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10 things to know about the Vikings stadium situation

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With the situation in Minnesota going from simmer to full boil over the past few days, and with Commissioner Roger Goodell and Steelers owner Art Rooney II, chair of the league’s stadium committee, planning to meet with legislative leaders on Friday, now is as good a time as any to get up to speed regarding a controversy that could result in a relocation of the Vikings, only a year after the 50th anniversary of their arrival to the NFL.

So here are 10 things to know, in a question-and-answer format.  (Why do it that way?  Because we want to.)

What’s wrong with the Metrodome?

It has been regarded as a given for years that the Metrodome is outdated, and that it can’t be modernized in a manner that unlocks the high-end revenue streams that will keep the Vikings competitive with other franchises.  Even though the Vikings have used the 30-year-old stadium roughly 300 times, the team believes that renovation isn’t an option.  No effort to contradict that claim has ever gained any serious traction in Minnesota.

Didn’t I read last month about a deal to build a new stadium?

You did.  But the agreement for a “People’s Stadium” represented only an understanding between the team, Governor Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and legislative leaders.  The deal calls for a $975 million facility, which would be built with $398 million from the state, $150 million from Minneapolis, and $427 million from the Vikings.  It still needs to be approved by the Legislature, and by the Minneapolis City Council.  For now, the proposed stadium bill died in a House committee on Monday night, and it has seen no progress at all in the Minnesota Senate.

The Vikings’ reaction to the current failure of the bill to even get a full legislative vote — the team says “there is no next year” — and the NFL’s direct involvement in negotiations represent a last-ditch effort to revive the deal that previously was reached.

What are the Vikings’ options?

If the stadium bill fails, the Vikings have to decide whether to try again, perhaps with a greater private contribution and/or a cheaper stadium.  If, as it appears, they aren’t inclined to try, owner Zygi Wilf can then try to move the team to a new city, sell the team to someone who would later apply for permission to move the team, or sell the team to someone who would keep the team in Minnesota.

Relocation could occur, with league approval, because the Vikings currently have no lease at the Metrodome.  In fact, if a decision to relocate after 2012 comes soon, the impact on the relationship between Minnesota and the Vikings could make it difficult for the Vikings and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission to work out a one-year lease.  And no one at this point knows what would happen next.

Since there’s no lease, can the Vikings just pick up and move?

No.  Art Modell tried that in 1995, creating a huge mess that resulted in the Browns names and colors and records being left in Cleveland and a commitment to an expansion franchise.  The Vikings already are following the steps outlined in the league’s relocation policy, which requires a team to “diligently [engage] in good faith efforts” to “obtain a satisfactory resolution of its stadium needs” before informing the league of the existence of a “stalemate.”

The fact that the league directly is involved in the negotiations suggests that the Vikings have indeed informed the league that a “stalemate” exists.  If the situation can’t be resolved, the Vikings can then provide formal notice of an intention to relocate, sparking a process that could eventually culminate in a vote by the full ownership.  If 24 of the 32 owners agree, the move will be approved.

Along the way, the other owners would impose a transfer fee on the Vikings, which would be recommended by the Commissioner based on factors like the income streams in the new location, the income streams in the old location, the expenses in the new and old location, the differences between the new and old stadium, the demographics of the new and old markets.  It’s believed that a relocation to Los Angeles would result in a nine-figure transfer fee.

Would the Vikings leave behind the team name, logos, colors, and records?

Probably not.  As mentioned above, the deal to keep the Browns in Cleveland resulted from Art Modell’s unconventional, unilateral effort to move.  Also, the NFL planned to expand from 30 to 32 teams at the time the Browns moves to Baltimore.  The NFL currently doesn’t plan to expand, especially not in North America.

Most important, Minnesota wouldn’t get an expansion team without a new stadium.  And the reluctance to build a new stadium is what could cause the Vikings to leave.  So if they’re not going to build a new stadium now, there’s no reason to think they’ll do it later.

