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Packers’ 2019 Free Agents: Several decisions need to be made at wide receiver

With one player at each level of free agency, Brian Gutekunst needs to determine how to attack the wide receiver position.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-New York Giants at Green Bay Packers The Post-Crescent-USA TODAY Sports

Over two weeks, Acme Packing Company will break down the Green Bay Packers’ 2018 roster position-by-position, providing our grades for each spot and looking ahead to free agency. Today, we continue with the wide receivers.

As we conclude wide receiver day here at Acme Packing Company, we for the first time begin breaking down players whose contracts will expire at the end of the 2018 league year in March. Three Packers receivers fall into that category, with one player eligible for each type of free agency: unrestricted, restricted, and exclusive-rights.

Davante Adams is in place for the foreseeable future, signing a new contract at the end of the 2017 season. Likewise, the Packers’ rookies are all under contract for three more years, taking them through 2021. However, the middle of the depth chart remains a question mark.

Randall Cobb

NFL Experience: Eight years
FA Status: Unrestricted
Expiring Contract: 4 years, $40M; 2018 cap hit $12.25M
2018 Stats: 9 games played, 6 starts; 61 targets, 38 receptions; 383 yards (10.1 Y/R), 2 touchdowns

After the season that Cobb just put up, it’s difficult to imagine him coming back to the Packers at all in 2019, even if he takes a much less lucrative contract than the one expiring this March. By Football Outsiders’ account, Cobb was 78th of 84 receivers in DVOA and 76th in DYAR, putting him both well below average and below replacement-level.

Interestingly, however, one of the names mentioned as a possible free agent signing is Golden Tate, who finished even lower than Cobb in both categories.

In every one of the four years since Cobb signed his big deal, he has dealt with injury issues. He played through them in 2015 to suit up for all 16 games, but missed ten games total over the last three. Combined with waning physical abilities, any potential payday for him will be drastically lower, and the Packers would be wise to see what other options are on the market before committing any money to bringing him back.

Geronimo Allison

NFL Experience: Three years
FA Status: Restricted
Expiring Contract: One year, $630,000
2018 Stats: 5 games played, 4 starts; 30 targets, 20 receptions; 303 yards (15.2 Y/R), 2 touchdowns

While Cobb scuffled to start the year (outside of a big game and a big touchdown in week one), Allison looked like a budding star, on pace for a 1,000-yard season and leading the team in receiving yards in the first four games. Allison’s yards per catch was just a few tenths of a yard behind that of Equanimeous St. Brown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, showing that he’s becoming a deep threat.

This year, the restricted free agency tender amounts are expected to be around the following numbers, according to Over the Cap:

Right of first refusal: $2.035M
Second-round: $3.110M
First-round: $4.429M

The Packers might be taking a big chance on losing Allison if they sign him to only a right-of-first refusal tender. Given his play early in 2018, it is probably worth the extra million dollars to give him the second-round tender and ensure that Allison does not get a big offer sheet elsewhere — or at least provide the team with compensation if he does.

If a team still chose to give Allison a big offer sheet despite that tender, the Packers could then simply let him take it and use the second-round pick coming their way to help bolster the receiver position with a player possessing more impressive physical tools. In that situation, a player like Parris Campbell or Deebo Samuel would be a great fit as a slot weapon, allowing the team to continue developing its 2018 rookies as boundary receivers. Still, keeping Allison on board for another year is the best option.

Jake Kumerow

NFL Experience: One year
FA Status: Exclusive-rights
Expiring Contract: One year, $480,000
2018 Stats: 5 games played, 2 starts; 11 targets, 8 receptions; 103 yards (12.9 Y/R), 1 touchdown

With fewer than three accrued seasons towards free agency, Kumerow is an exclusive-rights player. For the Packers, that means that the team can offer him a non-guaranteed, one-year contract at the league minimum and guarantee that he returns for 2019. That’s a no-brainer for this team, especially given how much praise Aaron Rodgers heaped on him last summer.

With decent-but-not-great physical tools in every area, Kumerow is forced to be a technician at the position if he wants to claim a roster spot again, and by all accounts he is a tireless worker off the field. His route-running appears to be quite solid, which could make him a good option in the slot or as a fourth or fifth option. Furthermore, he could be of use on special teams as well. There’s no reason to avoid signing him, given the lack of risk.