It’s a move that Rodgers might not like, but it does free up more than $10 million in cap space. Nelson was clearly slower in 2017, but to suggest he doesn’t have anything in the tank would be silly. He led the NFL in touchdowns in 2016, a year after returning from a torn ACL.
According to reports, the Packers wanted Nelson to take a paycut, but the wide receiver apparently declined. It appears the Packers will keep Randall Cobb on the roster and have Davante Adams, who recently received a long-term extension from the team. Maybe Nelson wasn’t willing to be the third-highest paid wideout on his own team. That’s fair.
He should find a pretty robust market in free agency, so let’s dive into some potential landing spots for the former second-round pick, acknowledging that our top two choices are teams with whom Nelson has already been connected and could visit within the first 24 hours of free agency.
The initial visit for Nelson in free agency will be to Oakland, according to Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
And it’s a move with a lot of connections and one that could make sense. Raiders wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett previously held the same post in Green Bay, so Nelson would clearly be comfortable working with the coaching staff. They Raiders have a franchise quarterback in Derek Carr, which should always be considered a plus for any wide receiver in free agency. Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie was working in Green Bay when Nelson was drafted.
The Raiders have been sketchy about the future of Michael Crabtree and releasing him would save a lot of cap space. It’s not hard to argue Nelson would be an upgrade if they can work him in under their limited amount of salary cap space.
This is just too obvious right? As soon as Nelson was released, the jokes flowed on Twitter about the wideout visiting the Patriots. One report indicates Nelson is actually targeting the Patriots for his next landing spot, and he’s one of those “savvy veterans cut by his old team” who was always respected by Bill Belichick and would get a look in free agency.
The Patriots lost Danny Amendola to the Dolphins in free agency on Tuesday, so there’s some room on the depth chart. But New England also has Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski in terms of mouths to feed. There are reasonable questions about how long Tom Brady will play.
New England, as they are wont to do, might be less willing to spend on Nelson than other potential suitors.
The goal of the Seahawks is to build around Russell Wilson, but Seattle just lost Jimmy Graham (to the Packers) and Paul Richardson (to the Redskins) early in free agency. Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett stand out as the primary weapons here, and Nelson would be a nice fit within that structure. Seattle’s in the middle of a rebuild/reload situation, and there are a whole lot of positions for John Schneider and Pete Carroll to worry about, but the Seahawks have been able to lure veterans before.
The 49ers have quickly become a destination for free agents thanks to the presence of Jimmy Garoppolo. The depth chart is pretty well stocked in terms of signed bodies for the 49ers, especially after locking down Marquise Goodwin, but Nelson could easily slot in as a top option for Jimmy G in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. He’s an excellent route runner who was taking the top off of defenses as recently as 2016. He might be too close of a clone to Pierre Garcon in terms of a sure-handed, veteran guy.
The Panthers already traded for Torrey Smith, which fills up the depth chart a bit. But pairing Jordy Nelson and his sure hands with Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen would give Carolina a pile of wideouts to help out Cam Newton. There might be bigger concerns here with the offensive line and the departure of key players on both sides of the ball. But putting weapons around Newton should be a priority this offseason, and adding Smith can’t be considered taking care of that business.
The Ravens might be out here after giving big money to Ryan Grant (??) and also agreeing to terms with John Brown. Add those guys to a depth chart that already features Jeremy Maclin and Breshad Perriman and it could be too much to look at Nelson. But they desperately need to find some help for Joe Flacco (see: Ryan Grant and John Brown), shouldn’t be able to find any in the draft, can’t count on Perriman and have had experience and success with veteran wide receivers before (Steve Smith, Mike Wallace).