running with a Super Bowl title to boot.
One key part of Thompson’s philosophy is locking up his players to long-term contracts before they ever hit the free agency. This is something he has done consistently for top players such as Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Josh Sitton, Tramon Williams, T.J. Lang, etc.
Therefore, when ESPN’s Rob Removsky trotted out the Packers list of 2015 free agents it was interesting to look at which players were next-in-line for contract extensions before the 2014 season.
The complete list of free agents looks like this:
Offense – Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Bryan Bulaga, Jarrett Boykin (restricted), Don Barclay, Ryan Taylor and Scott Tolzien.
Defense –B.J. Raji, Tramon Williams, Jamari Lattimore, Letroy Guion, Jarrett Bush, Davon House, Sean Richardson (restricted).
Overall, the list looks pretty tame compared to the 17 free agents the Packers had to deal with this offseason. However, there are some key players that are headed for free agency next offseason, which is why Thompson must make re-signing them a priority now and two players in particular that should take priority over all others are wide receivers Nelson and Cobb.
Despite the Packers new found running game, their offense is still going to revolve around the right arm of Rodgers.
The NFL is still a passing league and while finding balance will be key for the offense going forward, big plays in the passing game will always be a staple of Green Bay’s attack, which is where Nelson and Cobb come in.
There have already been rumors that the Packers have made re-signing Nelson a priority according to Kevin Patra of NFL.com — and while there has been no word of talks between Cobb and Packers management, according to Dan Hanzus of NFL.com Cobb wants to sign long-term and would like a deal done before the season starts.
It’s easy to see why Nelson is the first priority, as the sixth-year veteran is coming off another spectacular season, catching 85 passes for 1,314 yards and eight touchdowns.
Over the past three seasons, the former Kanas State product has established himself as one of the game’s elite receivers by averaging over 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns in that time. He has also earned the trust of Rodgers and has some of the most reliable hands in the NFL.
However, Cobb’s impact on the offense should not be dismissed. The former second-round draft pick from Kentucky, is an electrifying playmaker, who saw his season cut short to six games due to injury. Yet in those six games, Cobb was a true difference maker with 31 receptions 433 yards as well as four rushes for 78 yards and four receiving touchdowns.
Not only are Nelson and Cobb critical to the Packers passing game, they are each in their prime at 28 and 23 years old respectively. They are the kind of players championship teams are built on and with over $18 million left cap space, Thompson and the Packers have to make re-signing them both before the season starts their top priority.