GREEN BAY — Brian Gutekunst wants to see wide receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson and linebacker Clay Matthews on the Green Bay Packers’ roster in 2018.
But the first-year general manager acknowledged at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis this week that finances will definitely play a role on whether the three veterans do indeed stick around.
“If you have really good players, you need to keep really good players,” Gutekunst said Wednesday. “And you don’t let them walk out the door just for that reason.”
Nevertheless, there is a fiscal component to Gutekunst’s decision-making process on all three players, who are entering the final year of their existing contracts.
Nelson, who will turn 33 in May, is set to earn $10.25 million in 2018 and carries a cap number of $12.52 million. Cobb, who’ll turn 28 in August, has a 2018 base salary of $9.5 million and is set to count $12.71 million against the cap. And Matthews, who will be 32 in May, has an $11.4 million salary and an $11.34 million cap number.
The Packers should have about $16 million under the projected $178 million salary cap when the new league year begins March 14, but if they are indeed going to be more aggressive in free agency, Gutekunst might need to create additional cap room. And he could do so by convincing Nelson, Cobb and/or Matthews to accept pay cuts or restructured contracts, or he could opt to release one or more of them.
“You go through a ton of scenarios, and you’re looking at it every way. We all understand if you do this, it affects this, and if you want to do this, you might have to do this,” Gutekunst said. “To me, the big thing I’ve stressed with our guys is we’re going to be as prepared as we can to know those scenarios and to know what each player’s value is in free agency, the draft and so forth, so when those opportunities present themselves, if it makes our team better, we’ll pull those triggers on whatever side that falls on.”
Asked if he’d like to make his decisions on the veteran players before the free-agent negotiating window opens March 12 or before the new league year begins March 14, Gutekunst replied, “We’d hope. One thing I’ve learned on this job so far is things are constantly changing and moving, and I think if you always focus on what’s best for the team, usually you’ll come to the right answer.”
Both Gutekunst and coach Mike McCarthy spoke highly of Nelson and Cobb during a lunch meeting with reporters in Indianapolis on Wednesday, with Gutekunst calling Nelson “still a very strong contributor for us” and insisting Nelson isn’t washed up after a down year in 2017 without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who missed 10 games with a broken collarbone.
“He’s been a great player here,” Gutekunst said. “You saw early in the year the impact he had in those games. He’s still a really good player in my eyes.”
Said McCarthy: “Jordy and Randall can still play. But we need to improve. That’s a common conversation Brian and I have — how are we going to get better? Get better internally or externally.”
Gutekunst admitted it’s atypical for a team to have three receivers each carrying a salary-cap charge in excess of $10 million, as the Packers do after signing No. 1 receiver Davante Adams to a four-year, $58 million extension just before season’s end in December.
“To me, you have to look at the team as a whole, and obviously you’re going to have strengths and you’re going to have weaknesses,” Gutekunst said. “It’s probably a little unusual, but if you look across the league there are teams that are heavy in different positions. You’d love for it to be all kind of equal and measure out, but … It’s hard enough in this league to find (very good players), so we certainly wouldn’t want to let them walk out the door.”
Ticket prices go up
The Packers announced Thursday they’re raising ticket prices for the ninth consecutive year, despite missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
The team said in a news release it is increasing the cost of regular-season game tickets $7 across the board for bowl seats and $2 per seat per game for preseason games. The Packers went 7-9 in 2017 and missed the playoffs.
The last time the Packers missed the postseason was in 2008, and the team opted not to raise ticket prices for the 2009 season.
“We expect this will place us just below the overall NFL average, the figure we use each year to set our prices,” team president/CEO Mark Murphy wrote in a letter to season ticketholders sent with a brochure. “This structure continues to allow us to provide appropriate revenue to our partners in the NFL and also recognizes the great value our ticket holders receive for a top notch gameday experience at Lambeau Field.”
With the increases, regular-season tickets will cost $109 for end-zone seats; $119 for 700-level south end zone seats; $122 for seats between the end zone and 20-yard lines; $126 for seats in the 600 level of the south end zone; and $136 for seats between the 20-yard lines.