GREEN BAY, Wisconsin — Brian Gutekunst left little to interpretation: The Green Bay Packers general manager brought receiver Randall Cobb back to Green Bay because Aaron Rodgers wanted him.
“I think that’s a big part of it,” Gutekunst said Thursday, a day after closing a deal with the Houston Texans to take over Cobb. “Of course I don’t think we would pursue that without Aaron. Randall is still a very good player. When I saw him last night, I kind of reminded me of what an impact he will have in our dressing room and for our football team.”
“But this was very important to Aaron, and that’s why we did it.”
One of Rodgers’ wishes that emerged during Wednesday’s 32-minute press conference when he thoroughly explained his issues with the Packers was an interest in having more say in who stays and who goes.
The Packers released 30-year-old Cobb after the 2018 season.
“I just want to be involved in conversations that affect my ability to do my job,” Rodgers said Wednesday.
It could be a tricky position for Cobb as it was Gutekunst who chose not to re-sign him after the 2018 season. Cobb instead signed with the Dallas Cowboys for a year before moving to Houston last season.
When asked what it feels like to know that Gutekunst wouldn’t have made this move unless Rodgers asked, Cobb said, “It felt about the same way when I signed with Dallas and I waited, hoping there would be another chance.” would come back. That didn’t happen, but we’re here and I’m back.”
Cobb, however, felt uncomfortable saying he was the reason Rodgers decided to return to the Packers rather than retire after his offseason of discontent.
“That would be way, way, way too selfish for me to think I’m the reason,” Cobb said. “I think there are a lot of pieces in play with his return.”
Not only are Rodgers and Cobb good friends off the field, but Rodgers is clearly comfortable with the experienced final receiver on the field. Cobb has caught 71% of the passes Rodgers threw at him, the highest catch rate of any receiver targeted at least 10 times by the reigning NFL MVP.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cobb’s 71% is slightly higher than former Packers receiver Jake Kumerow (69%), another player whose release was mourned by Rodgers.
Gutekunst said Rodgers raised the need for a final receiver at their end-of-season meeting after the 2020 season. Gutekunst used a third-round pick on one in this draft, Amari Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers, however, wanted more; he wanted Cobb.
“He is unique in what he has done for this organization,” Gutekunst said. “Every player isn’t going to have that kind of input, right? It’s going to be Aaron. But he’s always had it. I think it’s how we record it. At the end of the day, it’s really no different from some of the others people in the organization who have an opinion about what we’re going to do. At the end of the day, I’m going to record that and I’ll make the decision and we’ll move on.”
Cobb has served as a mentor to the rookie receiver in the past, as Cobb was coached in college by Amari Rodgers’ father, Tee Martin.
Gutekunst said Aaron Rodgers’ contract didn’t need to be changed — nor did Rodgers give up money — to take Cobb over. But he said Rodgers’ deal will have to be changed at some point to give the Packers enough salary leeway to get through the season.
Gutekunst gave up a sixth-round pick to take over Cobb, and the Texans agreed to pay $3 million of Cobb’s base salary.
Cobb had 38 catches for 441 yards last season (including 8 for 95 against the Packers on Oct. 25), but he missed the last six games while on the injured reserve due to a toe injury.
Cobb practiced on a limited basis during Thursday’s practice and could barely keep the smile off his face during his 20-minute session with reporters.
“I can breathe again,” he said. “I’ve seen the other side, and I’m excited to be back here, and I’m excited, I’m laughing. It’s funny, my teammates said you acted like you just got out of prison, and I said, Well, you know… I’m very, very excited to be here.
“And that’s nothing against Houston. Whenever I talk about that, I think Green Bay is like a Fortune 500 company, and the Texans are a new franchise. They’re a startup that’s figuring their way out, and I think that the moves they made when they brought Caserio and Coach Culley, I think they’re on the right track.”
The Packers also signed veteran offensive tackle Dennis Kelly, who played in 104 games with 47 starts — including 16 for the Tennessee Titans last season. The signing is insurance in case All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari isn’t ready for Week 1 as he recovers from ACL surgery in January.
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