When longtime Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Packer beat writer Bob McGinn wrote that the Green Bay Packers would be better off to trade wide receiver Greg Jennings and get something in return rather than try to re-sign him, the reaction from fans was nearly unanimous: “McGinn is nuts. No way does Ted Thompson willing let a talent like Jennings go.”
That mindset very well could be evolving.
With the Packers sporting a 2-3 record to start the season and the offense looking like a shell of its former self, McGinn may not be so far off after all. Thanks to the rough start to 2012, the Packers at the very least must consider the possibility of moving Jennings sometime before the trading deadline on October 30.
Some will raise the point that one reason for the Packers’ current offensive struggles is that Jennings once again is sidelined thanks to a nagging groin injury. In some ways, it makes perfect sense. Jennings is a rare talent and the chemistry he has developed with quarterback Aaron Rodgers is some of the strongest in the National Football League. Thompson would be crazy to think he can instantly replace someone like Jennings in the draft.
That may be true, but it overlooks the bigger and more critical holes on the Packers roster. Rodgers is suddenly under siege and has begun to revert back to his 2009 form of holding onto the ball too long. The defense, despite many new additions from the 2012 draft class, continues to give up chunks of yardage and can’t seem to stay off the field.
Then, just as they discovered some semblance of a decent running game, the Packers lose running back Cedric Benson for eight weeks and perhaps even the rest of the season. Despite all this, the Packers sit at 2-3 and still do have a shot at the playoffs given the relative youth of the 2012 season.
If keeping a shot at another Super Bowl means trading Jennings in order to help save a sinking defense or a porous offensive line, then that’s an option the Packers need to keep on the table.
It might seem like this means the Packers absolutely must hang onto Jennings, but consider this scenario—Jennings will likely demand a significantly higher salary than the $3.89 million he is pulling down in 2012. The Packers also will soon be faced with re-signing Rodgers, linebacker Clay Matthews and defensive tackle B.J. Raji Rodgers and Matthews are most certainly “must signs” for Thompson which leaves Jennings and Raji.
Raji is likely expendable, so where does that leave Jennings?
Thompson has proven adept at finding wide receivers all over the draft. Even when you take Jennings out of the equation, the Packers still have one the best wide receiver groups in the NFL. Jordy Nelson had a breakout year last year, James Jones has stepped it up big time this season after many fans demanded he be traded and Randall Cobb has emerged as a versatile weapon for coach Mike McCarthy and his high-octane offense.
Jennings has also been struggling with injury lately. He’s had the groin injury this season and missed three games late last season thanks to a knee injury. The more he sits on the sideline, the more the other receivers get a chance to prove their worth. It could be argued Nelson has already passed up Jennings as the number one receiver on the Packers.
Even with their record and being without Jennings, the Packers offense is still solid. The protection issues and Rodgers hanging on to the ball aside, the Packers can still move the ball pretty well. Just because the team isn’t putting up ridiculous numbers like last season does not necessarily mean the unit is struggling. Seasons like the Packers offense had in 2011 only come around once in a great while and NFL defenses usually catch on to those attacks fairly quickly.
In pondering a potential Jennings trade, they must weigh what they could get for him. The Packers could ask for a first round pick for him and probably would get it, but Thompson would find a deal with a second or third round pick coupled with an offensive lineman or a defensive player very lucrative as well.
Given how the season has played out so far, Thompson at least needs to consider the possibility of trading Jennings. That doesn’t mean he should do it, but it at least should be an option.
In his time as general manager for the Packers, Thompson has shown no fear in making the big decisions. He realizes every NFL GM will face them from time to time and that they can vastly affect a franchise’s fortunes for several years. He had to deal with the Brett Favre situation and the decision whether or not to trade Jennings could be another controversial issue Thompson has to face.
Thompson owes it to his players and the fans to try and turn this season around. If that means trading one of their best receivers, then Thompson could do it. He’s found talent at wide receiver buried in the draft before and there’s no reason to think he couldn’t do it again.
Packer fans have a saying: “In Ted We Trust.” If Thompson does decide to trade Jennings, then that trust will face its strongest test since Favre was traded to the Jets in 2008. If it pays off, his reputation as a personnel genius will only grow.
If it fails, then the “Fire Ted Thompson” websites may begin to appear once again.
“To trade or not to trade?” That’s the question Thompson needs to answer. The fortunes of his team for the next few years could hang in the balance