Will Nelson/Cobb Stay After 2014?
Every Packer fan knows that both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are invaluable to Green Bay's offense, so that's why everyone is on pins and needles while they play this season with only one year left on their contracts.
Nelson and Cobb have come a long way since being drafted by the Pack; Nelson, a virtual unknown from Kansas State, was a surprise second-round pick in 2008 because they already had top-notch receivers like Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. This was similar to Cobb, who was a second-rounder the season after the Packers won Super Bowl XLV. Despite both of them being in a crowded receiving corps, they have overcome the competition and are now Aaron Rodgers's top two targets.
Of course, many of you are probably thinking "Wouldn't Aaron Rodgers make anybody look like a great receiver?" First of all, it's obvious that Nelson and Cobb are fortunate to play with such a skillful quarterback like Rodgers; I'm sure that they wouldn't be able to put up the same numbers if they were playing somewhere like Houston or Jacksonville. However, Rodgers is also lucky to have so many great receivers throughout his career. It's very similar to Peyton Manning when he played in Indianapolis; He helped Marvin Harrison post eye-popping stats almost every season, but there's no doubt that he also had the best hands in the league.
As I said in the beginning of the column, both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are on the last year of their contracts, and if they don't agree to extensions by the end of the 2014 season, they could hit the free agent market and sign with another team. Before I go any further, I want to point out that it would be highly unlikely to see both leave the Packers next season; not only would that be questionable on Ted Thompson's part, but I'm sure that Rodgers would be pretty infuriated. Still, Thompson only gives big extensions to players that he believes are irreplaceable, like Rodgers, Clay Matthews, and Sam Shields.
Now, the Packers may be deciding which receiver is more valuable to the team and to the offense. Trust me, that's not an easy question to answer; although Nelson and Cobb play very differently, they both bring a set of skills that would be icing on the cake for any quarterback. Jordy Nelson, for example, has given his fans plenty of eye candy with his incredible acrobatic receptions, most notably from the sideline; he has improved ten-fold since he was drafted, and Green Bay's front office probably knows it better than everyone else.
Cobb, on the other hand, is more of a wild-card on the offense; although he may come off as an ordinary slot receiver, he has the quickness and ability to line up in the backfield and occasionally take a hand-off or two from #12. Also, did you see how open he was on the game-winner at Chicago?
So, who do you pick? To me, this is just like the Peyton Manning-Tom Brady argument: you can give really good reasons for both, so there probably isn't a right or wrong answer. There were reports in June that the Packers would like to get an extension with Jordy Nelson done sooner than later, but we'll obviously have to wait and see if that actually happens.
If one or both extensions aren't completed by the end of the season, another factor could be how well the younger receivers play in 2014. Jarrett Boykin is currently slated as the team's number three WR, but I would keep my eye on rookies Davante Adams and Jared Abbrederis. Both were selected later-than-expected in this year's draft, so I believe that Thompson picked them based on their value, not to replace Nelson/Cobb. However, that doesn't mean that it won't happen.
Davante Adams has been compared by many to former Packer James Jones, but he has made some Jordy Nelson-like circus catches while at Fresno State. Also, Abbrederis has shown the potential to become a slot receiver for a long time in this league. I'm not sure if he can throw/run the ball at Cobb's level yet, but he could add it to his arsenal in time.
In conclusion, Packer fans are known to cling on to their players very tightly, and that's why it's heartbreaking when they see one of them play for someone else because they weren't able to get a new deal done. However, the NFL is a business, and if a player has to leave in order to provide for their family, they'll do it. I'm not saying that Nelson and/or Cobb will be gone in 2015, but just be prepared that one of them may not come back. For now, let's just enjoy this season when we know that both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are wearing a "G" on the side of their helmets.