The Green Bay Packers are still an offensive juggernaut, especially through the air. Aaron Rodgers & Co. finished fourth in the NFL in scoring and seventh in the league in passing yards.
While Rodgers is arguably the most talented QB in the league, the excellent performances from the receiving corps were a big part of the team’s success. Jordy Nelson (14) and Davante Adams (12) finished first and second in the league in receiving touchdowns, Randall Cobb remains a versatile threat, and UDFA Geronimo Allison looked like he could be a steal in his limited playing time.
But despite the receiving corps’ success in 2016, the Packers need to begin looking at ways to ensure the unit is effective moving forward. In just a year, Green Bay’s wide receivers could look very different.
Nelson is preparing for his age-32 season. Even though he won Comeback Player of the Year in 2016, an aging receiver with an ACL injury could start regressing soon. Cobb battled his own injuries last year, and has not been the same receiver he was in 2014 since becoming the team’s highest-paid receiver. Adams is set to hit the free agent market, and if he turns in a 2017 campaign similar to last season, he’ll command a contract that the ever-frugal Ted Thompson may be reluctant to dole out. And Allison’s limited success could very well have been nothing more than a flash in the pan.
For those reasons, the Packers should be planning ahead at wide receiver now.
Priority number one should be re-signing Adams ASAP. He had a poor 2015 season, but a good rookie year and a great 2016. His talent speaks for itself and he has quickly developed tremendous chemistry and trust with Rodgers. Green Bay would be wise to offer Adams a new contract before or during the season, though the receiver likely will want to set himself up for a big pay day by playing the entire year before making decisions.
If Thompson is forced to give Adams a ton of money, it is possible that Cobb could be released following 2017. He’ll count $12.75 against the cap in 2018, slightly more than Nelson is set to make. Simply put, a 2014-esque Cobb is worth that kind of money; a 2016-esque Cobb is not. If he can’t bounce back, the Packers could very well be looking for a new receiver to fill the versatile slot role that #18 occupies.
It would not be surprising to see the Packers use another draft pick (albeit a late rounder) on a receiver in this year’s draft. That would at least give Green Bay to potentially develop a receiver to make up for the potential loss of Adams or Cobb. Allison looks talented and could play a bigger role soon, but that’s still a major unknown factor.
Elsewhere on the roster, Trevor Davis already fell out of the coaching staff’s good graces during his rookie year, and Jeff Janis will likely be shown the door when his contract his up after 2017.
So the Packers are set with one of the best receiving corps in the league, for this season at least. But a year from now, Green Bay’s receiving corps could have an entirely unfamiliar look. The team would be wise to at least prepare for the future of the wide receiver unit in a worst-case scenario.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .