Will He Stay Or Will He Go?

As the clock ticks down to free agency, we Packer fans get set for the annual game of March fantasy football, where big names move to new teams and there is much excitement in cities like Oakland, Jacksonville and Washington. We Packer fans will sit and watch and know that the biggest Packer news will be the signing of guys like Josh Francus, the Pack's newest linebacker--late of the Indoor and Canadian Football Leagues.

What we all care most about is the fate of one Randall Cobb, who reportedly has numerous cash-loaded teams lined up and ready to throw top five WR money to a slot receiver: a versatile, exciting, dependable (mostly), unique talent who is not yet 25. It's rare for Ted Thompson not to keep guys he wants to keep, but if you read the tea leaves it's sounding more and more likely Cobb will receive an offer he can't refuse.

When Jordy Nelson took a nine million dollars a year deal, Thompson likely assumed that if Cobb had a big 2014 season, he'd slot him in at a similar, if not maybe a slightly lower salary. But the market for Cobb appears to be robust, with teams like the Raiders and Jaguars anxious to pair their young franchise QBs with a proven, young WR. Of course there is no guarantee that Cobb will be as valuable without Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball, but those teams know they'd be overpaying a bit for a receiver who has displayed zero diva tendencies. Stud WRs like that are getting harder and harder to find. Cobb has the skills to make a young, unproven QB look good.

The clock is ticking. Cobb's agent can begin (officially and legally) talking with GMs on Saturday, with free agency opening on Tuesday. Is there a chance Thompson and Cobb swing an eleventh hour deal that keeps him in Green Bay, a la Sam Shields last season? Sure, but with the cap number expanding, providing teams with millions of more ways to overspend, the smart money says Cobb gets a deal in the 11 million dollars a year range, if not more. I don't see Thompson approaching that number.

I think Thompson could have dealt with Cobb making more than Nelson, and I don't think Nelson's the kind of guy who would have a big problem with it. After all, he could have waited to sign and earned much more, but he took the sure thing and didn't want to gamble on an injury. But Thompson doesn't want to throw his payroll out of whack by overpaying at a position where he has assigned a certain value.

The Pack has the eighth most cap room to spend this season, and if they lose Cobb they can spend that money not only to resign all their guys they want back, as well as dip into free agency a bit more fervently than usual.

March is always frustrating for Packer fans, and if Cobb gets away it will feel disastrous. But know this: when the dust settles on the free agency period and we go through the draft, the Pack will be Super Bowl contenders in 2015--with or without Cobb. Thompson and McCarthy will be sure to arm Rodgers with plenty of talented targets.

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