The Green Bay Packers released veteran Jordy Nelson, the third-leading receiver in franchise history and one of Rodgers’ top targets.
The Packers announced the move Tuesday, a day before teams can begin to sign free agents.
Nelson had 550 receptions and 69 touchdown catches in 10 seasons in Green Bay. But his production declined last season with Rodgers sidelined much of the year by a collarbone injury.
First-year general manager Brian Gutekunst called Nelson “one of the great Packers who played here. He’s everything you want a pro to be — and he’ll be missed.
“I think Jordy is a really good player, and you certainly don’t want to let him walk out the door. But this is a big puzzle, and there’s kind of limitations. You can’t keep everybody. As we went through this, we thought this was in our best interest. The best interest for our team moving forward.”
Asked if the Packers offered Nelson the opportunity to come back in 2018 at a reduced salary, Gutekunst said, “There were a lot of discussions that went on. In fairness to him, we won’t get into those kind of discussions.”
Nelson, who turns 33 in May, was scheduled to earn $10.25 million this season and carry a salary-cap number of $12.52 million.
In a post on his Instagram account, Rodgers wrote that it was “hard to find the right words today to express what ’87’ means to me. No teammate exemplified what it means to be a Packer quite like him. From living in (Green Bay) full time, his incredible contributions to the city, state, and region, to his consistent, reliable play on the field. Definitely a sad day and the toughest part of this business.”
Asked if he talked to Rodgers about the decision, Gutekunst replied, “Talked to Aaron afterward. Had a conversation with him afterward, but not before.”
Nelson had 53 catches for 482 yards and six scores in 2017, a year after winning Comeback Player of the Year honors. He had 97 catches on 1,257 yards and a league-best 14 touchdowns in 2016, rebounding from a knee injury that sidelined him the previous season.
Rodgers and Nelson had a chemistry built over their time as two of the longest-tenured Packers.
Nelson’s release figures to foreshadow more moves for the Packers, who could use an upgrade at tight end. Jimmy Graham is one of the top free agents available on the market.
The Packers have Lance Kendricks at tight end, but Richard Rodgers is due to become a free agent.
Davante Adams, who has emerged as the No. 1 receiver, signed a contract extension last year. Randall Cobb remains on the roster, while Ty Montgomery might be used in more of a hybrid role after playing running back exclusively in an injury-plagued 2017 season.