Free-agent-to-be Davante Adams bet on himself in 2017, and despite a devastating hit that sent him to the hospital in week 5, that decision has proven to be a wise one. The fourth-year wide receiver will likely end the season worth at least $2 million per year more than he began it. That’s because Adams proved beyond any doubt that he’s a big-time player and not just the beneficiary of catching passes from one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL.
Adams can thank – at least in part – Minnesota linebacker Anthony Barr’s hit on Rodgers in week 6 for what figures to be a financial windfall come March. While Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb became virtual non-entities playing without the injured superstar, the 24-year-old Adams continued to excel with backup Brett Hundley under center. In seven games, he caught 41 passes for 589 yards and 4 TDs. Those are terrific numbers, and they’re even more impressive when you consider the inconsistency of Hundley.
Why was Adams able to be productive while Nelson and Cobb put up numbers more akin to Jarrett Boykin and Antonio Chatman? Because the former Fresno State star is able to get open without having to rely on a play extending for seven seconds. And while Adams may not be blessed with blazing speed, he’s quick enough to get around tacklers and strong enough to run over them after making catches at or behind the line of scrimmage. Neither Nelson – at this stage of his career – nor Cobb possess both of these traits.
Nelson (in 2014) and Cobb (in 2015) re-signed with the Packers for between $9 million and $10 million per season. It’s very hard to imagine Adams not eclipsing those numbers. Not only have salaries for wide receivers gone way up in the past few years, but general managers around the league now know that No. 17 can be an impact player with pretty much any quarterback throwing him the ball. That should bring even more teams into play come the start of free agency – should the Packers not strike a deal before then.
Speaking of which, I expect a deal to get done. GM Ted Thompson simply can’t let his best receiver get away – not with Nelson and Cobb in rapid decline and the rest of the pass catchers on the roster named Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis, Jeff Janis, Michael Clark and DeAngelo Yancey. And while the Packers haven’t used the franchise tag in eight years, don’t completely discount the possibility. That’s how important it is to have Adams under contract for 2018 – even if it means handing him $16 million for one season.
But using the tag is unlikely. Thompson won’t want to take such a big hit against the salary cap, and Adams – especially after the health scare against Chicago – will be looking for financial security. That’s why I’m confident a long-term agreement will be hammered out sometime before the start of free agency in early March, and I expect the numbers to far exceed my projection from July ($36 million for four years). Based on other deals signed by wide receivers in the past 12 months and the value of Adams to the Packers, I would expect to see a contract worth between $11 million and $13 million per year with a signing bonus that far exceeds the $11.5 million and $13 million that were given to Nelson and Cobb respectively.
Let’s say $49 million for four years with around $20 million in guarantees. Of course, the Packers can’t pay three wide receivers over $9 million. That means Nelson and/or Cobb will have to renegotiate or face being cut. The guess here is that Nelson is the one most likely to stick around, but that’s a post for another time.