In other words, no matter how poorly the nickname may fit with the team’s next location, the Vikings will most likely remain the Vikings.

Why have the Vikings suddenly become so aggressive about possibly moving?

The Vikings had practiced patience for years.  Some think that the “Minnesota Nice” approach was selected under the theory that it would work better than a more blunt, matter-of-fact, anti-Field of Dreams “if you don’t build it, we will leave” strategy.  Others believe the Vikings simply wanted the media to do the team’s dirty work, reading the tea leaves and supplying the “or else” without the team having to do it.

The truth is that the language of the relocation policy, which expressly requires good-faith efforts to resolve the situation, forced the Vikings to try to get a new stadium deal without making threats or being unreasonable.  But to the extent that folks in Minnesota government believe that the Vikings haven’t taken a strong stand because they’ll eventually kick more and more (and more) money onto the table until the two circles of the Venn diagram kiss, a league source with knowledge of the dynamics explained to PFT on Thursday that Zygi Wilf, a successful real estate developer, can’t afford to cave when dealing with a public body; if he does, the public bodies with whom he routinely deals in other contexts will pounce on that high-profile show of weakness.

Why does the NFL build new stadiums with public money?

Because it can.

Some call it leverage.  Others call it extortion.  As NFL executive V.P. Eric Grubman told PFT Live on Thursday, the league regards it as competition.

Regardless, if one place won’t kick in significant public money to keep the NFL, someone else will kick in significant public money to get the NFL, either directly through cash contributions or indirectly through tax credits and other incentives.  Or through that Private Seat Licenses and/or higher ticket prices that a larger metropolitan area has the population density (i.e., enough really rich people) to support.

Notwithstanding the label applied, it’s a basic business reality of dealing with the most popular sports league in America.  With 32 teams and little or no chances at expansion, places that don’t have an NFL team but that want an NFL team will have to target an NFL team that already has a home.

Should public money be used to build NFL stadiums?

That’s for the people of a given city/state and their elected representatives to decide.  Public money gets spent on all sorts of things.  Sometimes, it’s a good investment.  Sometimes, it isn’t.

The presence of the NFL carries with it prestige and national legitimacy, along with an influx in local hotel, parking, and restaurant revenue on game days.  If that’s important to a given area and public money is necessary to make that happen, then the use of public money can be justified — especially if the facility will attract non-football events like concerts and conventions and a Final Four and other major activities.

Would a new Vikings stadium host a Super Bowl?

Probably, but the NFL can’t commit to that in advance.  Only the owners can award Super Bowls; that said, a habit has emerged over the past 35 years.  A new domed stadium (or an open-air venue in a warm-weather location . . . or New Jersey) results in a Super Bowl, if the city otherwise has the infrastructure to host the event (or, in the case of Jacksonville, even if it doesn’t).  The Metrodome hosted Super Bowl XXVI, the Silverdome and Ford Field in Detroit each got a Super Bowl.  Most recently, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis hosted Super Bowl XLVI.

The money and the prestige coming from the hosting of a Super Bowl would help justify a large chunk of the public money devoted to the project, if the people in Minnesota choose to do that.

Where is this heading?

At this point, it’s unclear.  But the NFL and the Vikings will push for an answer now, before the current legislative sessions ends.  And the league and the team are prepared to interpret no answer as a “no” answer.

The biggest problem with the current deal arises from the effort to avoid the Minneapolis City Charter, which requires a public vote for any contribution in excess of $10 million to a sports facility.  The House committee that recently killed the deal was troubled by the apparent circumvention of the charter provision.  Even if the stadium bill becomes law and the Minneapolis City Council officially signs off on the plan, any taxpayer in Minneapolis could challenge in court the funding mechanism as a failure to comply with the charter.

And so, just as the Governor and the Mayor of Minneapolis and the legislative leaders underestimated the willingness of the Legislature to reject their deal now, the folks who came up with this plan possibly have given too little consideration to the possibility that a judge could kill it later.

