The Packers might have to pay Dez Bryant money to keep Davante Adams

Adams' return leads Packers over Cowboys (0:41)

Packers WR Davante Adams returned from the vicious hit he took last week and scored the game-winning touchdown in Green Bay's win over the Cowboys. (0:41)

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers might have to be willing to pay Davante Adams like one of the NFL's top receivers in order to keep him after this season.

We're talking Dez Bryant money.

Adams, a second-round pick in 2014, is in the final year of his rookie contract, and he will have to be one of general manager Ted Thompson's top priorities (along with center Corey Linsley and perhaps safety Morgan Burnett) before the free-agent market opens in March.

Adams won't be cheap, not after what he's done in his past 21 games. Among all NFL players, he's second in touchdown catches with 16 since the start of the 2016 season. Among receivers only, he's tied for 18th in catches and 20th in yards. Taking those three categories into account and comparing him to the highest-paid receivers in the league, Adams belongs among the top five.

That's where Bryant sits with the contract he signed in 2015. He's No. 5 on the NFL receiver pay scale with an average of $14 million per season. His deal included a $20 million signing bonus and $45 million guaranteed.

A look at the top-paid receivers in the league shows Adams' production since the start of last season compares favorably. Combining Adams' ranking among receivers in the three major categories (catches, yards and touchdowns) has an average rank of 13.3 (the average of tied for 18th in catches, 20th in yards and second in touchdowns). Antonio Brown, the NFL's highest paid receiver, has the highest average ranking in those three categories at 2.33.

Adams' mark of 13.3 would rank fifth among the top 12 highest paid receivers in the league over the same stretch, which is where the Bryant comparison comes in. Bryant's average rank in those three categories is 28.7, although he's played in three fewer games than Adams since the start of 2016.

They shared the field on Sunday at AT&T Stadium, and Adams had the upper hand. He caught seven passes for 66 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 11 seconds left. Bryant caught five for 55 yards and a touchdown.

The Packers already have two receivers on their roster making about $10 million per season. Randall Cobb, who signed a four-year, $40 million deal in 2015, has the 13th-highest average receiver salary per season. Jordy Nelson, at $9.7 million, is 14th. Both Cobb and Nelson have one more year left on their contracts.