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Victor Cruz Saved the Packers Millions on Randall Cobb

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The Packers saved a lot of money today, and they didn't even make a deal.

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As we've frequently discussed around these parts, Randall Cobb seems set to have a big season in 2013. In only his second year in the league, Cobb led the Packers in receptions and receiving yards while finishing second in touchdowns. Now that Greg Jennings and Donald Driver are gone, his production should continue its upward trend.

But with increased quality of play comes a bigger price tag. Cobb can't negotiate a new deal for another year due to the CBA's restrictions on players with less than three years of experience, but a big 2013 could mean a big payday come next offseason.

Mitigating the damage for Green Bay is the deflated market for slot receivers. We wrote about this several months ago during the early days of free agency. Here's what we said then:

The 2013 offseason established a clear delineation between outside receivers and slot receivers. Those who line up on the outside and open up the middle of the field are getting paid handsomely; those who do their work from the slot haven't. Mike Wallace, a free agent from the Pittsburgh Steelers with a career yards per reception average of 17.2, garnered a 5-year, $60 million contract from the Miami Dolphins.

On the other side is Wes Welker, the model for slot receivers in today's NFL. No receiver in NFL history has more receptions over a six-year span than Welker. Yet, the Denver Broncos will only pay him $12 million over the next two seasons. Welker is five years older than Wallace, but that alone doesn't account for the $48 million difference in contract value. Rather, it's the perception that slot receivers aren't valuable enough to warrant large investments.

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This is where Victor Cruz comes in. At a similar age with production comparable to what Cobb projects to have two years from now, Cruz's price will set the Cobb's market. It's been reported that Cruz turned down a $7 million per year offer from New York. The team will wait him out, so an exact figure is still some time away.

Well that time is now. According to multiple outlets, Cruz and the New York Giants have agreed on a five-year extension worth $43 million. That contract builds off of the RFA tender that Cruz signed last month making the full deal six years at $45.879 million, a yearly average of $7.64 million. Not only is that figure well below Cruz's initial demands, but it also falls well below the contract Mike Wallace signed earlier this offseason. If it wasn't clear before, teams are far more willing to opening up the checkbook for receivers playing on the outside than for those in the slot.

Cruz's new deal is great news for the Packers as it provides the team a fantastic starting point in their eventual negotiations with Cobb. Even if he achieves the lofty goals that have been set for him, he'll have a hard time proving he's worth considerably more money than Cruz. In essence, Cruz's contract could save the Packers somewhere between $3-5 million annually that the team can allocate to other positions. With Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Morgan Burnett, and a cavalcade of others set to become free agents over the next two seasons, that's enough money to make the difference on one or two players.

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Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Co. He has previously written for Lombardi Ave, College Hoops Net, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is also currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter: @JBHirschhorn

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