When the Green Bay Packers sent a sixth-round draft pick to the Houston Texans in exchange for wide receiver Randall Cobb, it was clear that Brian Gutekunst’s only goal was to mend the front office’s relationship with quarterback and Cobb’s friend Aaron Rodgers.
“I think that’s a big part of it. Without Aaron, we probably wouldn’t be pursuing it,” Gutekunst admitted after the trade.
Cobb can become an important part of the offense one year later, though.
Green Bay’s offseason priority is to add new offensive weapons. They should draft more than one receiver, and signing a free agent is not off the table. But, historically, Rodgers has required some time to fully trust new teammates. Therefore, it’s natural to wonder if any addition will have the immediate impact Packers fans want and Green Bay’s offense needs. Cobb is by far the most experienced receiver in the room and the one with the strongest connection to Rodgers.
“It’s something that I talked about back in February, wanting to bring in a true slot receiver,” said Rodgers during last training camp. “I thought it would make our offense more dynamic. I think Randall’s a dynamic player — he has been when he’s been healthy.”
Cobb played eight seasons with the Packers but signed with the Dallas Cowboys after the 2018 season. Therefore, he hadn’t played under head coach Matt LaFleur’s system until Green Bay re-acquired him last season.
After playing for the Cowboys and Texans in 2019 and 2020, Cobb became a secondary piece in Green Bay last season. He was basically the fourth wide receiver on the depth chart, behind Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Two of the three are not Packers anymore, so Cobb’s role will be bigger.
Cobb signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Texans in 2020. Therefore, 2022 is slated to be the last year of his deal, and he took a significant $5.5 million pay cut to stay in Green Bay. He’ll earn $2.7 million with a $4.15 million cap hit.
In 2021, Cobb needed some time to learn the offense and to have any impact. After five combined targets in the first three weeks, No. 18 thrived in the fourth game, recording 69 yards and two touchdowns, reeling in five receptions in six targets against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Cobb’s production got slightly better after that, but he never had great numbers. Even when Adams, Lazard, and MVS were out in the Week 8 game against the Arizona Cardinals, Cobb had just five targets, three receptions, and 15 yards. However, two of the receptions were touchdowns.
Cobb put up his best stats in his last game of the season. In Week 12, Cobb had four receptions, 95 yards, and a touchdown before suffering a core muscle injury that ended his regular season. The veteran was cleared to play again in the playoffs but had no receptions in the loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
What to expect
Cobb finished last season with 375 yards, a career-low (tied with his rookie season). But the bright side is that Cobb had five touchdowns, his best number since 2015. That’s precisely where No. 18 can be dangerous. Even though Cobb is just 5’10”, 192 lbs., he is smart and a good route runner, which bodes well for his case to be a frequent red-zone target.
If second-year receiver Amari Rodgers takes another step, Cobb might even see more playing time as a boundary receiver because that’s something the Packers don’t have on the roster for now. But being a reliable weapon near the end zone will be Cobb’s biggest calling card – and reliability is an important factor, as he had zero drops last season.
Green Bay’s red-zone efficiency dropped from 76.81% (first in the NFL) in 2020 to 57.53% (18th) in 2021. The Packers advanced to the red zone but didn’t have the same ease converting it into touchdowns as they did the year before. Cobb’s connection with Rodgers and his ability to get open and make contested catches to score is unmatched with the other receivers on the roster.
Before the loss to the 49ers, Cobb talked about how much a championship would mean to him.
“I got drafted here right after the Super Bowl (win in the 2010 season),” he said. “We went 15-1 (in 2011). I thought we were going that year. Thought we were going in ’14. Obviously ’16, the loss in Atlanta.”
And that’s what he will pursue again in 2022.