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Three days before hitting the open market, the Green Bay Packers reportedly locked up free-agent receiver Randall Cobb on Saturday.

Cobb, 24, would've been the top wide receiver available when free agency begins Tuesday afternoon. Instead, he'll sign a four-year, $40 million contract with Green Bay, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The deal includes $17 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Cobb could have signed elsewhere for more money, a league source told Press-Gazette Media on Saturday night. Even still, he will become the richest slot receiver in the NFL. His $10 million annual salary exceeds New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz's five-year, $43 million contract. Cobb also will earn slightly more than fellow Packers receiver Jordy Nelson's scheduled $9.762 million average.

Nelson, the Packers' No. 1 receiver and an All-Pro last season, signed a four-year, $39 million contract before training camp opened last July. On the same day, Cobb looked at his own future.

"I feel I have a lot to prove," Cobb said. "I know the player I'm capable of being. And it's just going out and showing that on a day-to-day basis. The time will come. If it's meant to be, if it's supposed to be, if I'm supposed to get an extension, if I'm meant to get an extension, it'll come whenever it's supposed to. I can't worry about that. I can control what I can control, and that's my work ethic, that's the way I go about my business and going out and doing what I'm supposed to do."‚Äč

Cobb, a second-round pick in 2011, proved to be the NFL's most productive slot receiver in the final year of his rookie contract.

After missing 10 games with a broken tibia in 2013, Cobb recorded career highs last season with 91 catches, 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was a perfect complement to Nelson, working the middle of the field while his teammate stretched defenses on the perimeter.

Together, Cobb and Nelson were a historic duo, becoming the NFL's first receiving tandem to catch at least 90 passes, 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns in the same season, according to ESPN & Stats and Info. Now, they're both under contract with the Packers through the 2018 season.

Joining MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is under contract through the 2019 season, Green Bay is in position to be a Super Bowl contender in the foreseeable future.

"I love Randall," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said at the NFL scouting combine last month. "I want him back, we all want him back. He wants to get back. But you've got agents, and it's a negotiation. Let's see what happens."

There was plenty of uncertainty as the start of free agency crept closer and closer. With teams like the Oakland Raiders ($65.5 million in cap space) and Jacksonville Jaguars ($68.9 million), Green Bay didn't want to see a bidding war for Cobb's services. Some doubted whether general manager Ted Thompson would meet the $10 million mark.

On Jan. 19, the morning after Green Bay's loss to Seattle in the NFC championship game, Cobb wondered what his future would hold. Did he want to be back with the Packers?

"I mean, of course. I think I've made that obvious," Cobb said. "But like I've said before, this is a business. You don't know how it's going to go, what direction it's going to go in, so you just have to sit around. Hopefully, I've put myself in position where, you know, it will handle itself. But only time will tell."

With Cobb re-signed, Thompson has yet to allow a prominent receiver leave Green Bay after his rookie deal expired. Thompson also locked up Nelson, Jermichael Finley, Greg Jennings and James Jones to second contracts.

It's also the second straight year Thompson has made an important signing on the Saturday before the start of free agency. A year ago, he locked up cornerback Sam Shields to a four-year, $39 million contract before he could hit the open market.

With a four-year deal, Cobb is in line to receive a third lucrative contract when he's still in his prime at the age of 28. But those negotiations can wait. Green Bay will have one of its top play makers when the 2015 season begins, and a legitimate shot to make a run at Super Bowl 50.

-- rwood@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood

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