Randall Cobb will command significant salary on the open market. The Raiders just might pay it.
The 24-year-old spark plug enters unrestricted free agency as the top free agent receiver available – Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas were franchise tagged – and will be courted by several suitors.
Per league sources, the Raiders will be aggressive among them. Cobb ranks high among the Raiders free-agent priorities, though it’s uncertain how much the Raiders are willing to offer. NFL contract structure is as important, often more than total dollars, but Cobb’s contract could reach $10-11 million per season.
The Raiders have $63.27 million in salary cap space heading into free agency, and could certainly afford such a luxury. Even still, it’s a hefty sum for a highly-touted talent with a few detractors. Some have wondered how he’ll fare without A-list quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a true No. 1 receiver also in the pattern, as Jordy Nelson has been in Green Bay. Some also wonder if a receiver primarily playing from the slot is worth top dollar.
Don’t think of Cobb as a slot receiver. The man’s a Swiss army knife.
Cobb is adept returning kicks and punts. While he’s made hay from the slot, he can play any receiver position and run from the backfield.
No matter where he lines up, Cobb is versatile, reliable and elusive. That’s what makes him valuable. That’s what makes him dangerous.
[RELATED: Raiders free agency preview: Wide receivers]
The fine folks at Pro Football Focus broke down some numbers to prove those points.
Point No. 1: Cobb is steady as they come.
Green Bay quarterbacks had a 134.3 passer rating when throwing to Cobb in 2014, the highest mark of any targeted receiver. He caught 73 percent of 145 passes thrown to him last year. In his career, Packers QBs (primarily Rodgers) threw 25 touchdowns to just six interceptions in 298 passes in his direction. He has also lost just one fumble as a receiver in his four-year career.
Point No. 2: Cobb is also a slippery sort.
He averaged 6.6 yards after the catch per reception in 2014, and has never been below 5.8 YAC during his four-year career. He forced 18 missed tackles last season, when he had 91 receptions for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 14.1 yards per reception despite running relatively shallow routes at what PFF considers a 9-yard depth of target.
That’s what Cobb was able to do in Green Bay. There’s reason to be intrigued by what this versatile talent could do in Silver and Black.
New offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave knows what to do with this type of player. He maximized the use of versatile receiver/playmaker Percy Harvin when he was coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings from 2011-12.
That was particularly evident in 2011, when Harvin wracked up 1,832 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns as a receiver, running back and kickoff return man. He had 139 offensive touches – 87 receptions, a whopping 52 carries – in addition to 16 kickoff returns. That was Harvin’s only complete season under Musgrave, and it was his best.
Cobb could fill that same role with Musgrave in Oakland, which makes him incredibly valuable. He could be an offensive cornerstone for the Raiders, and become a dynamic, versatile threat worthy of the large contract he’s going to get.