The simple reality seems to be that the people in Minnesota either don’t want to kick in enough money to get it done, or they don’t realize that the NFL is serious about leaving.  If it’s the former, that’s their prerogative.  If it’s the latter, they need to wake up, now.

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Broncos, Peyton Manning in “final stages” of a $4 million pay cut

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The Broncos wanted Peyton Manning back, and he wanted to be back.

But the Broncos have $4 million reasons to be happier today.

According to Chris Mortensen and Jeff Legwold of ESPN, the Broncos and Manning are in the “final stages” of a deal to cut his pay from $19 million to $15 million.

This kind of news was anticipated, as both sides wanted each other.

But giving back $4 million (especially when Tom Brady ends up with more money to create cap space) is a win for the Broncos, as they attempt to keep tight end Julius Thomas after franchising wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.

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Texans will release Chris Myers

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Wide receiver Andre Johnson isn’t the only veteran on the way out of Houston.

PFT has learned, via a league source, that the team has informed center Chris Myers that he will be released. Myers was set to make $6 million in 2015, which was the final year of a four-year deal he signed with the team in March 2012. There will be $2 million of his cap hit left as dead money after Myers is released.

Myers has started every game for the Texans for the last seven years after they acquired him in a trade with the Broncos. He was selected to the Pro Bowl twice during his time in Houston and his play has remained good enough that he should get a chance to continue his career — perhaps with former Texans coach Gary Kubiak in a return to Denver — even with his 34th birthday coming this September.

Ben Jones was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 draft as a center, but spent last season as a starter at left guard. He could shift back to center with 2014 draft pick Xavier Su’a-Filo moving into the starting lineup.

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A whole lot of Jay Cutler’s ex-coaches are ripping him, anonymously

Jay Cutler AP

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has rubbed a lot of his coaches the wrong way during his time in Chicago, and now they’re ripping him in the media — but not putting their names behind their criticism.

ESPN cites “at least 10 former Chicago Bears staffers from the Lovie Smith and Marc Trestman regimes” who say they don’t think the Bears can contend for a title with Cutler as the quarterback. None of those “at least 10″ are mentioned by name.

In addition, two teammates, also speaking anonymously, say they’d rather not keep playing with Cutler.

The reasons for all the animosity toward Cutler seem to stem from his personality, as those who have worked with him say he lacks leadership qualities and is not a positive presence in the Bears’ locker room. There’s also talk that he didn’t run the offense the way the coaches wanted, and that in hindsight some people within the organization think Cutler should have lost his starting job to Josh McCown in 2013.

Of course, that hindsight is diametrically opposed to what everyone was saying at the time: The Bears’ coaches and executives said in 2013 that Cutler was clearly the right man for the job, which was why they gave him a huge contract extension. Now that huge contract is a millstone around the Bears’ necks. It won’t be easy for the Bears to move on from Cutler any time soon, as his $15.5 million 2015 base salary is fully guaranteed, and $10 million of his $16 million 2016 base salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s still on the Bears’ roster a week from now.

New Bears General Manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox haven’t committed to Cutler as their starting quarterback, but realistically, if he’s still on the team in a week, the Bears are probably stuck with him not just for this year, but for next year as well. Even if those who know Cutler best don’t think highly of him, he’s probably not going anywhere.

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Report: C.J. Spiller turned down $4.5 million per year from Bills

C.J. Spiller AP

In the days before the Bills traded for LeSean McCoy, C.J. Spiller said that a return to the Bills was a possibility and that the ball was in the team’s court to keep him off the open market.

The Bills’ move for McCoy closed the door on that possibility, but it appears the Bills were interested in bringing Spiller back before deciding to pull the trigger on the deal. Dianna Marie Russini of NBC Washington reports that Spiller turned down an offer from the Bills that would have paid him $4.5 million per year before they opted to make the deal with the Eagles.

