Earlier this month, Greg Jennings made his rounds in the media. Every interview was centered around one major question.
Is he going to sign a contract extension with the Green Bay Packers?
Like most high-profile athletes would in that situation, Jennings provided an answer that really wasn’t one. He said he’s going to play out the rest of the year as hard as he can, then worry about contract business when his current deal expires at the end of this season.
That answer has caused a great deal of worry among Packers nation. Will the best player of the league’s top receiving corps stay? Or will he bolt elsewhere for a monster deal?
Because of those questions, an even bigger one has arisen: Should the Packers save the time and stress of trying to figure out how to re-sign him and just trade him before the deadline?
Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel made a compelling argument for Green Bay to do just that.
It wouldn’t be an awful transaction for general manager Ted Thompson. B.J. Raji, Clay Matthews and Jermichael Finley all have contracts expiring after next season, and Aaron Rodgers’ ends the year after that.
It’s going to be nearly impossible to keep all four of those core players and Jennings at their market values. If any of them should be left out, it would be Jennings, given the Packers’ depth at wide receiver.
But would a trade really be worth it? I say no.
Should Thompson trade Jennings this year, what would Green Bay get in return? Player-for-player trades are almost nonexistent in today’s NFL, so count out the return of a veteran player to immediately fix an area of weakness.
A much more likely scenario would involve a couple draft picks. McGinn points out that Brandon Marshall was traded for two third-rounders this offseason and for two second-rounders in 2010.
Jennings is a better receiver than Marshall, but not by a lot. So it looks as though the Packers would likely receive maybe two seconds and a third, or something in that ballpark. They may even pick up a first-rounder, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Should the Packers let Jennings walk, they would be rewarded with a compensatory pick the following year. The top compensatories are usually handed out at the end of the third round. The difference in compensation for Jennings is larger in a trade scenario, but not significantly.
Green Bay might as well stick it out for the rest of this year and hope Jennings can contribute to another Super Bowl-winning run.
As the Packers are well aware, thanks to 2010, season-ending injuries happen all the time in the NFL. Holding Jennings for the rest of the season almost guarantees top-tier depth at their most important non-quarterback position, even if a major injury or two occurs.
I’m usually all for planning for the future, but with Rodgers turning 29 this year, Green Bay needs to focus on the next five years, not the next 10.
And we don’t even know for sure Jennings will leave. What if he’s willing to make less than he’s worth to stay in Green Bay? Thompson excels at his draft-and-develop strategy, but I’d rather have a proven commodity in Jennings for the next five or so years rather than an extra few second- and third-round picks.
If he does walk, I’d take the compensatory pick and live with the fact that Green Bay went for another Super Bowl run in a year with no clear-cut favorite rather than collect an extra couple picks.
Thompson sent the message loud and clear in the 2012 NFL draft when he traded up on multiple occasions to grab big-time playmakers.
The Packers are in win-now mode.
And how can they be without their best wide receiver?