By now everyone has heard that the Packers put Jordy Nelson out to pasture. I knew this day was coming, so I can’t say I’m surprised. Needless to say, it still smarts. Age has never been an asset for anyone in professional football, and in this era, that expiration date is occurring younger and younger.
Some will argue that Jordy was never the same after his ACL injury. Other’s will point out that he was the Comeback Player of the year in 2016. Needless to day, he stared the season strong last year before quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with his second clavicle injury.
After that, he just seemed to fade into the woodwork. Quite honestly, it’s hard to tell if his decrease in performance was on Nelson or if the problem rested with backup QB Brent Hundley whom seemed to struggle with connections that were more than a 15 yard pass. Either way, Nelson appeared to vanish the rest of the season.
At the end of the day, it was likely money. Nelson was due to earn $12.5 Million this year, and releasing him would free up about $10 Million in cap space this year is the biggest reason he has been released.
There is no question he was no longer the deep threat he was several years ago. Unfortunately the era of the WR playing with the same team into his forties is a thing of the past. With the physicality of today’s football, the shelf-life of wide receivers is growing shorter and shorter. And there will always be a new class of high-achieving wide outs waiting in the wings to fill those roster spots as others age out.
I suppose that is the business side of football. Stronger, faster, high like the Olympic motto.
Aaron Rodgers once told Jason Wilde on their former show Tuesdays With Aaron that players often receive the awards and accolades that they deserve a year later than they earned, but they also exit a team about a year after their performance declines. That was certainly the case a few years back with Donald Driver. He had very little impact a during his 13 games of his final year. In 2012 Driver only had 8 receptions for 77 yards, a shadow of his previous performances that used to put up a thousand yards a season and double digit touchdowns.
As for Nelson, his final year in Green Bay resembled more of his first few years in Titletown where he wasn’t the primary target. Like Driver before him, he was previously capable of thousand yard years. Last year, he only netted 53 receptions for 482 yards and 6 touchdowns. These aren’t numbers that command $12+ Million per year when a rookie can catch for the same statistics.
Football is very much a numbers game. You need to continue to produce to garner the prized top contracts. Per Jason Wilde, the Packers did try to retain him much like the cut and resigned AJ Hawk in the twilight of his career for a bargain basement price. But the numbers game cuts both ways, and it appears that Nelson wouldn’t bite at a contract that was just a little north of a 10 year veteran minimum. When you’re cutting salaries several fold over, sometimes that can be a deal breaker and the hometown discount doesn’t mean much when a player has a year or three left in the tank. As of this afternoon, it appears that Nelson will be speed dating with three different teams in his quest to extend his career with the highest salary possible.
I guess I can’t fault him for it.
As long as he doesn’t sign with the Vikings.
That said, it appears that Jordy is meeting with Oakland with Seattle and New Orleans as backups if that falls through. (No surprise with the first two as both have strong ties to Green Bay with Reggie McKenzie and John Schneider, respectively.)
Regardless, Jordy Nelson’s career is far from over, and it will feel weird seeing him in a uniform that is not Green and Gold.
So as we close the Packers chapter on Jordy’s career, I think Aaron Rodgers summed it up best on his Instagram account as he bid farewell to his friend and colleague:
Hard to find the right words today to express what 87 means to me. No teammate exemplified what it means to be a Packer quite like him. From living in GB full time, his incredible contributions to the city, state, and region, to his consistent, reliable play on the field. Definitely a sad day and the toughest part of this business. There will never be another quite like white lightning. #leader #brother #friend #baller #loyal #champion #legacy #intact #stillcanplayball #backshoulder #1stSBTD
Don’t worry, Aaron. We’re sad with you.