Packers farewell for Randall Cobb and Clay Matthews? Maybe not

Hollins: Rodgers is 100% responsible for Packers' failures (2:21)

Ryan Hollins and Max Kellerman debate how much blame Aaron Rodgers deserves for the current state of the Packers. (2:21)

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There's a quick and easy answer when it comes to the futures of Randall Cobb and Clay Matthews in Green Bay Packers uniforms: let 'em walk.

And it wouldn't even be as messy as what they did with Jordy Nelson last year.

Nelson still had a year left on his contract at the prohibitive price of $9.25 million. In one of his first acts as general manager, Brian Gutekunst offered him next to nothing to return. Nelson declined, and Gutekunst cut him.

With Cobb and Matthews, the Packers could simply thank them for their years of service and walk away. Both are about to reach the end of their contracts and will be free agents at 4 p.m. ET on March 13.

And both limped to the end.

If Cobb doesn't play in Sunday's season finale against the Lions, he will have missed exactly half of this season. Earlier, he was sidelined two separate times for three games each because of a pulled hamstring. He missed last Sunday's game against the Jets because of a concussion but cleared the protocol on Thursday.

If Matthews suits up Sunday, he will have played in every game this season, something he's accomplished only three other times (and none since 2015) in his 10-year career. But his production has fallen off a cliff. He would need four sacks on Sunday just to match his total of 7.5 from last season, when he played in 14 of 16 games. He would need 1.5 on Sunday to match his total of 5 from 2016, when he played in 12 games.

Yet before anyone says their final goodbyes, consider this:

  • Aaron Rodgers said less than two weeks ago that, "when Randall's healthy, I think our offense has been different because we have a true slot guy who can make plays in the slot consistently."

  • And Mike Pettine, if he returns for a second season as defensive coordinator, might finally decide to move Matthews to inside linebacker, something he admitted recently that crossed his mind.

It would take a willingness by both players to accept contracts worth far less than their last deals -- Cobb averaged $10 million per season and Matthews $13.2 million -- but given all the other areas of need the Packers have, a return by either or both might not be as unlikely as it seems.

Here's a look at the futures of both players:


Cobb went through free agency once before, but he was coming off his best season in 2014 when he caught 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 10 touchdowns. He signed a four-year, $40 million contract but never came close to replicating those numbers. He played all 16 games in 2015 and caught 79 passes for 829 yards and six touchdowns.

Still, Gutekunst gambled that Cobb, 28, would be more productive than Nelson, who turned 33 last May.

It didn't happen.

But here's why Cobb's days might not be numbered:

Of Gutekunst's three drafted receivers -- J'Mon Moore (fourth round), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (fifth) and Equanimeous St. Brown (sixth) -- none looks natural in the slot even though Valdes-Scantling and St. Brown have been flashed on the outside. Neither does Geronimo Allison, the No. 3 receiver to open the season who ended up in injured reserve (groin), or Jake Kumerow, who caught his first touchdown last Sunday. The Packers don't have a threat down the middle at tight end, either.

"Having a slot guy like that who legitimately can get open time after time, when we need him [is important]," Rodgers said of Cobb.

As much as Cobb drove up his price with his career season the last time he was in a contract year, he will have to drop his price after what's happened this season.

That could make him cheap for the Packers to re-sign.

"I don't know what they believe," Cobb said. "I can't think for them."

But Cobb doesn't believe his skills have deteriorated.

"I feel like I can still play," Cobb said. "I watch film of when I have played and I've been healthy and seeing myself move, I feel like I can play. Obviously, I've had a few injuries here and there. It's unfortunate, but that's the reality of it."

And he said he understands the reality could be that he won't be back with the team that picked him in the second round of the 2011 draft.

"I'm human so I can't say that it hasn't crossed my mind," Cobb said.


Matthews isn't the pass-rusher he once was and if he's willing to accept that -- along with a move to inside linebacker, where he was extremely effective in 2014 and 2015 (which also happens to be the last two times he played in all 16 games) -- he could prolong his career in Green Bay.

The Packers need another inside backer to pair with tackle machine Blake Martinez.

"We talked about it and we've had some packages playing him at inside linebacker," Pettine said recently. "Sometimes the stuff you have in, you don't get to them if the opponent doesn't get into the personnel grouping or the situation where you felt you would use it. We've had some of that stuff up to take advantage of his versatility and the times that he's done it -- we've seen it more in practice -- but the times he's done it, he's done well."

The Packers don't have much depth at linebacker, either inside or outside, and there's no way they can continue to pay oft-injured pass-rusher Nick Perry, who's due a $4.8 million roster bonus on March 16 and a base salary of $5.2 million next season.

That also could work in favor of a Matthews' return either as an inside linebacker or a part-time edge player. He will turn 32 in May, and he's not viewed as a freak of nature like former teammate Julius Peppers.

"You mean people don't think I'm great?" Matthews asked.

He might not have to be if the price is right for the Packers.

"That's part of the business as well," Matthews said. "That's part of negotiations and figuring out contracts. A player thinks they're worth X amount and the team feels like they're worth this amount and you meet somewhere in the middle. Obviously with my situation, this is my first time -- I'm assuming once this year's over -- being a free agent. We'll see what that means moving forward. There's a lot of things in motion with the Packers organization right now as far as head coaches and players and things like that, but we'll see down the line where it all fits and I end up."