Show Him the Money? It’s Not That Simple

Though not quite in the way you're thinking as Ted Thompson wrestles with what to do with star receiver Randall Cobb, who should be a building block for a draft-and-develop franchise.

Throughout his long and successful tenure as the Green Bay Packers’ general manager, Ted Thompson has been a punching bag for impatient fans who want their team to be more active – heck, how about just active? – in free agency.

Time and again, Thompson’s way and long-term vision have been proven correct. The Packers have been a contender pretty much every year because of a healthy salary cap, which has allowed Thompson to retain his key free agents while not having to dump salary.

This year, his team-building blueprint is being put to the ultimate test with Randall Cobb.

Cobb is a great player. The word “great” is overused in all walks of life, especially the sporting world -- heck, I remember Morgan Burnett using the word “great” when talking about M.D. Jennings. But in Cobb’s case, the word is accurate. Cobb is a great player. While he’s not an impact player on the outside, Cobb is a dominant force in the slot.

Overall, Cobb finished tied for ninth with 91 receptions, 11th with 1,287 yards and tied for fourth with 12 touchdowns. According to’s slot-receiving numbers, his 75 receptions were 11 more than the Eagles’ Jordan Matthews, his 1,067 yards were 232 yards more than Matthews and his 12 touchdowns were almost as many as the next two players combined (Matthews, eight; Kendall Wright, five).

Among all wide receivers with at least 50 catches, Cobb ranked second with 618 yards after the catch (according to STATS) and third with an average of 6.6 YAC (according to PFF). He also ranked third with 12 receptions of 25-plus yards, tied for second with 24 third-down receptions that he turned into first downs, tied for first with 16 receptions in the red zone and first with 10 red-zone touchdowns, according to STATS. He also was a fearless blocker at just 192 pounds. He was a matchup nightmare for every defense.

He’s a team player, a good guy and a young star at just 24. If your team-building mantra is “draft and develop,” Cobb should be the poster child.

If the goal is to add a fifth Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay, re-signing Cobb seems like a no-brainer. And with about $33 million in cap space, the Packers are well-armed to do so.

However, the feeling here is Cobb has played his last snap in Green Bay. Yes, it’s going to be about the money. Though I don’t think it’s going to be about Thompson being “cheap.”

In late July, Nelson agreed to a four-year extension that’s worth $9.76 million per season. It was a huge bargain then and even a bigger bargain now, given Nelson just put up a season eclipsed by only six receivers in NFL history. If walking-headache Percy Harvin is worth $12.8 million per year, Mike Wallace $12 million, Dwayne Bowe $11.2 million and Vincent Jackson $11.1 million, what in the hell is Nelson worth? Heck, if Greg Jennings is worth $9 million per year …

With that financial backdrop, does Thompson want to upset the apple cart by giving Cobb, say, $11 million per season? Is Nelson better than Cobb? Is Cobb better than Nelson? Who knows. They’re both dominant in their own ways. Would Nelson be upset if he was the second-highest paid player at his position on his team? Publicly, Nelson has said no. Maybe he truly believes that. Then again, these are some of the most competitive men on earth. And in that walk of life, money is the measuring stick. Considering the Packers didn’t totally open the vault for Nelson, would he be at least a bit irritated if the Packers not only opened the vault but rolled out the red carpet for Cobb?

The locker room is a delicate place. Thompson puts great thought into constructing his team. My guess is Thompson would rather not disrupt team harmony. And that’s not to mention the team-building ramifications of having about $53 million of cap space wrapped up in four players and close to $70 million in six. That’s proven to be a tough model.

So, unless Cobb is willing to take less to stay in the comfort of Green Bay and the knowledge that he’s going to put up monster numbers with an elite quarterback and be in contention for a Super Bowl every year, my guess is he’s going to see what’s available when teams can (legally) start contacting agent Jimmy Sexton on Saturday. He’s going to see a bunch of offers in excess of $10 million per season. He’s going to see that other teams apparently value him more than the Packers do. He’s going to like the idea of being the face of a franchise, rather than being only the No. 2 receiver, as he’s viewed by just about everybody outside of 1265 Lombardi Ave. And he’s going to sign somewhere else early Tuesday evening.

And then Thompson is going to come under the wrath of fans like never before. No doubt, some players inside his own locker room are going to say, “What in the hell are we doing?” And the Packers are going to move on with Jared Abbrederis or some draft pick to “replace” the irreplaceable Cobb. Rather than adding pieces to a championship-worthy team, the Packers will be filling in holes.

Good luck with that.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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