There are no further details about the length of the contract or guaranteed money so we don’t have the fullest picture of how the offer might stack up with what other teams are willing to give Spiller. Running backs haven’t struck it particularly rich in free agency of late, but Spiller’s probably not unrealistic to think he can do a bit better than $4.5 million a year in a league where Toby Gerhart and Donald Brown each got deals with an average of $3.5 million a year as free agents before last season.

Spiller will be a guest on PFT Live at 2:35 p.m. ET on Wednesday, so you can see what he has to say about his future when he joins Mike Florio by clicking right here.

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Jon Beason realistic as he talks to Giants about a pay cut

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Giants linebacker Jon Beason knows all too well that getting hurt is a good way to ruin your earning potential.

So that’s why he’s willing to work with the Giants on a pay cut, if it means hanging around.

Via Tom Rock of Newsday, Beason said during an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio that he feels good about his chances of remaining with the Giants next year.

I want to be a Giant,” Beason said. “They took a chance on me when other people may have thought that I was done. You want to go out and hold up your end of the bargain. When healthy I still feel I’m the best in the business and no one can keep up with me.”

Of course, that’s a big condition.

Beason signed a three-year, $17 million deal with the Giants last offseason, but only played four games because of a foot injury. So the $3.6 million ($1 million guaranteed) that he’s due to make this year might be a little steep, and since Beason acts as his own agent, it’s a streamlined process.

“We’ve been back and forth trying to come to terms,” Beason said. “They’re doing the best they can to try to be fair under the situation and as a so-called agent I’m doing the best I can to make sure I get the opportunity to earn some of that money back. . . .

“I’ve had the benefit of doing my own contract and you see how the business works. Unfortunately when you are making more than the league minimum you are susceptible to taking a pay cut due to injury. A lot of that has to do with the leverage that the teams have. What I’ve learned is that you can’t take it personally when the team is going to come after you to get money back based on an injury because the other 31 teams seem like they’re on the same page. ‘Hey, we’ll low-ball you worse if you decide not to take the pay cut.’ . . . It’s an unfortunate part of the business, but at the same time staying in the game and continuing to play is ultimately what you want. And they know that.”

Beason’s 30 now, and was run out of Carolina after a series of injuries and the drafting of Luke Kuechly, so he knows the realities of the business well.

Which means he knows that his familiarity with the Giants might mean more for him there than elsewhere.

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Report: Letroy Guion agrees to deferred prosecution agreement

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Impending free agent defensive tackle Letroy Guion has reportedly agreed to a deal with prosecutors in Florida that will allow him to avoid jail time after last month’s arrest on marijuana and weapons possession charges.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports that Guion has agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement that is expected to be signed in the next few weeks. The deal would result in probation for Guion and should allow Guion to be available for the 2015 season.

Or some portion of it anyway. The agreement would not eliminate the possibility of league discipline after police found 357 grams of marijuana and an unloaded gun, which was licensed in Minnesota, in his car during a traffic stop. Guion also had $190,028.21 with him, which was seized along with his truck by Florida authorities. Guion said that the money came from cashing his paychecks and the possible return of his property is a separate matter that will be heard in a civil case.

Guion had 41 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 16 appearances with the Packers last season. The team has said since the arrest that they are still open to bringing Guion back.

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Tyvon Branch will head to D.C. tomorrow after Colts visit

Tyvon+Branch+Detroit+Lions+v+Oakland+Raiders+ONCwAF1ewUVl Getty Images

For a guy who has played five games the last two years, there’s suddenly a market for Tyvon Branch.

Of course, it’s worth noting it’s two teams who haven’t exactly gotten the hang of the whole “free agency” thing.

According to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, Branch will head to Washington after today’s scheduled trip to see the Colts.

He should totally just visit the Jets while he’s on the East Coast, just to take care of the “I can replace LaRon Landry” trifecta.

While Washington’s had more high-profile free agent busts the last decade or so, the Colts have made some dubious transactions of their own, stacking up some bad contracts around the really good one they have for quarterback Andrew Luck.

