Entering this offseason, it was a sure thing that Randall Cobb was going to take a pay cut. The eight-year veteran was coming off his worst season as a pro — with fewer receiving yards than even a 2013 season when he missed ten games — in the last year of a four-year, $40 million contract.
There was no way he was going to get another contract of that level, but even so, it was a bit surprising to see the Green Bay Packers completely remove themselves from any negotiations with Cobb. He said as much on the Wilde & Tausch radio program last Friday, noting that the Packers never even offered him a contract and that it felt “like the ex-girlfriend that broke up with you.” Cobb eventually signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys for 2019.
This was the second straight season that saw the Packers and new general manager Brian Gutekunst part ways with a long-tenured receiver. In 2018, the team released Jordy Nelson with one year left on his contract, though they did make an offer to keep him around. However, that offer to Nelson was for close to the veteran minimum salary, far less than the two-year, $14.2 million deal he signed with Oakland in free agency.
The decision on Cobb, however, reveals something fundamental about the Packers’ evaluation of their wide receiver corps. Specifically, it is yet another indication that they feel optimistic about the team’s young receivers and their ability to help make up for the production that Cobb has provided from the slot over his career.
Fourth-year pro Geronimo Allison is back on a one-year deal as the Packers bought out his one season of restricted free agency, and he appears to be the top candidate to get the plurality of the snaps in the slot. He lined up on the slot with the starting offense more than any other player during spring practices, and #1 wideout Davante Adams compared his abilities to Cobb’s last month. “(Allison) and Cobb have a similar skill set. You haven’t really been able to see it as much because G-Mo played outside for the most part.” Can Allison directly replace Cobb’s contribution to the offense in 2019? It seems that the Packers think he can, and he comes with a cap hit of about half of Cobb’s this year.
One reason that Allison is freed up to move inside is the continued development of Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the boundary. While Allison was in the slot for the most part this spring, MVS lined up on the outside opposite Adams and was impressing the coaching staff and fans alike. In fact, when the Packers lined up with two receivers in a 12 or 21 personnel grouping, it was Valdes-Scantling playing ahead of Allison.
In addition, Equanimeous St. Brown looks like a candidate to play both inside and outside, while Jake Kumerow has looked good on the boundary as well. J’Mon Moore has a chance to prove himself anew this spring to a new coaching staff as well.
Finally, LaFleur appears primed to rotate players through the slot position all season long. Adams is one player expecting to receive a larger workload inside, while tight ends like Jimmy Graham, Robert Tonyan, and Jace Sternberger should each get a handful of snaps there as well.
After the Packers let him walk without even a cursory offer, Cobb did pretty well for himself. His contract with the Cowboys will give him a chance to bounce back in his age-29 season, which will see him playing alongside Amari Cooper and catching balls from Dak Prescott. A productive year in Dallas will give him an opportunity for a bigger, longer-term contract again next season.
But that lack of an offer is a clear sign that the Packers think that his production can be replaced by the options currently on the roster. If one assumes that to be the team’s mindset, paying $5 million for Cobb would absolutely be a luxury that the team could not afford to pay.