By CHRIS HAVEL
Thompson continues history of keeping best young players beyond rookie deal
Thompson’s ability to retain his best draft picks at or before the end of their rookie contract is extraordinary. Cobb is merely the latest. Before him there was Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Sam Shields, the offensive linemen and so on.
Re-signing the best players to at-or-below market price – while maintaining cohesion in the locker room – is essential to the Packers’ draft-and-develop philosophy. The Packers have done this masterfully.
Consider Cobb’s deal. It favors the Packers because Cobb’s $17 million guaranteed is likely $4 million less in guaranteed money than other teams were offering. Clearly, the Packers didn’t overpay to keep Cobb. They get a talented, high-production receiver who is just entering his prime (24) who is well-versed in the Green Bay offense. They also keep a play-maker who is the perfect complement to Jordy Nelson.
Essentially, the Packers guaranteed $17 million knowing Cobb merely needs to perform the next two seasons to make it money well spent. At his age, and given his quarterback’s Hall of Fame talent, there is no reason Cobb shouldn’t post huge numbers.
For Cobb, the deal is excellent on several levels. First, by guaranteeing Cobb $17 million the Packers got within reach of other team’s bigger offers. Cobb wasn’t put in the difficult position of having to choose between doing the economically wise thing by leaving for a lot more money or staying in Green Bay, winning and being happy. It would make no sense for Cobb to agree to a deal with Jacksonville, for instance, for only $1 million per year more in guaranteed money.
Second, Cobb’s deal is for four years, not the five years some suitors reportedly were seeking. Cobb will be 27 when he enters his next contract year. He will have been catching passes from Rodgers, barring disaster, which means big statistics and a big payday.
Third, Cobb gets to stay with a team who values and utilizes his talents. It doesn’t hurt that the Packers are perennial playoff contenders, and it is likely Cobb feels this team is close to a championship.
Frankly, the Packers surprised me by guaranteeing $17 million, and Cobb surprised me by keeping the Packers in the forefront throughout. This deal doesn’t happen if Cobb is unwilling to consider less money. To everyone who criticized Thompson a week ago because it appeared the Packers wouldn’t retain Cobb, feel free to send your apologies to 1265 Lombardi Ave. To everyone who guessed Cobb would be a selfish, greedy player who would sign the highest offer, feel free to re-board the bandwagon. There’s plenty of room.
In fact, there’s plenty of money remaining under the Packers’ salary cap with several key positions to fill. Don’t be surprised if the Packers show interest in veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, at least one inside linebacker (Brandon Spikes, perhaps), and quite possibly a tight end (Julius Thomas).
In terms of re-signing their own, Thompson’s focus now turns to right tackle Bryan Bulaga and cornerback Tramon Williams. If everything works out, it’s possible the Packers could retain both.
So far this offseason, Thompson has cleaned house at inside linebacker, retained Cobb at a terrific but fair price, and set the stage for acquiring more help through free agency with the draft still weeks away. Isn’t it amazing how much smarter Thompson and the Packers look today than they did a week ago?
Some fans will never learn.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.
By CHRIS HAVEL