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Bills acquire Matt Cassel in trade with Vikings

Cassel Getty Images

Buffalo needed to add a veteran quarterback this offseason, and now the Bills have their man: Matt Cassel.

The Bills and Vikings announced today that they have agreed to a trade that will send Cassel to Buffalo. Technically the trade can’t be completed until the league year starts on Tuesday, but both teams have agreed to it.

The Vikings will get draft pick compensation for Cassel. According to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, the Bills will trade the Buccaneers’ 2015 fifth-round pick (which the Bills acquired in a previous trade) for the Vikings’ 2015 sixth-round pick, and Buffalo will also give Minnesota a 2016 seventh-round pick.

Cassel opened last season as the Vikings’ starter but suffered a season-ending injury in Week Three, and with the emergence of Teddy Bridgewater last year, there was little reason for the Vikings to bring Cassel back.

In Buffalo, Cassel will compete with EJ Manuel to be the starter. The winner of that competition will hand off to LeSean McCoy, whom the Bills traded for on Tuesday. The Bills are off to an active start this offseason, even before the opening of free agency.

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$omebody in Detroit is $ort of up$et about Ndamukong $uh

Suh Getty Images

The Lions decided not to hang onto Ndamukong Suh for one year, mostly since it would have cost them $26.9 million to use the franchise tag.

And it appears someone in Detroit is pi$$ed off about it.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, several digital billboards have popped up alongside area highways in recent days, with a simple, yet ambiguous message.

The billboards read only: “$UH?”

Now, the simplest explanation might be that  fans are simply upset at what they perceive to be the latest greedy athlete.

And that would be easy enough to buy, except one of their baseball players in town is grinding away on an eight-year, $248-million (fully guaranteed) deal, which would buy the Lions at least a couple of Suhs.

Or maybe it’s a shot at management, for constantly restructuring his contract and not getting a long-term deal soon enough that it made his exit inevitable.

The guy who runs the billboard company said they were paid for by the same group of fans who had “Detroit Lyin'” billboards which featured a photo of a referee after their controversial playoff loss to the Cowboys in January.

Either way, some Detroit sports fan has enough di$po$able income to make his feelings known, whatever those feelings are.

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Eagles may have interest in Mark Ingram

Mark Ingram AP

So who will the Eagles turn to at running back after they’ve traded away LeSean McCoy? One option could be soon-to-be free agent Mark Ingram.

Ingram, who becomes a free agent when his rookie contract with the Saints expires on Tuesday, appears to be on the Eagles’ radar. Lyons Yellin of WWL-TV has heard rumblings about the Eagles being interested in Ingram, whose straight-ahead running style may be more to Chip Kelly’s liking.

If the Eagles were to sign Ingram, it would be the second straight season that they took a running back from New Orleans. Last year they acquired Darren Sproles in a trade with the Saints.

The Saints, however, don’t want Ingram to go, and coach Sean Payton has identified Ingram as a player he’d like to keep. That’s easier said than done because the Saints simply don’t have much cap space, and the Eagles have a lot of cap space. If it’s a matter of money, the Eagles can pay Ingram a lot more than the Saints can.

Ingram is the No. 3 running back and No. 38 player overall in our list of the Top 100 free agents.

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PFT Live: Eagles talk with Geoff Mosher, Colts/Packers offseason to-do lists

LeSean McCoy AP

The Eagles had a very busy day on Tuesday culminating in the decision to trade running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

The move can’t become official until the start of the league year next Tuesday, but we’ll be talking about what it means for the team’s offseason plans on Wednesday’s edition of PFT Live. Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly will join Mike Florio to talk about what the Eagles will do at running back now, their plans for Alonso on defense and more about what the releases of Trent Cole and Cary Williams will lead to in the near future.

Florio will also continue the series of offseason to-do lists by checking in with the Colts and Packers a few days before free agency gets underway. The Colts are expected to be active in free agency as they try to surround Andrew Luck with as much talent as possible while the Packers may be working to replace wide receiver Randall Cobb and/or tackle Bryan Bulaga.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour of the show by clicking right here.

