This is the latest article in a series of posts that will examine veteran players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster who are candidates for a contract restructure or outright release due to salary cap considerations. We continue today with a deep dive into Randall Cobb’s contract.
Rarely does an NFL player drive front office decisions, but rarely is there a situation like the one that the Green Bay Packers faced last summer with Aaron Rodgers. Almost immediately upon his return for training camp, the Packers re-acquired wide receiver (and Rodgers’ self-described “closest friend”) Randall Cobb from the Houston Texans, trading away a sixth-round pick to bring Cobb back to where he started his NFL career.
When the Packers re-acquired Cobb in August 2021, they restructured his contract, which had two years remaining. Green Bay kept Cobb’s total compensation for 2021 the same but converted most of his base salary into a signing bonus to reduce his cap hit for last season. That $4.175 million was spread out over three years, as the Packers tacked a void year in 2023 onto to the deal to divide that money up over the cap.
As a result, the Packers have some dead money to consider when it comes to deciding on Cobb’s future with the team this offseason. That future may hinge in part on Rodgers’ decision on whether or not to return for 2022, but the Packers hold a few options left for what to do with one of the few wide receivers who is still under contract for next season.
Base salary: $7,875,000
Per-game active roster bonuses: $375,000 (cap hit of $247,059)
Prorated signing bonus cap hit: $1,391,666
Total cap hit: $9,531,372
Prorated signing bonus cap hit: $1,391,668
The Packers can save nearly $7 million in cap space for 2022 by releasing Cobb. The remaining $2,783,334 of his 2021 signing bonus that is spread over the 2022 and 2023 seasons would accelerate to 2022, but the Packers would gain $6,748,038 of cap space by releasing him.
If the Packers keep Cobb for one more season — something that seems very possible if Rodgers returns for 2022 but rather unlikely if he doesn’t — the easiest way to do so is with a similar cap maneuver to the one they performed last year. Green Bay can convert all but $1.12 million of Cobb’s base salary ($6.755 million) to a signing bonus and spread it out with void years. If the team does this, they will still carry about $1.4 million from last year’s signing bonus on the 2023 cap, plus whatever portion of the new bonus gets amortized onto future years’ caps as well.
With up to four void years available, here’s what that would look like:
1 void year: 2022 cap hit $6.154M (savings of $3.378M); 2023 cap hit $4.769M
2 void years: 2022 cap hit $5.028M (savings of $4.503M); 2023 cap hit $5.895M
3 void years: 2022 cap hit $4.465M (savings of $5.066M); 2023 cap hit $6.458M
4 void years: 2022 cap hit $4.127M (savings of $5.404M); 2023 cap hit $6.796M
What to do?
Again, if Rodgers leaves, this could be an easy decision for Brian Gutekunst to just cut Cobb outright and move on with a young, rebuilding receiving corps. Still, Cobb did lead all Packers receivers in yards per target in 2022 with 9.6, even beating Davante Adams’ 9.2, so the team might consider keeping him even for a Jordan Love-led team.
Should the team come to an agreement to bring #12 back once again, you can bet that he’ll lobby for Cobb to come back as well. Who knows — that might even be a condition of his return. If for whatever reason the team decides to bring Cobb back, the option with two void years seems to strike the best balance between cap hits in 2022 and 2023, particularly given the team’s glut of expected cap space in 2023. The team would carry only about $2.3 million more on the 2022 cap in that scenario than they would by simply releasing him, and though that bill comes due in 2023, it’s a much easier pill to swallow against a bigger cap.
Note: contract details are courtesy of Overthecap.com.