FRISCO, Texas – Might be just a day later, but here is what’s to like about Randall Cobb.
First, while an unrestricted free agent his team, the Green Bay Packers, decided against re-signing, Cobb is just 28 years old. Turns 29 on Aug. 22.
Next, a guy with eight years of experience, but because of hamstring and concussion injuries limiting him to just nine games in 2018, only six of those starts, was willing to sign a one-year prove-it deal, counting just $4.6 million against the Cowboys’ salary cap – $2 million base salary, $2 million signing bonus, $.6 million roster bonuses.
Then, he plays the slot, an ample replacement for Buffalo-bound Cole Beasley, giving the Cowboys options at that spot, joining the likes of Tavon Austin and potentially Allen Hurns, with the possibility of Amari Cooper taking some snaps inside, too, while not discounting Lance Lenior’s chances there, either.
Next, this: Cobb told our Lindsay Cash Draper right after officially inking his deal, “I’m excited to be here, to get rolling, and get to work, and bring a championship back to Dallas.” Evidently, he meant it. Like no more than an hour or so after signing, around noon Thursday, there he was, out on the practice field here at The Star, doing conditioning and agility drills with one of the team’s strength and conditioning coaches – even though the rest of the guys working out had earlier finished. Already wearing his FIGHT sweatshirt and Cowboys warmup pants.
There’s, more, too: Cobb’s quarterback all those eight years in Green Bay, one Aaron Rogers, sent out this Instagram post, such a meaningful line from the movie Shawshank Redemption uttered by Morgan Freeman’s character “Red” Redding when his prison friend Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) pulled off his successful escape: “‘I have to remind myself that some birds aren't meant to be caged...And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. Still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they're gone. I guess I just miss my friend.’ #friendship#teammates#brothers#Packers”
That right there speaks volumes of the guy who caught 470 passes for 5,574 yards and 41 touchdowns in 105 games for Green Bay.
And lastly, not quite as poetic as this is succinct, coming from Packers veteran offensive tackle David Bakhtiari reacting on Twitter to the free agency losses of Cobb and Clay Matthews: “Today sucks.”
Incredibly meaningful compliments, more so than any numbers you might tie to a man or plays he’s made, like that one at the end of the Packers’ 26-21 playoff victory over the Cowboys that 2014 season when he caught Rodgers’ pass on third-and-11 for 12 yards with 2 minutes remaining to basically put the Cowboys away.
Now, let me spare you the trouble and ask the question of myself that I normally pose about almost every free agent:
So why was Randall Cobb available? If he’s so good, why did the Packers move on from their veteran receiver?
Glad I asked.
First of all, just as the Cowboys did their due diligence before making this move, the Packers were likely worried about Cobb’s health. He missed seven games last year with a combination of hamstring strains and a late-season concussion. Plus, Cobb likely wasn’t willing to take a pay cut to remain with the Packers after he was coming off a $9 million payday in 2018.
Cowboys Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin taught me a long time ago this about players: A guy would rather take a pay cut somewhere else than to take it in his own locker room. Plus, Cobb likely is a better tonic for the Cowboys’ slot-receiver problem than what the Packers were looking for.
But the very best thing about the cost of this one-year deal: Cobb is willing to bet on himself to prove to the Cowboys or the league he still has something left. If he wins the bet, even at age 30, he’ll have a shot at maybe a three-year deal. If the Cowboys lose the bet, meaning Cobb isn’t what they are looking for, it’s only a one-year cap loss, unlike signing a guy another team didn’t want for like three years, $30 million with maybe $12 million guaranteed that would linger into future cap years with dead money.
So good health will be the key denominator in this move. Because if you look at a few other numbers, the indicators would create optimism. Like last season, in the first three games of the season before Cobb suffered the hamstring injuries, he had 17 catches for 194 yards and a touchdown. My math tells me a he was averaging 5.7 catches for 64.7 yards a game. That’s a 91-catch, 1,034-yard pace.
And the previous season, playing in four of the first five games before Rodgers suffered his injury two passes into Game 6, Cobb had 23 catches for 219 yards – a 92-catch, 876-yard 16-game pace.
Problem then became Brett Hundley taking over for the Packers. Coincidence that Cobb then caught just 43 more passes in the last 11 games with a QB finishing with a 70.6 rating, completing just 60 percent of his passes and ending up with more interceptions (12) than TD passes (9)? Me thinks not.
Again, when healthy, the numbers suggest his talent is not diminishing, so reasonable to think if Cobb stays healthy the Cowboys just might have hit a homer on this move.
Yep, would seem to be a lot left on this Cobb.