Green Bay Packers GM says Randall Cobb trade was 'very important thing' for Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Brian Gutekunst left little to interpretation: The Green Bay Packers' general manager brought receiver Randall Cobb back to Green Bay because Aaron Rodgers wanted him.

"I think that's a big part of it," Gutekunst said Thursday, one day after completing a trade with the Houston Texans to acquire Cobb. "Obviously without Aaron, I don't think we would probably be pursuing that. Randall's still a really good player. Seeing him last night just kind of reminded me what an impact he'll have in our locker room and for our football team.

"But this was a very important thing for Aaron, and that's why we did it."

One of Rodgers' desires that came up during Wednesday's 32-minute news conference, when he thoroughly explained his beefs with the Packers, was the interest in having more input on who stays and who goes.

The Packers let Cobb, 30, leave in free agency after the 2018 season.

"I just want to be involved in conversations that affect my ability to do my job," Rodgers said Wednesday.

It could be an awkward position for Cobb given that it was Gutekunst who opted not re-sign him after the 2018 season. Cobb instead signed with the Dallas Cowboys for one year before going to Houston last season.

When asked how it feels to know that Gutekunst wouldn't have made this move unless Rodgers asked for it, Cobb said: "About the same way it made me feel when I signed with Dallas and I was waiting, hoping for another opportunity to come back. That didn't happen, but we're here, and I'm back."

Cobb, however, did not feel comfortable saying that he's the reason Rodgers decided to return to the Packers rather than retire after his offseason of discontent.

"That would be way, way, way too egotistical for me to think that I'm the reason," Cobb said. "I think there's a lot of pieces that's in play with him coming back."

Not only are Rodgers and Cobb close friends off the field, but Rodgers clearly feels comfortable with the veteran slot receiver on the field. Cobb has caught 71% of the passes thrown to him by Rodgers, the highest catch percentage of any receiver targeted at least 10 times by the reigning NFL MVP.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cobb's 71% is slightly higher than former Packers receiver Jake Kumerow's (69%), another player whose release was lamented by Rodgers.

Gutekunst said Rodgers brought up the need for a slot receiver in their end-of-season meeting following the 2020 season. Gutekunst used a third-round pick on one in this draft, Amari Rodgers.

Aaron Rodgers wanted more, however; he wanted Cobb.

"He's unique in the fact of what he's done for this organization," Gutekunst said. "Every player's not going to have that kind of input, right? It's going to be Aaron. But he's always had it. I think it's how we incorporate it. At the end of the day, it's really no different from some of the other people in the organization who have opinions on what we're going to do. At the end of the day, I'm going to take that in and I'll make the decision and we'll move forward."

Cobb actually has served as a mentor to the rookie receiver in the past because Cobb was coached in college by Amari Rodgers' father, Tee Martin.

Gutekunst said Aaron Rodgers' contract did not have to be adjusted -- nor did Rodgers give up any money -- in order to acquire Cobb. But he said Rodgers' deal will have to be altered at some point in order to give the Packers enough salary-cap space to get through the season.

Gutekunst gave up a sixth-round pick to acquire Cobb, and the Texans agreed to pay $3 million of Cobb's base salary.

Cobb had 38 catches for 441 yards (including 8 for 95 against the Packers on Oct. 25) last season, but he missed the final six games while on injured reserve because of a toe injury.

Cobb practiced on a limited basis during Thursday's workout and could barely keep the smile off his face during his 20-minute session with reporters.

"I can breathe again," he said. "I've seen the other side, and I'm excited to be back here, and I'm excited, I'm smiling. It's funny, my teammates said you act like you just got out of prison, and I said, well, you know ... I'm very, very excited to be here.

"And that's nothing against Houston. Whenever I talk about that, I'm thinking of Green Bay is like a Fortune 500 company, and the Texans are a new franchise. They're a startup that's figuring out their way, and I think the moves that they made when they brought Caserio and Coach Culley, I think they're on the path."

The Packers also signed veteran offensive tackle Dennis Kelly, who has played in 104 games with 47 starts -- including 16 for the Tennessee Titans last season. The signing is insurance in case All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari isn't ready for Week 1 while recovering from ACL surgery in January.