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Packers can’t afford to lose Davante Adams in free agency next year

It’s clear who the WR1 is in Green Bay, and Ted Thompson needs to open up the checkbook for him.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Although Aaron Rodgers is the Green Bay Packers’ most essential player — that much has been made obvious by the team’s 3-5 record when he did not play a full game this season — he needs players to throw the ball to. His seemingly telepathic connection with Jordy Nelson has been critical for both players over the past several years, but during Rodgers’ absence this season it has become painfully obvious who the Packers’ number one receiver is:

Davante Adams.

While Nelson’s production practically vanished during Brett Hundley’s stint as the starting quarterback, Adams actually saw a slight uptick in his. In the five games before Rodgers’ injury, Nelson averaged just under six targets, four receptions, and 46 yards per game, but had six total touchdowns. Meanwhile, Adams was getting a bit less than eight targets, five receptions, and 57 yards per game, with four scores. Even before Rodgers’ injury, the stats showed Adams taking over the mantle of WR1.

Since then, however, the difference is stunning. Nelson’s target and reception load have remained about the same, but he’s down to 27 yards per game with no scores since week six. Adams, on the other hand, is up about one target and one reception per game, with his yardage increasing to 68 yards per contest and his scoring rate staying high at five touchdowns in those nine games.

Furthermore, one need only look to the latter part of Sunday’s game in Cleveland to see how Adams can take over a game.

The problem is that Adams’ rookie contract expires after this season. Simply put, the Packers absolutely must find a way to keep Adams in Green Bay beyond 2017 with a contract extension.

One estimate of Adams’ value comes from Spotrac, who puts his current market value at around $11 million per year. That number is based on other wideouts who signed deals around the same age in the past few seasons. However, the salary cap continues to increase, and that type of contract would be roughly equivalent to what Randall Cobb signed. However, a contract closer to that of Alshon Jeffery’s (four years, $52 million, $13 million per year) could be more likely, especially considering that Jeffery’s stats in the last few years have been less impressive than Adams’.

The Packers should have the money and cap space to make that happen, however. projects the Packers to have about $42 million in cap space in 2018, not including the roughly $10 million that will roll over from 2017. That’s plenty of room to bring Adams back along with a few other key veterans like Corey Linsley and Morgan Burnett.

More and more this season, opposing teams have been matching up their top cornerback on Adams instead of Nelson, and #17 continues to deliver. He has seen double-digit targets in six games this season, compared to one for Nelson and one for Cobb.

It’s time to ensure that the Packers’ WR1 stays a Packer for the foreseeable future.