With the Super Bowl in the rear-view mirror, the focus is now entirely on 2020. The next important point on the offseason agenda will be free agency, which starts on March 18 and projects to be a big one for the New England Patriots: not only does the team have 19 players whose current contracts will expire — including quarterback Tom Brady — it also will need to use its limited resources to build a foundation for the upcoming season.
Up until the start of free agency, we will therefore take a look at some players who might interest the Patriots. Today, the series continues with wide receiver Randall Cobb.
Position: Wide receiver
Opening day age: 30
Size: 5’10, 195 lbs
Experience: Joining the Green Bay Packers as a second-round draft pick in 2011, Randall Cobb developed into one of Aaron Rodgers’ favorite and most reliable pass-catchers through the years — one that was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2014. Injuries slowed him down at time, however, and in 2018 he appeared in just nine of the Packers’ games before leaving the team in free agency: Cobb joined the Dallas Cowboys on a one-year contract and had a productive first season catching passes from Dak Prescott.
2019 statistics: 15 games; 79 targets, 55 receptions, 828 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns; 3 rushing attempts, 11 rushing yards; 4 punt returns, 8.5 yards per runback; 2 kickoff returns, 5.5 yards per runback
2019 salary cap hit: $4.56 million
Free agency status: Unrestricted
View from Dallas
We asked R.J. Ochoa from Blogging The Boys to share his thoughts on Cobb:
Randall Cobb was perhaps the biggest name that the Cowboys have landed in free agency in some time and he made the team forget all about Cole Beasley rather quickly. Dallas has had solid options in the slot over the last decade and Cobb seemingly added a different dimension to it. Many have connected the obvious dots between Randall and his longtime head coach Mike McCarthy as a logical fit where they both currently find themselves in 2020 (as in The Star in Frisco) plus the Cowboys just seem to make all the football sense in the world for Randall. It’s gotten to the point where it’s hard to see him playing elsewhere.
With the exception of Julian Edelman, who suffered multiple injuries along the way, the Patriots’ wide receiver group struggled during the 2019 season and failed to provide quarterback Tom Brady with consistent production in the passing game. As a result, the team might look outside the building this offseason to find some upgrades — and Randall Cobb might pop up on New England’s radar as a veteran free agency option.
Despite turning 30 in August, the long-time Packer is still a productive option in the passing game and one of the better route runners in the league. And even though is a somewhat smaller player who spends most of his time in the slot, Cobb is a serious deep-threat receiver: he averaged 15.1 yards per reception last year with 6.1 of which coming after the catch — numbers that would have led the Patriots’ regular pass catchers last season.
Combine this with his experience and proven ability to work outside Green Bay’s system as well, as he showed last year, and you get a player who might be an intriguing wide receiver option for New England during this year’s free agency. Sure, Cobb would not be a grade-A receiver, but rather one piece of the puzzle that could get the Patriots’ aerial attack back on track after a disappointing 2019 campaign.
While Cobb would likely find success in New England’s offense, there are three main questions that need to be answered before even thinking about a potential union between the two: 1.) How much would it cost to bring him in relative to the Patriots’ rather tight salary cap situation? 2.) Would he be an upgrade over Mohamed Sanu, who was disappointing last year but has upside in the system? 3.) Does he even want to leave the Cowboys if they look to retain him? Given that there is a realistic chance all three answers would not work in New England’s favor, it would not be surprising if Cobb eventually stayed put or did not come to Foxborough even if allowed to explore the open market.