The Green Bay Packers may have had their negotiating position compromised a bit by news out of Atlanta announcing the Falcons have signed veteran wide receiver Roddy White to a four-year, $30 million extension.
Considering that White, 33, is four years older than Nelson and the two have had comparable numbers over the last three years White’s deal could complicate matters for the Packers.
Nelson is due $3.5 million this season, the final year of the extension he signed in 2011—an extension that turned out to be a huge bargain for the Pack.
Nelson’s average annual salary on his current deal is $4.2 million—34th among NFL wide receivers and, well, he’s better than the 34th-best receiver in the NFL.
Last season, Nelson had a career-high 85 receptions and 1,314 yards, along with eight touchdown catches.
That’s two years removed from his breakout 2011 campaign during which he caught 15 touchdowns and had 68 receptions for 1,263 yards.
In all, Nelson has piled up 202 receptions for more than 3,300 yards and 30 scores over the last three seasons, despite missing four games due to injuries in 2012.
According to spotrac.com, the Packers have a little less than $14 million in available cap space this season.
But they also have another impact receiver with an expiring contract. Randall Cobb is in the final year of his rookie deal and is two years removed from an 80-catch season.
He was limited to just six games because of injuries in 2013, but racked up 31 catches for 433 yards and four touchdowns—including the NFC North-clinching score in Green Bay’s 33-28 win at Chicago in Week 17.
Behind Nelson and Cobb are some questions. James Jones is with the Oakland Raiders now, taking his 59 receptions with him. The leading returning receiver other than Nelson is Jarrett Boykin, who had 49 catches for 681 yards and three touchdowns.
The Packers did draft three wideouts, former Fresno State star Davante Adams in the second round, former Wisconsin standout Jared Abbrederis in the fifth round and Division II speedster Jeff Janis out of Saginaw Valley State in the seventh round.
It’s clear that Nelson outperformed his last deal. And barring any major injuries, wide receivers tend to age better than other offensive skill positions such as running back.
Of the 20 players with at least 80 receptions last season, three of them were older than 30, including Anquan Boldin of the San Francisco 49ers, Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans and Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals.
And the player generally accepted as the best wide receiver in the league, Detroit Lions’ superstar Calvin Johnson, is all of six months younger than Nelson.
So it’s fair to expect Nelson to continue to be very productive, at least for the next four or five seasons.
Nelson deserves his money. Cobb, who is younger, is also entitled to a pay bump.
It will be interesting to see how general manager Ted Thompson tries to make it work in order to keep both of their talented wideouts in Green Bay.