Throughout the Ted Thompson era, the Green Bay Packers have been about cultivating and keeping their own talent. Thompson finds players mostly through the NFL draft and college free agency. Then, the coaching staff develops them and if they perform up to standards, Thompson rewards with a long-term contract.
It’s not a terribly difficult philosophy to figure out but it has been working with tremendous success since Thompson became the general manager of the team back in 2005.
Since then, the Packers have made the playoffs six times, winning four division championships and one Super Bowl. Green Bay has missed the playoffs just three times, in each of Thompson’s first two seasons, while he was cleaning up the mess created by former head coach/general manager Mike Sherman, then again in 2008 when Aaron Rodgers first became the starting quarterback.
The Packers have been the model of consistency equaling the New England Patriots as the only two NFL teams to make the playoffs in each of the last five seasons. A big reason for the Packers success has been developing and re-signing players like Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb and that’s why it’s imperative that Thompson signs both players to long-term contracts.
The impending free agency of both Nelson and Cobb has been a hot topic in Packers’ circles and whether or not the Packers would be able to afford to sign both players to long-term contracts has been hotly debated. From this perspective, I don’t see how they can afford not to.
Despite my feelings, some have said the drafting of three wide receivers in the 2014 NFL Draft is a sign that the Packers are preparing to move on from either Cobb or Nelson in the event they are unable to re-sign them. I don’t see that as the case. Thompson takes the best player available and just because that landed him three wide receivers doesn’t necessarily mean anything for the future of Nelson or Cobb.
Davante Adams, who was selected in the second round by Green Bay, might have some bearing on the decision and provides some insurance in case either Nelson or Cobb walk but making assumptions about them leaving because the Packers also selected Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis is folly. These type of franchise changing decisions aren’t made on the basis of a selection made in the fifth or seventh round.
At the end of the day, you can just never have enough good players, regardless of position; Cobb and Nelson are great players and key cogs in the Packers’ offense which is why Green simply can’t afford to let them go.
Nelson, who just turned 29 last week, is Rodgers go-to-guy. There is no one Rodgers trust more than him when the game is on the line and that’s because time and time again, Nelson finds a way to make difficult back shoulder receptions with defenders blanketed all over him.
Over the past three seasons, the former Kansas State star has been one of the most productive receivers in the NFL, averaging 1,107 yards and 10 touchdowns per season as well as 16.4 per reception. He has also developed into one the top deep threats in the league.
Nelson benefits from playing in a pass-happy offense with the best quarterback in football but his impact can’t be understated, he is the Packers most reliable receiver and won’t be easy to replace.
Nelson is the guy that gets the job done on the outside, while Cobb holds down the slot position and does it as well as anyone. That is why it’s so important to keep both players because they essentially play two different positions and are two completely different players.
Nelson is a big physical receiver, standing 6-3 and over 200 pounds, while Cobb, who is 5-10, 191-pounds, relies on speed and quickness to torture defenses. Their differences make them tough to defend and essential to maintaining a dynamic offense in Green Bay
After signing draft picks, the Packers have around $15 million in cap space, which is more than enough to get long-term deals done with both Nelson and Cobb before next season.
Nelson is more proven and has shown a greater ability to be on the field consistently, so he should be the first priority but at the very least one of these deals has to get done before the start of the season.
Cobb, who has yet to post a 1,000 yard season in the NFL has played in just 36 games with only 12 career starts. Yet, in 2012, he caught 80 passes for 954 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games, while last season, he caught 31 for 433 yards in just six games. So the Packers may want to see him stay healthy for another season before giving him a big-money contract but as long as Nelson is done, the franchise tag to ensure Cobb stays in Green Bay is always an option.
The Packers offense is built around the passing game with Rodgers as the maestro and letting his two favorite receivers walk as he enters the prime of his career is not good business. Therefore, when people ask if the Packers can afford keep to both Nelson and Cobb, my response is how they can afford not to.