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Cobb Joins Rodgers, Jets; Who’s Left for Packers?

With Randall Cobb off to the New York Jets, these are the Top 12 free-agent receivers – a list that includes five former first-round picks and a lot of poor production.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – With Randall Cobb joining Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets on Wednesday, the group of free-agent receivers available for the Green Bay Packers is deep enough to perhaps cover the bottom of a kiddie pool.

General manager Brian Gutekunst had talked a few times about his desire to add a veteran receiver to a room that was incredibly young. Even with declining play and an injury history, Cobb was a logical choice. He knew the offense, the coaching staff and the Green Bay way. He'd seen every coverage imaginable. He's a highly regarded leader and had built a year of rapport with the returning receivers.

The Packers entered the offseason with only five receivers under contract: Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure, who were drafted by the Packers in 2022, Bo Melton, who was drafted by the Seahawks in 2022, and Jeff Cotton, an undrafted free agent in 2021 who hasn’t played in a game.

Since then, Allen Lazard signed with Jets, Cobb’s on his way to the Jets and five rookies were added: draft picks Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks and Grant DuBose and undrafted free agents Malik Heath – who was given Cobb’s No. 18 – and Tulane’s Duece Watts.

“They’re the only two experienced guys in our room right now,” Gutekunst said after the draft of Watson and Doubs. “Samori got limited action last year, which is nice, but the one thing I’ll say is I think that the older veterans that they were around a year ago really kind of set the expectations for them in terms of how we practice and our process, everything we do from the meeting rooms to out on the field.

“I think they learned from some great ones in terms of guys like Randall and Allen. But, certainly, they are the veteran presence in that room, which is unique. I don’t think I’ve ever been around a room that young before and we’re a long way from kicking off Week 1, so we’ll see how everything transpires from here until that time.”

Assuming Gutekunst isn’t content to let the memories of Lazard and Cobb serve as the leadership for the receivers, who’s available?

Here’s our Top 12. Only one free agent played more than 50 percent of the snaps last season; heck, only one played even one-third of the snaps. Ages are as of Sept. 1.

Demarcus Robinson, Ravens: 28 years old, 58.1 percent playing time in 2022. A fourth-round pick by the Chiefs in 2016, he had a career-high 48 receptions last year – his sixth consecutive season with more than 20 catches. He is sure-handed but doesn’t have a lot of juice with a 9.8-yard average last year and two forced missed tackles the last three years.

Jarvis Landry, Saints: 30 years old, 28.6 percent playing time in 2022. A second-round pick in 2014, Landry caught a league-high 112 passes in 2017, part of a career-opening stretch of six consecutive seasons of more than 70 catches. He caught 25 passes for 272 yards and one touchdown in nine games last year. The last five years, he has 26 drops and 16 forced missed tackles.

Julio Jones, Buccaneers: 34 years old, 28.9 percent playing time in 2022. The sixth pick of the 2011 draft, Jones was the most-feared receiver in the league from 2014 through 2019. Age has caught up with him, though, and he caught only 24 passes for 299 yards and two scores alongside Tom Brady in Tampa Bay last year. He still has good hands and has the size to gain some yards after the catch.

TY. Hilton, Cowboys: 33 years old, 5.1 percent playing time in 2022. A four-time Pro Bowler from his days with the Colts, Hilton joined the Cowboys for the stretch run and caught seven passes for 121 yards in three games. His yardage the last four years: 501, 762, 331 and 121.

Byron Pringle, Bears: 29 years old, 27.6 percent playing time in 2022. An undrafted free agent in 2018, Pringle caught 42 passes for 568 yards and five touchdowns for the Chiefs in 2021 but just 10 passes for 135 yards and two scores in 11 games for Chicago. He averaged a feeble 1.4 YAC; simply by falling forward every time, a player should average 2.0.

Kenny Golladay, Giants: 29 years old, 23.0 percent playing time in 2022. It seems like a hundred years ago since Golladay posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with Detroit. Injuries have sunk his career. A third-round pick in 2017, he caught six passes with four drops in 12 games in 2022.

N’Keal Harry, Bears: 25 years old, 17.0 percent playing time in 2022. A first-round pick by the Patriots in 2019, Harry has 64 receptions for his career, including seven for 116 yards and one touchdown in seven games in 2022.

Laquon Treadwell, Seahawks: 28 years old, 12.6 playing time in 2022. A first-round bust by the Vikings in 2016, Treadwell caught six passes for 42 yards in six games last year. He has four drops and one touchdown the last two seasons.

Breshad Perriman, Buccaneers: 29 years old, 19.5 percent playing time in 2022. A first-round pick in 2015, Perriman has never caught more than 36 passes in a season. In 11 games last year, he caught 9-of-19 targets for 110 yards.

Rashard Higgins, Panthers: 28 years old, 0.9 percent playing time in 2022. Higgins played in three games and was not targeted. A fifth-round pick in 2016, Higgins caught a career-high 39 passes in 2018. Over the last five years, he had seven drops and forced one missed tackle.

Marcus Johnson, Giants: 29 years old, 27.5 percent playing time. An undrafted free agent in 2016, Johnson has 60 receptions for 938 yards and three touchdowns in six seasons. He’s broken one tackle in his career. He played a lot on special teams last year.

Sammy Watkins, Ravens: 30 years old, 32.6 percent playing time in 2022. A first-round pick in 2016, Watkins was a bust in Buffalo and a free-agent bust last year with Green Bay with his 13 catches for 206 yards in nine games.

As for Cobb, it’s certainly no surprise that he joined the Jets. It was Rodgers who brought Cobb back to Green Bay a couple years ago. Cobb reportedly was on Rodgers’ wish list for the Jets.

In two tours of duty with the Packers, Cobb caught 532 passes for 6,316 yards and 47 touchdowns. Those figures rank fifth, 11th and 10th in franchise history.

The end appeared to have arrived on Monday. That’s when the Packers gave away Cobb’s No. 18 when they assigned numbers to their 25-man rookie class.

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