Last year, I attempted to forecast what the Packers would do with their wide receivers in 2015 and beyond. I knew it was a fool’s errand but I still think it had value, and if you want to get a big picture view of the Packers wide receiver situation I would still recommend giving it a read.
One of my main conclusions was that you should trade away Randall Cobb in dynasty formats because of his impending free agency and the Packers selecting Davante Adams (and to a lesser extent Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis) in the 2014 NFL Draft. I don’t feel that way now, though that’s largely because Cobb’s free agency is here now, and it’s being consciously valued by other teams in your league. But I also feel differently because I have new, different information. With that information I’ve considered a new possibility that I hadn’t before.
So what exactly do I think the Packers have planned for Randall Cobb and Davante Adams?
Well, let’s start with Cobb since Adams’ outlook largely hinges on whether or not Cobb stays anyway. I believe that the Packers are planning on keeping Cobb. I put the emphasis on planning because Cobb is a free agent, best laid plans of mice and men, etc.
So why do I think they plan on re-signing Cobb? It’s been reported for one thing. At this point I’d like to lay out a few things that are generally accepted as true about Ted Thompson and the Packers organization:
- They do not tend to add many or spend much money on players drafted by other teams in free agency, though they are willing to overpay those players when they do.
- They are known for wanting to retain their own free agents that they drafted, especially if they are young.
- They are willing to overpay their own free agents, which they can afford because they always have salary cap room because they don’t spend much in free agency.
Let’s start with the logistics of keeping Cobb. Currently, the Packers have around $23 million in cap room. Let’s say they overpay Cobb, something like $10 million per year. They would still have $13 million in cap room, and that’s before cutting any more players or restructuring any contracts. That’s also before signing their draft class. Still, I don’t think re-signing Cobb would prevent them from doing anything else they would want to do in free agency.
So why would they want to keep Cobb? Well, that’s pretty obvious. He’s a good player who has been highly productive. Despite having played out his entire rookie deal, Randall Cobb is only 24 years old. I bolded that because I’m going to be coming back to that point later.
It’s probably true that as good as Aaron Rodgers is he can probably make any decent receiver efficient. But as efficient as Cobb has been?1 Probably not. I think we can pretty safely assume that Ted Thompson, and really the entire NFL, understands that Aaron Rodgers is who butters the Packers’ bread. It makes sense to keep the passing game as efficient as possible. There also might be an argument that the more talented a QB’s receivers, the less likely he is to take sacks, and the less likely he is to take sacks, the less likely he is to get injured. So re-signing Cobb could also be seen as an investment in Rodgers’ health.
But it takes two to tango. Does Cobb want to stay in Green Bay? Cobb himself says he does. Which makes sense. Why move if you don’t have to? Moving is the worst. Most players probably do want to win, and Green Bay is likely the best location for Cobb if he wants to win a Super Bowl.
So why haven’t they already made a deal if they want the same thing? Obviously, they’ve yet to agree on terms. It could be that both parties want to explore their options in free agency. But I think it’s more likely that free agency just represents leverage for Cobb. If he’s trying to get an extra half million dollars or so out of Green Bay per year, the easiest way to do that is to have a bigger offer on the table somewhere else. I think the lack of a deal is likely more rooted in details than interest. If you can get an uncertainty discount on Cobb in your leagues I would probably do so.
Obviously, Adams has more value if Cobb leaves, but as has been outlined many times he likely still has short-term value even if Cobb stays. He’s a great prospect in an ideal situation. But there could be something to the idea that the Packers are interested in re-signing Cobb because they don’t have faith in Adams. That’s not what I think, but I feel I should mention that possibility. So what do I think?
I think the Packers may view Adams as Jordy Nelson’s replacement, not as Randall Cobb’s replacement.
It’s true that the Packers gave Jordy Nelson a new contract that lasts through 2018 last offseason. It’s also true that Nelson will be 30 at the start of the 2015 season, putting him on the wrong side of the age slope. Is it possible that Nelson remains equally productive through his age 33 season? Sure, but it’s not likely. But if he does that’s just gravy for the Packers. If Adams, Cobb, and Nelson are all great at the same time I’m sure they won’t complain. Cobb on the other hand is currently only 24. Even if they give him a five year deal he’ll be in his prime for the entirety of that deal. So Adams is a hedge against the possibility of a short-term decline from Nelson, while also a way of having a successor in place for his inevitable long-term decline, and also serving as a hedge against the possibility of Cobb leaving. Keeping Cobb would be a hedge against any possibility of Nelson declining while also being a hedge against the possibility that Adams isn’t very good. I expect Adams’ trade value to plummet if the Packers re-sign Cobb, but I would advise keeping him if you already have him. If they do re-sign Cobb I would recommend targeting Adams in trades wherever you can because you should get a huge discount.
It makes sense for the Packers to keep Cobb. The Packers front office is one of the more sensible in the league. I think they’ll keep Cobb.