Aaron's Answers: Pay cuts for Cobb, Matthews?

Aaron Nagler
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Throughout the offseason, I’ll be answering reader questions in a weekly mailbag here at If you’d like to submit a question in the future, just email me

I opened up my inbox last week on Twitter and you folks did not disappoint. I got way more emails than I expected to the first time out, but I guess I should have expected that from Packers fans. If I didn't get to your question, it was most likely duplicated or it was dumb. I kid! I kid.

On to your questions.

From Tony Wilson:

I've seen the question floating around of if it's feasible the team parts ways with Randall Cobb and/or Clay Matthews. Personally, I find that impossible (and kinda silly), but I do think they have to be restructured in some way. That's a ton of salary, especially for Matthews and his injuries/lack of production. If they were to restructure, what would that look like and what would be the salary cap gains?

Aaron’s answer:

I got a lot of questions on this subject and I agree with you, Tony, that the idea of cutting either of those guys is kinda silly. However, I also agree with you that something needs to be done when it comes to Matthews’ cap number, which is slated to be $15.2 million in 2017. That’s an incredibly high number for a guy whose production has fallen off the cliff and who seems destined to miss a few games a year due to injury. It will be interesting to see how much time Matthews spends as an outside rusher next year as opposed to lining up inside. His edge rush isn’t nearly what it was, but he can still be an impact player in the middle of Dom Capers’ defense.

As for Cobb, his cap number is no picnic either ($12.75 million) but I don’t buy the notion put forth by some fans (and, truth be told, some of my colleagues) that Cobb’s best days are behind him. I think, as the wild-card win against the Giants demonstrated, that he’s still a valuable asset in Mike McCarthy’s offense. Yes, his production hasn’t been what it was back in 2014. He also can’t throw himself the football. Anyone who bothers to go back and watch the tape from this past season will see a guy who can still work open. The quarterback, however, seems to focus on other targets, most notably on tight end Jared Cook, in many of the third-down situations that used to go to Cobb. If I’m Ted Thompson, I have a hard time asking a guy to take a pay cut for reasons beyond his control.

From Michael Kimbel:

How far off do you think this defense is to returning to its form in 2010 or even 2014 and 2015? I think if the Packers are able to find a solid corner and a pass rusher in either FA or the draft, that should go along way to improving this defense. Would you agree or am I being too optimistic?

Aaron’s answer:

What did C-3PO say to R2-D2? “I wish I had your confidence.

Seriously though, that’s a tall order if Ted Thompson plans to sit on his hands through free agency as he normally does. Yes, maybe he can find a corner and a pass rusher in the draft who can help immediately, but given his track record the last few years, coupled with the fact that the Packers are picking in the 29th slot, that gives them a pretty steep degree of difficulty.

Not to mention they’ll be dealing with bringing back some of their own free agents before they even start looking elsewhere. A free agent pass rusher? That’s pretty much what they’d be signing if they brought back Nick Perry, but that doesn’t exactly add to a suspect defense so much as keep one of the few good parts.

Thompson and company view the draft as an investment into players that they can develop. We all know this. You can bet they will be counting on this year’s rookie class taking a step forward in their development and hoping they avoid the brutal sophomore slumps they got from the likes of Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins.

From Kevin Klaus:

Since our receivers practice against one of the worst and softest defensive backfields  in the league, has it made them "softer", as well?  It would be easy to develop some overconfidence against our roster of DBs.

Aaron’s answer:

Kevin, I actually remember suggesting something like this to one of my colleagues here at earlier this year, only I was thinking of it the other way. I tend to think the defensive backs took a lot of confidence in the work they did this summer going up against the Packers’ wide receivers in training camp.

All summer we watched as the secondary held up pretty well against the Packers’ receivers in those practices. And then what happened, as soon as Week 1? Guys like Randall and Rollins looked completely over-matched by the likes of Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson and Julius Thomas.

It’s one thing to be keeping up with a Packers wide receiving corps that has traditionally struggled to work open against man coverage, during a training camp practice. It’s quite another to hold guys in check down in and down out in the games that count. The Packers looked good doing the former, and fell apart trying to do the later. Did overconfidence play a part? Maybe early on.

From John Burgoyne:

Did we totally miss on the two corner backs we drafted 1-2 in the 2015 draft? Or did they both have unprecedented sophomore slumps? What can we expect from these guys in the 2017 season?

Aaron’s answer:

Randall and Rollins did indeed endure sophomore slumps, though I’m not sure I’d say they were “unprecedented” as we all witnessed the struggles Davante Adams went through just last year.

As for “totally missing” on the picks, it’s still too early to say. I know the Packers will be expecting a big bounce-back year from both of them, and Randall himself compared his situation to what Adams went through from his second to third year.

That’s something that’s been brought up a lot in my conversations both with people with the team and who cover it, the idea that Randall could follow the path Adams took. My one hesitation in drawing that parallel is what Randall put on tape prior to being injured this year isn’t nearly as promising as what Adams had put on tape last year prior to his Week 3 ankle injury. Even after the injury, Adams actually played much better than most people give him credit for. The second half of the home game against the Lions in 2015 tainted everyone’s memory, and it was indeed brutal. However, outside of that stretch of play, Adams actually showed flashes all throughout his second year. The same can not be said of Randall. He played poorly from the first game on, got injured, came back, and then played even worse.

Both Randall and Rollins have a lot of work to do. But as bad as things looked throughout 2016, they will be given every opportunity to bounce back. Now, if they come back next season and pick up where they left off, then we can start talking about the Packers totally missing on a couple of premium picks.

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