Grading the Packers’ Wide Receivers on a Salary Cap Curve

Without Jordy Nelson, the Green Bay Packers' receiver corps suffered. It didn't help the offense that Randall Cobb and Davante Adams failed to perform to expectations.

Player grades are a tried-and-true staple at the end of every season. We put our usual spin on them by grading the players on a salary-cap curve. Stats are from STATS and the NFL.

Wide receivers

Randall Cobb: The four-year, $40 million contract Cobb signed in March included only a $1.2 million base salary. Thus, his cap hit of $5.35 million ranked only 21st among receivers. Even next year, when his cap moves to $9.15 million, he’ll rank only 17th — a list he’ll likely fall further down once free agency opens. Statistically, Cobb was a big disappointment as he was unable to carry the weight of the passing game on his 5-foot-10 shoulders. In 2014, when Cobb teamed with Jordy Nelson to form an unstoppable tandem, he caught 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. Without Nelson, defenses focused on Cobb and limited him to 79 receptions for 829 yards. Half of his six touchdowns came in Week 3 against Kansas City. Cobb caught 61.2 percent of passes thrown his way compared to 74.1 during his first four seasons and 71.7 percent last year. His YAC per catch dipped from 6.79 to 5.67, his yards per catch plunged from 14.1 to 10.5 and his 25-yard gains tumbled from 12 to just six. Perhaps because he pressed too much when getting fleeting opportunities in single coverage, he dropped six passes. In many ways, he was a victim of circumstance but this is a bottom-line business and the bottom line is Cobb couldn’t rescue the passing attack. Grade: C-minus.

James Jones: Without Nelson, where would the Packers have been without the return of Jones? He caught 50 passes for a career-high 890 yards and eight touchdowns, ranking No. 1 on the team in yards, tied for No. 1 in touchdowns and No. 1 (and No. 3 in the NFL) with 17.8 yards per reception. Remarkably for a player with limited speed, he somehow managed to get open for 15 receptions of 25-plus yards — fourth-most by a Packer since 1991 and good for fifth in the league. Remember when he had those inexplicable dropped passes in 2009 and 2010? He dropped only three this season. He had 263 yards after the catch — more than he had with Oakland last season, when he caught 73 passes. With all of that, Jones’ athletic limitations made him an easy cover at times. His zero-catch performance at Arizona in the playoffs marked the sixth time he had had zero or one catch. He had a cap hit of just $585,000. Grade: B-minus.

Davante Adams: There wasn’t a bigger disappointment on the team than Adams. Even while being No. 3 in the progression on most plays as a rookie second-round pick, Adams had four games of at least six receptions, including his seven-catch, 117-yard, one-touchdown performance vs. Dallas in the playoffs. Without Nelson, it was up to Adams to pick up the slack. He failed miserably. Sidelined for most of four games with an ankle injury that seemed to impact him for much longer, Adams had only two games with at least six receptions. Not only didn’t he have a 100-yard game, but he had just one game with more than 80 yards. He went from 38 receptions for 446 yards (11.7 average) and three touchdowns in 2014 to 50 receptions for 483 yards (9.7 average) and one touchdown in 2015. His drops went from two to six while his YAC per catch from 4.55 to 2.67 — 134th out of 139 players who caught at least 32 passes. His cap number was $893,955. Grade: D.

Jared Abbrederis: Until he can put together a season or two, injuries will be the No. 1 question dogging Abbrederis. He barely worked up a sweat the past two training camps, suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2014 and a serious concussion in 2015. He caught four passes for 57 yards during the failed comeback vs. Detroit in Week 10 but missed the next two games with injured ribs. He finished the season with nine receptions for 111 yards and added six receptions for 69 yards, plus a two-point conversion, in the playoffs. Because he was released at the end of camp, his contract was torn up. When promoted from the practice squad, he received the standard minimum-salary, no-bonus contract. He wound up counting about $358,000 against the cap. Abbrederis’ chemistry with quarterback Aaron Rodgers is remarkable, considering how much time Abbrederis is missed, but that won’t mean a thing unless he can get through a season. Grade. D.

Jeff Janis: Even though he was stuck on the bench for most of the season at receiver, Janis’ play on special teams made him a bargain with a cap charge of less than $523,000. His work fighting through double-teams as a gunner was a major reason why the Packers held their opponents to a league-best 4.2 yards per punt return. His 15 tackles on special teams ranked second on the club, and while he was hit-or-miss as a kickoff returner, he averaged 29.0 yards per runback. That was a major reason why Green Bay soared from No. 23 to No. 5 in starting field position following a kickoff. After catching two passes as a rookie and two more in 2015, he had a breakout playoff performance with seven catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Of course, it’s worth noting that two catches for 101 yards came on desperation bombs at the end of regulation, so he really only had five grabs for 44 yards in the context of the offense. Still, he’s got a huge upside and will challenge for a much bigger role in 2016. Grade: B.

Ty Montgomery: After one of his many big plays in training camp, the scouts gathered together on the sideline smiled, believing they had a versatile third-round steal on their hands who took up $586,636 of the cap. Instead, Montgomery injured an ankle in Week 6 and couldn’t get back on the field and ultimately required surgery. He finished the season with 15 receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns and provided an instant jolt to what had been one of the worst kickoff returns in the league with a 31.1-yard average. The question is, will he come back strong or are injuries a concern for a player who was sidelined by knee and shoulder injuries at Stanford? Grade: D.

Jordy Nelson: With a cap charge of $4.6 million, Nelson should have been one of the biggest bargains in the league. In 2013 and 2014 combined, Nelson caught 183 passes for 2,833 yards and 21 touchdowns. Instead, he tore his ACL in the preseason and the offense was doomed to mediocrity. Nelson’s cap number rises to $8.8 million for 2016, $11.55 million for 2017 and $12.55 million for 2018. Grade: Incomplete.

Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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