Though Randall Cobb could have earned more money from other teams in free agency, he realized that wasn't his best route to happiness in the NFL.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Randall Cobb is happy he got to experience unrestricted free agency. But now that Cobb’s new contract is completed with the Green Bay Packers, the 24-year-old wide receiver is not looking forward to the possibility of doing it all again in 2019.
Cobb received offers from five different teams before informing his agent Saturday morning to focus entirely on getting a deal done with the Packers. Even after that point, a sixth team tried to enter the mix.
Though Cobb could have earned more money from other teams, he was happy with the four-year contract Green Bay presented that will pay him $40 million over the course of the deal (with $16.5 million guaranteed).
"I’m very thankful that I was able to see what market value was, to be able to see that business side of it," Cobb said Tuesday in a conference call. "But I would love not to go through that again."
As he thought about the idea of signing with the highest bidder, Cobb realized that wasn’t his best route to happiness in the NFL.
"At the end of the day, my mark was in Green Bay," Cobb said. "That’s where I knew I wanted to be. I knew I had a good thing going for me, and still, I signed a pretty lucrative deal. I figured that I can handle that (amount of money), as far as making that for the rest of my life."
Cobb, fellow wide receiver Jordy Nelson and quarterback Aaron Rodgers are all scheduled to be together now through the 2018 season. Along with Cobb’s deal expiring at that time, so will Nelson’s four-year, $39 million ($11.5 million guaranteed) extension that he signed in July 2014. Rodgers is currently signed for one year beyond Cobb and Nelson.
Looking ahead to the 2017 season, the trio of Cobb, Nelson and Rodgers will account for $44.6 million of the Packers’ cap space that year.
There were reports that Cobb turned down significantly more money, including from the Miami Dolphins. But playing long-term with Nelson and Rodgers was of greater importance to Cobb.
"I think we have a high-powered offense, and being able to have all of us stick together for another few years is going to be big," Cobb said. "I think it makes us hard to stop. You look at the numbers we were able to put up last year, God willing we all stay healthy and continue to produce at a high level, I think we’re in the mix year in and year out."
Last season, Cobb and Nelson were the first wide-receiver duo in NFL history to both have 90-plus catches, 1,200-plus receiving yards and 12-plus touchdowns.
Cobb said he didn’t speak with Nelson and Rodgers a whole lot, "but it was enough." The conversations weren’t even particularly about Cobb’s contract. They were more big-picture discussions, which only helped to solidify Cobb’s feelings about not changing teams.
"I never felt like they were selling me on anything," Cobb said. "Which they didn’t have to sell me on anything, because I knew what I had in both of them, I knew what I had in this team.
"To be able to win a championship with them, I think it would mean that much more to me."
Cobb has watched as former teammates Greg Jennings and James Jones left Green Bay and struggled to find nearly the same level of success. Jennings’ two years thus far with Minnesota have had him playing with multiple quarterbacks, and his 10 touchdowns as a Viking is fewer than the 12 he scored with the Packers in 2010 alone. And though Jones led Oakland in receptions this past season, he had to suffer through a losing season with the Raiders while working with rookie quarterback Derek Carr.
Cobb didn’t talk to Jennings or Jones before making his own free-agent decision, but he didn’t have to.
"I think that they made the decision that they felt was best for them at the time," Cobb said. "Whenever you make a decision, a life-altering decision like this, you have to live with it. I saw what (Jennings and Jones) went through, I saw obviously what they’ve done after leaving. I think I made the best decision for me and am not really worried about what other guys have done and how it worked out for them."
Leaving the comfort of playing with Rodgers is not an easy thing for a wide receiver to do, especially not when that wide receiver is still so early in his career. When Jennings and Jones left Green Bay, they were 29 years old. Cobb has five years to go before he’s that age.
"It was very important to me," Cobb said of staying alongside Rodgers. "I think Aaron is going to be the greatest quarterback in the history of the game. To be able to play with him and be a part of his legacy, and hopefully be able to get him more rings, to have a hand in that is a blessing, and I look forward to that."
It also helped make Cobb feel good about remaining a Packer knowing that the offense uses him in a variety of roles, including out of the backfield. Sure, another team might promise him certain things, but that could always change upon Cobb’s arrival.
"Coach (Mike) McCarthy and our offensive staff have been very creative in finding ways to get the ball in my hands and allow me to make plays," Cobb said. "Having a staff that understands what kind of player I am and being able to use my versatility in such a diverse offense, I think it definitely helps. "I think they maximize my ability by using me in so many different ways. I think that was huge for me to know I know what I’m going to get out of my coaching staff and the positions they’re going to put me in."
Cobb is coming off a career-best season with 91 catches for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns, numbers that ranked him no lower than 11th across the league in any of those statistical categories. With all of the key pieces staying in place in Green Bay, perhaps those stats become an annual tradition for Cobb.