Wednesday, February 25, 2015

It Looks Like It's Going To Be Hard For The Packers To Re-Sign Either Cobb or Bulaga

I wrote last month about how it seems unlikely that the Green Bay Packers will be able to re-sign RT Bryan Bulaga (they're already committing a lot of salary cap room to Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang, and Bulaga is arguably the best tackle available on either the left or right side), and they might be in a similar situation with WR Randall Cobb.
Outside of Cobb and Bulaga, the only other free agent who deserves a significant, new contract is CB Tramon Williams, who's not in the same situation as those two because he's over 30 (he'll turn 32 before the start of next season) and he's looking for his second post-rookie contract (always a danger zone for NFL free agents). The Packers and other teams will be wary of Williams in ways they won't be for Cobb or Bulaga.

While Bulaga is probably a fit for any team that needs a tackle, a lot of teams are (and should be) concerned about how much success should go to the receiver and how much should go to the quarterback. A perfect example is WR Eric Decker, who was the No. 1 free agent wide receiver last year. The Jets did give him a five-year, $36.25 million contract with $15 million in guarantees, but he didn't even come close to turning Geno Smith into Peyton Manning. A Decker type deal for Cobb might be seen as fair, but his agent might be looking for a Percy Harvin deal (six-years, $67 million with $25.5 million guaranteed). WR Jordy Nelson recently re-signed for five-years, $43 million and was paid an additional $13.5 million in 2014. I doubt the Packers want to pay Cobb more than Nelson, however, the market might be changing because the salary cap is going to jump up soon.

In the case of either Bulaga or Cobb, it's likely that they both command new contracts with a cap figure of over $10 million each in 2016 or 2017. The Packers only have three such players in 2015 (Rodgers, Matthews, Peppers) and by 2017 that number will rise to four (Rodgers, Matthews, Shields, Nelson). The salary cap could be as high as $160 million in 2017 but that would make the roster quite top heavy if nearly 50% of it goes to six guys (Rodgers will $20 million by himself in 2017). There aren't a lot of other players likely to join that group (Casey Hayward and Eddie Lacy probably won't be paid that much in a couple years) but these six players alone can put a major strain on the cap.

Can they get Bulaga to agree to a back loaded contract so that his cap number doesn't rise substantially until 2017 (when Sitton and Lang are off the books)? Can they afford two wide receivers with $10 million plus cap charges (Cobb in addition to Nelson)? Maybe they're trying to win now and they'll deal with a potential salary cap mess in the future, which is a legitimate strategy, but that's now how GM Ted Thompson has operated over the past few years. Based on the fact that they haven't re-signed either of these players yet, and the stress their new contracts would put on their salary cap over the next three years, I'm not sure about their chances of re-signing either player.

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