Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings has had a disappointing 2012 campaign, and his nagging groin injury does even more to complicate what was already going to be an offseason of uncertainty.
ESPN's NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert hinted at this notion in a recent post, noting that Jennings is in the last year of his contract. The team is allegedly not going to make a huge push to re-sign him.
This potential source of free agency zest is definitely worth delving into further.
The 29-year-old is a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver when healthy, but Green Bay is clearly one of the deepest teams at the position in the league. That makes Jennings less of a priority than other pending free agents in the next couple years, including Clay Mathews and B.J. Raji in 2013.
If it's even possible, Jennings' value might be underrated based on the shaky performance of Green Bay's typically well-oiled offensive machine.
The emergence of Jordy Nelson in 2011 and the versatile Randall Cobb this season certainly affords the Packers the luxury of at least considering the option of letting Jennings walk.
However, the offense hasn't been quite the same without a healthy Jennings consistently in the lineup. One of the most explosive passing attacks of the past two seasons is averaging just over 21 points per game, which ranks just 19th in the league. Establishing a running game continues to be an issue as well. The last-minute acquisition of Cedric Benson seems to be more of a stopgap solution than a long-term answer, especially since Benson will hit the dreaded age of 30 in December.
Jennings is expected to miss an extended period of time, because the speedy receiver he can't find the "last gear" to create enough separation, according to Seifert.
As ESPN's Adam Schefter reported back in September, though, don't expect Jennings to use the downtime as an opportunity to negotiate.
I'm not worried about whether I'm going to end up here or whether I'm getting a contract done. That will take care of itself...I want this to be my locker until I hang my cleats up and decide I'll give this locker up to someone else.
It seems clear that Jennings wants to stay in Green Bay, but GM Ted Thompson may not be able to afford it. The team's ability to hit on draft picks that provide Aaron Rodgers with viable weapons may ultimately make Jennings the odd man out in the Pack's plans for the future.
It's a smart move by Jennings to not rush back into the lineup, because he'll want to put his best foot forward whether he's helping his beloved Packers compete for the playoffs, or ultimately auditioning for another team. Additionally, it's totally possible that Jennings' health will serve as a shot in the arm to the team upon his eventual return, further accentuating his value.
The Packers have drawn some very tough matchups in terms of opposing defenses, so perhaps the production will ultimately be on the upswing as the season progresses.
Multilateral leverage in negotiations can be obtained by Jennings, though, if he returns and performs like the playmaker everyone's accustomed to. It would make the front office's pending decision on its prized receiver that much more difficult.
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