Luke Getsy praised his blocking earlier this year. Mike McCarthy called him “the ultimate pro” this week.
Those are the kinds of things coaches say about a receiver when his best days are behind him.
So if the best thing Jordy Nelson’s receivers coach could come up with was his ability to block, and his head coach chose to praise his work ethic, what does that say about Nelson’s future with the Green Bay Packers — or at least his future as one of their $10-million-a-year receivers?
For years, Nelson was viewed as a bargain — both after he signed a three-year, $12.6 million contract extension in 2011 and then again after a four-year, $39 million deal in 2014. He’s had four 1,000-yard seasons and three with 85 or more catches, including two years with at least 97 catches.
That no longer looks like the case.
He’s due to make $10.25 million in salary and bonuses next season in the final year of the deal that still has him ranked as the 15th-highest paid receiver in the league based on average per year.
With fellow Packers receiver Randall Cobb also in the $10 million range (at $9.5 million next season) and Davante Adams expected to command even more than that as a pending free agent, it’s difficult to see how the Packers can keep all three around at those prices.
Perhaps it’s Cobb who would have to restructure his deal or be released, but he’s more than five years younger than Nelson, who will turn 33 in May.
So at this point, all eyes are on Nelson, who might not even play Sunday in the season finale at Detroit because of the shoulder injury he sustained last week against the Vikings.
Even Nelson admitted this week that he’s not sure what his future holds with the only NFL team he’s ever played for, the one that picked him in the second round of the 2008 draft and the one for which he and Aaron Rodgers have the franchise record for most touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver combination — a total that reached 65 with Nelson’s six touchdowns this season before Rodgers broke his collarbone on Oct. 15.
“That’s not [a question] for me,” Nelson said. “I’m not worried about that right now.”
After the fast start this season, Nelson’s production plummeted. He didn’t catch a single touchdown pass in the eight games that Brett Hundley started. Anyone who thought it would automatically return when Rodgers came back in Week 15 at Carolina need only look at Nelson’s numbers from that game, too: three catches for 28 yards. That’s on par with Nelson’s season averages of 3.5 catches per game for 32.1 yards.
Nelson looks like he’ll finish with his fewest catches (53) since 2012, when he missed four games, with the fewest yards (482) and fewest touchdowns (six) since 2010.
“I’ve never put anything in my career on numbers,” Nelson said. “That doesn’t change if it’s a bad season or a good season.”
When asked if he’d call this a good season or a bad season, Nelson said: “I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it too much. Obviously we’ve been in it week in and week out, so that’s something that you’ll think about after the season’s over.”
Nelson also said he hasn’t thought about what might happen if the Packers ask him to take a pay cut or restructure his deal.
“That would be a discussion we’d have if it happens,” Nelson said.
Hundley said he “couldn’t put a finger on it,” when asked this week why he hasn’t been able to get the ball to Nelson as much and in as many playmaking positions as he has with, say, Adams, who has flourished despite the change in quarterbacks. Nelson has averaged just 7.1 yards per catch from Hundley but 11.7 with Rodgers this season.
It was during Hundley’s long stretch as a starter that Getsy took to praising Nelson for his blocking.
“He’s been outstanding,” Getsy said. “He really is. There’s never been a blink of an eye. It really hasn’t. We’ve got to find a way to win games, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to do that.”
But it doesn’t change the fact that Nelson is having one of his least productive seasons or the fact that Packers coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged for the first time last week that Adams — not Nelson — is the Packers’ “best perimeter player.”
“Jordy’s the ultimate pro, he’s the ultimate teammate,” McCarthy said. “So he hasn’t [changed] at all, from my perspective. He’s the same guy every day. I understand what numbers say, but it’s about opportunities and being in rhythm. So I mean, if you look at some of the production even with the younger players in the Minnesota game, I don’t think it’s a surprise you see Brett, he throws to Trevor [Davis] more, he throws to Michael Clark more, just because that’s who he’s been practicing with.
“But Jordy, he’s going through a tough week with the shoulder, but like he always does, he shows up every day and he’ll do everything he can to get out there Sunday.”