The third of a 10-part position-by-position analysis of the Packersí roster and how they should proceed during the offseason.
UNDER CONTRACT: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin, Myles White, Alex Gillett, Kevin Dorsey, Chris Harper, Sederrik Cunningham
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT: James Jones
Where they stand
Itís important to provide quarterback Aaron Rodgers with as many pass-catching weapons as possible, and the Packers have two excellent options in Cobb and Nelson. Cobb missed more than half the season with a broken leg but returned in time to catch the last-minute, game-winning touchdown pass against Chicago to send the Packers into the playoffs. Nelson was the go-to receiver all season with 85 catches for 1,314 yards, both career highs, plus eight touchdowns. Although Nelson didnít earn a Pro Bowl berth, he was ranked No. 2 by Pro Football Focus among all NFL receivers. The Packers were No. 6 in passing yards in 2013 despite losing Rodgers and Cobb for huge chunks of the season. In a pass-happy league with a pass-oriented head coach, the Packers will continue to fill the sky with footballs, and it will be vital to keep the talented receiver pipeline flowing.
Jarrett Boykin, who caught 49 passes for 681 yards, is an emerging playmaker, although he doesnít have high-end speed and at 6-2, 218 pounds would be considered more of a possession receiver. The question that must be answered: Is Boykin ready to adequately fill the No. 3 receiving role? Or must the Packers re-sign veteran James Jones for that spot? Jones caught 59 passes for a career-high 817 yards last season. The Packers know exactly what they have in Jones, a reliable receiver with a good head on his shoulders who knows Rodgers and the offense well and is capable of making the tough catches.
The contracts of Nelson and Cobb expire after the 2014 season, meaning the Packers must put a priority on retaining both in the coming year. Cobb said on the NFL Network earlier this week he would ďdefinitely loveĒ to sign a long-term contract extension with the Packers. Although immediate action isnít needed, the Packers must prepare to re-sign their two best wideouts before they hit free agency a year from now.
That could mean sacrificing Jones by not re-signing him even if his price tag isnít too high in a market expected to be loaded with receivers. In a perfect world Jones would be re-signed with no questions asked. But if push comes to shove and money becomes a factor, the Packers might need to take the more economical route and groom Boykin as the No. 3 and draft a receiver fairly high with an eye on the future.