Whether intentional or simply a byproduct of drafting three wide receivers the Green Bay Packers felt they couldn't pass up, a subtle message has been sent to fellow wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb: Sign your contract extensions soon, lest you be passed in the wide receiver pecking order.
Both Nelson and Cobb enter the final year of their respective deals and are scheduled to become free agents in 2015.
Obviously the three rookies drafted by the Packers—second-rounder Davante Adams, fifth-rounder Jared Abbrederis and seventh-round Jeff Janis—have a long way to go before proving themselves at an NFL level and supplanting any veterans on the wide receiver totem pole. And that's not even including third-rounder Richard Rodgers, a tight end in a wide receiver's body.
But general manager Ted Thompson was not about to let occur what happened late in Brett Favre's tenure during the Mike Sherman era in Green Bay, namely failing to surround him with sufficient receiving talent.
Personnel decisions may be driven in Green Bay by primarily altruistic reasons for the sake and overall well-being of the team above any individual, but the Packers certainly aren't oblivious to the bottom line and how decisions can be influenced by the salary cap and almight dollar.
Such was the case earlier this offseason when the team decided to keep David Bakhtiari at left tackle and move Bryan Bulaga back to right tackle.
A compelling argument could have been made either way, and ultimately, the plan is to have both Bakhtiari and Bulaga on the field at the same time. But by making the decision they did, the Packers saved themselves millions of dollars if and when they re-sign Bulaga by generally type-casting him as a right tackle.
If there's anyone that deserves a raise in the NFL, it's Jordy Nelson, who played the role of good soldier in accepting a contract below market value the last time he was up for free agency. By generally out-playing his contract and developing into a veritable No. 1 NFL wide receiver, Nelson has set himself up for a hefty pay raise.
I cannot enter Nelson's mind and he doesn't seem to be the type to do such a thing, but it's not in his best interests to hold the organization hostage in contract negotiations.
Nelson has shown to be at the top his game and has given no indications of slowing down, but at 28 years old, his window for top-tier play probably only lasts until he hits the wrong side of 30.
If Nelson expects the Packers to committ to him for the next five seasons, he probably has a rude awakening coming to him—unless it were a contract structured such that the Packers could easily escape.
Recent examples of two Packers passing up limited-time offers were wide receiver Greg Jennings and B.J. Raji, who could have made significantly more money had they chosen to gamble on free agency.
Jennings reportedly received an offer averaging $11 million per season from the Packers when he was seeking in the realm of $15 million before settling on a deal that paid him roughly $9 million per annum with the Minnesota Vikings.
Raji found himself in a similar situation, reportedly spurning an offer of $8 million a year before returning to the Packers on just a one-year deal worth $4 million and merely $500,000 guaranteed earlier this offseason.
For what it's worth, Nelson and Cobb don't seem like the type of people that will fall for the same traps as Jennings and Raji, but the allure of large sums of money has a way of making people act differently.
Nelson and Cobb would be advised to accept a fair and reasonable contract offer from the Packers while their earning power is at its highest.
Coming off a season in which he had a career-high 85 receptions for 1,314 yards, Nelson has never been more valuable. And the lasting image people have of Randall Cobb this past season is him streaking to the end zone against the Chicago Bears to help clinch the NFC North division title and a spot in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, both receivers have also had injury issues in recent seasons—a hamstring issue that forced Nelson to miss four games in 2012 and a broken leg that kept Cobb out nearly half the season last year.
All it can take is one more injury to receive a label as injury-prone and be passed by a Davante Adams or a Jarrett Boykin—at least from a production standpoint. Nelson and Cobb don't want that to happen and should accept the security a fair but still lucrative contract extension offers without having to squeeze out every last penny.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
Photo: Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson by Larry Radloff Photography.
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