If you're making a list of the most talented and deepest receiving corps in the league and the Green Bay Packers aren't near, or at, the top, you've most likely failed.
One of the biggest reasons for this is because of who the Packers have atop their depth chart at wide receiver. The combination of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb is one of the best duos in the league, if not the single best.
The ultimate problem for Green Bay is that both Cobb and Nelson will be unrestricted free agents following the 2014 season. So, will the Packers be able to keep both Nelson and Cobb together long-term?
They obviously hope they can, but it might not be as easy as having them sign on the dotted lines. Both Nelson and Cobb have been in contract negotiations throughout the offseason to no avail.
There hasn't been much news concerning Cobb's negotiations, according to Paul Imig at FoxSports.com. As for Nelson, it's also been a slow process for him to get a new deal done. Nelson recently had this to say about his contract, via Tyler Dunne and Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel:
Obviously you want to get it done as soon as possible, said Nelson. But there are a lot of other people that are involved in that. It's a process and we'll just have to wait and see how it goes. I guess I'm more focused on hoping it gets done before we get to that.
While it'd be great for the Packers to be able to sign both players to long-term deals and have them keep playing with Aaron Rodgers through his prime, the issue is going to be figuring out how to pay them. Green Bay already has quite a bit of money locked up in only a handful of players, as you can see in the chart below, via Spotrac.com:
|Highest Paid Players for Packers|
|Player||Position||Average Yearly Salary||Contract Ends|
|Aaron Rodgers||QB||$22 Million||2020|
|Clay Matthews||OLB||$13.2 Million||2019|
|Sam Shields||CB||$9.75 Million||2018|
|Julius Peppers||DE/OLB||$8.7 Million||2017|
|Tramon Williams||CB||$8.25 Million||2015|
|Jordy Nelson||WR||$3.15 Million||2015|
As you can see above, Nelson currently makes an average salary of $3.15 million per year. Cobb has an even more team-friendly salary of just over $800,000 per year. In order to sign them both to long-term deals, the Packers would likely need to pay them an average yearly salary close to what the top players in the league make.
Brandon Marshall just signed a contract extension that'll pay him $30 million over three years, or an average of $10 million per year. Mike Wallace signed a monster deal with the Miami Dolphins that pays him an average salary of $12 million per year, according to Spotrac.com.
Cobb and Nelson are certainly better than Wallace, and it wouldn't be too crazy to place them ahead of Marshall, either. So, if Wallace can get $12 million per year on the open market, what could Nelson and Cobb get? And if Marshall got an extension for $10 million per year, shouldn't Cobb and Nelson get something similar?
To have an average of around $20 million per year tied up to two receivers is quite a bit of money. And the reality is that there are a number of teams in the league that would gladly pay more than that to add a legitimate No. 1 receiver to their roster.
There's no doubt that each player's agent is whispering the same thing in their ears. While there are benefits to getting a long-term deal done now, there's certainly more money for all parties on the open market.
The good news for Green Bay is that they currently have the room in its salary cap to get deals done for its top receivers. With anywhere between $12 million and $14 million to work with, the Packers could sign both Cobb and Nelson to deals that pay the majority of their money in the middle-to-later years.
However, that could also put them in a tricky situation with Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and Sam Shields all getting higher salaries with each year that passes. The Packers could certainly figure it out if they wanted to but doing so might hinder them from addressing other key positions in the near future.
Keeping both Cobb and Nelson would be huge for the Packers offense. But the Packers shouldn't be too surprised if they simply aren't able to keep them both together for the long term.
If that's the case, we should all enjoy them while we can.