GREEN BAY, Wis. — A Randall Cobb return to the Dallas Cowboys for 2020 makes sense from several angles:
He had another productive season — with 55 catches for 828 yards and three touchdowns, most of it from the highly coveted slot receiver position.
He stayed relatively healthy, missing just one game.
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And then there’s the Mike McCarthy factor. McCarthy, the newly minted Cowboys head coach, was the Packers’ coach when Green Bay drafted Cobb in 2011.
But that’s not the only team that could be in play for Cobb’s services.
Yes, the Green Bay Packers could be on that list.
The Packers almost certainly will pick a receiver high in a receiver-rich draft. They might even do it at No. 30, which would mark the first time since 2002 (Javon Walker) that they drafted a receiver in the first round. But that might not be enough to give Aaron Rodgers the weapons he needs.
Among the most glaring deficiencies in the Packers’ offense under first-year coach Matt LaFleur was slot production. LaFleur tried to manufacture some by moving No. 1 receiver Davante Adams inside at times. And Adams caught 30 of his team-high 83 passes from the slot, accounting for 263 of his 997 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
However, the Packers’ top five receivers combined barely topped Cobb’s catch total (50) from the slot. Their quintet of Adams, Geronimo Allison, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Jake Kumerow combined for 63 slot receptions for a total of 683 yards. Cobb had 716 of his 828 receiving yards from the slot.
When the Packers let Cobb walk in free agency, they hoped Allison could move into the slot role. He caught 22 of his 34 passes from the slot for 222 of his 287 yards, but it wasn’t enough. Allison doesn’t have the lateral quickness that the smaller Cobb possesses and is vital to operate in the middle of the field.
It made sense for the Packers to move on from Cobb last year at this time. He had never matched his production from his breakout season of 2014, injuries piled up and the Packers had a young group of receivers that needed to be developed. One of them, Equanimeous St. Brown, spent all year on injured reserve and never played.
General manager Brian Gutekunst admitted after the 2019 season that he tried to make a move for a receiver at the trade deadline.
“We looked at that, but I also was very optimistic that some of our young players would improve and get us where we needed to be,” Gutekunst said last month.
That never happened.
“There was a lot of good and there’s a lot of things we need to improve upon, at all positions, not just the wide receivers,” LaFleur said shortly before he fired receivers coach Alvin Whitted. “We’ve got to get all our guys playing at their absolute best level, and I don’t think that was always the case this season. There’s more out there for us. All we could ever do as a coaching staff is try to get our players to be at their best and just given the effort, there’s more out there for us.”
By most accounts, the Cowboys were pleased with Cobb’s contributions while playing under a one-year, $5 million contract. Cobb recently told USA Today’s NFL Wire that he enjoyed his time in Dallas and thought there was a chance he could return.
“I try to get lost in my training and worry about that first and foremost, because everything else will handle itself,” Cobb said while working out in California. “Once free agency gets here, we’ll see what happens. There’s no telling, and there’s been a lot of crazy things happening in this business.”
And crazier things have happened than a Cobb return to Green Bay. The Packers once brought back another receiver they jettisoned, James Jones in 2015, but that was after Jordy Nelson’s preseason knee injury. Cobb will turn 30 in August, so there’s always concern about a physical decline.
The argument that a player like Cobb could slow the development of a younger, long-term player was proven wrong in 2019, when other than Lazard (who’s an outside receiver, not a slot player) none of them developed. There’s time for development but not at the expense of immediate results for a team that needs something to help get over the NFC Championship Game hump.
An entire season proved that the Packers have one elite receiver and a major need for multiple new targets. Rodgers developed high-level chemistry with Adams, something he had with Cobb and Nelson. In fact, since the start of 2011 — Cobb’s rookie season — Rodgers has more completions to Cobb (429) than any receiver besides Nelson (469).
“Obviously Davante is a premier receiver,” Gutekunst said. “I thought in different games different guys stepped up. I thought Allen Lazard had some pretty good moments in clutch times. .. Here’s a guy we cut and brought back and he’s catching a fourth-and-2 in the NFC Championship Game. I thought there were guys that stepped up in some pretty big moments.
“I think consistency, we didn’t have anybody step into that role consistently, and I think there will be some opportunity for those guys next year. And I think that’ll be a position we look to add.”
Source : ESPN