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Andre Johnson asks Texans to release him

Buffalo Bills v Houston Texans Getty Images

The Texans recently gave receiver Andre Johnson permission to seek a trade.  Johnson won’t be doing that.

Johnson’s agent, Kennard McGuire, tells PFT that he has asked the Texans to release Johnson.

The impasse arose when the Texans recently informed Johnson he’d have a reduced role in 2015.  Johnson responded by saying that he won’t be happy with a reduced role, so it would be better for him to be elsewhere.

The Texans responded by granting him permission to seek a trade.  McGuire believes deliberately leaked to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle the notion that Johnson asked for a trade in an effort to minimize local criticism of the franchise for its treatment of a player who has been with the Texans for all but one year of the team’s existence.

“After 12 years of being a model citizen, an ambassador, and the face of this franchise, he deserves more than a mishandled P.R. campaign that showcases only one side of the story,” McGuire told PFT on Wednesday morning.  “After 12 years, he deserves to be sent off in a better way.”

Indeed he does.  The Texans know that no one will pay $11.5 million to a receiver who’ll turn 34 in July.  At most, a trade would have happened with Johnson doing a new deal.  So instead of doing a new deal elsewhere as part of a trade, he should have been cut and given the chance to do that new deal elsewhere.

The ball is now back in the team’s court.  The only right thing to do at this point is to thank Johnson for his 12 years of loyal service and release him, giving him a six-day head start on the unrestricted free agency market.

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Another challenger joins the NFLPA executive director hunt

NFLPA

And then there were five.  And there still could be more.

With more than 36 hours remaining before the window closes on the ability of candidates for the NFLPA executive director position to be nominated by three player representatives, multiple reports indicate that former NFLPA counsel Arthur McAfee has obtained the requisite nominations and has been added to the ballot.

PFT first reported McAfee’s candidacy on Monday.  He joins Sean Gilbert, Andrew Smith, and John Stufflebeam as the official challengers to DeMaurice Smith.

Two other known candidates, James Acho and Sean Morey, have not yet received the three nominations.

The election is scheduled for March 15.

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Tyvon Branch beginning his free agent tour with Colts

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It’s almost like the Colts want to do the Bob Sanders thing again.

According to Conor Orr of NFL.com, the Colts are bringing former Raiders safety Tyvon Branch in for a free agent visit.

When he’s well, Branch is a very good safety, the kind of guy who would represent an upgrade over their last free agent safety by (the just-cut LaRon Landry).

Only, it’s hard to count on Branch being well, after he’s played just five games the last two seasons. A broken leg and a broken foot might not be connected, and might not be a sign of future events.

But still, it’s hard to gauge what his market will be, and how any team is willing to invest in a guy with so little tape the last two years.

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Report: Randall Cobb expecting more than Packers offer of $8-9 million a year

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The Packers opted not to use the franchise or transition tag on wide receiver Randall Cobb earlier this week, a decision that pushed Cobb closer to the open market.

It also appears to have pushed him closer to the exit. Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the Packers have told Cobb’s agent Jimmy Sexton that they are willing to give Cobb a five-year contract worth between $8 and $9 million a season, which is less than Sexton believes Cobb will receive on the open market.

Cobb had exactly the year you’d want to have with free agency in the future as he played in every game for the first time in his career while setting personal bests for catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. McGinn believes that Cobb could top the $9.763 million per year that Jordy Nelson is set to make under the terms of the extension he signed last year and the presence of teams like the Raiders and Jaguars with big money to spend makes that seem like a real possibility.

The Packers drafted three wide receivers last year and they’ve replaced key offensive contributors without missing too many beats in the past, so there’s not much reason to think that they’re going to get into a bidding war for Cobb’s services. Right now, that gives the strong impression that Cobb will be in a different uniform pretty soon.

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