Are the Packers WRs Making Greg Jennings Expendable?
Now, don't get me wrong. I believe Jennings is one of the very best receivers in the NFL. That is, when he is healthy. That has become an issue recently. Jennings missed three games last year late in the season due to a knee injury.
This year, Jennings has missed a number of games so far due to a lingering groin injury. Jennings won't return until he is 100 percent healthy. When will that be? That's hard to say because groin injuries are tough to gauge. But some have speculated that Jennings might not return until after the bye week. That would mean Week 11 at Detroit.
Meanwhile, the other Packers wide receivers have definitely stepped up their play in Jennings' absence. Just look at these numbers:
Jordy Nelson—40 receptions for 532 yards and five touchdowns.
Randall Cobb—37 receptions for 435 yards and three touchdowns.
James Jones—29 receptions for 323 yards and seven touchdowns.
Jennings, on the other hand, has just 12 catches for 78 yards and one touchdown. Donald Driver, who is hardly used anymore, even has one touchdown.
However, when healthy, Jennings can be a scoring machine. He has 50 touchdown receptions in his career, and twice he's had 12 touchdowns in a season.
Still, when you look at his recent injury history and the production of the other wide receivers, one has to look closely at Jennings' situation.
Oh yeah, there is also the fact that Jennings will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2012 season.
So far there haven't been any meaningful talks between the Packers and Jennings' agent, Eugene Parker. Jennings wants to get the best deal he can get. Parker is the right guy to try and get him that.
Plus, Vincent Jackson signed a new free agent deal last season with the Tampa Bay Bucs, which averages $11.1 million a year.
Right now, Jennings is averaging $9.2 million a year. My guess is that he wants to be somewhere in between Fitzgerald's and Jackson's numbers. Perhaps $13 million a year. Even that might be too much, however.
First, look at the deal Nelson signed last year to stay with the Packers. Nelson inked a three-year extension, averaging $4.2 million a year. Based on last season (68 receptions for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns), and this season, Nelson is WELL worth that investment.
So if the Packers sign Jennings to a new deal that averages $13 million a year, how well will that sit with Nelson, knowing that Jennings is making three times the amount he is?
Put that aside for a moment. The Packers also have three other contracts that need to be addressed very soon. They are quarterback Aaron Rodgers, outside linebacker Clay Matthews and nose tackle B.J. Raji.
So, as you can see, the Packers are in a bit of a quandary.
Earlier in the season, there was some speculation that the Packers might try and trade Jennings before the trading deadline. The Miami Dolphins and Joe Philbin would be a great fit. But the groin injury has probably tabled any discussion about that possibility.
Also, if the Packers can't sign Jennings to an extension, there is also the possibility of using the franchise tag on him next year. But even that equates to around $10 million a season. Plus, who knows what type of strain that would put on the locker room.
In a perfect world, the Packers would probably be thrilled to have Jennings settle for the same deal Jackson signed with the Bucs: $11.1 million a year. But that most likely won't happen. Not with Eugene Parker as your agent.
Bottom line: Between the injury history, the great production of the other wide receivers and the elephant in the room—the contract situation—this will most likely be Jennings' last season in Green Bay.
However, that being said, imagine how good the Packers will be in the passing game once Jennings returns from his groin injury.
The rich will have gotten richer, but not in the sense that Jennings prefers, at least in terms of his contract.
My suggestion is to table the contract talks for now and not let that be a distraction. Just play football and try to win another Vince Lombardi Trophy. In other words, go out in a blaze of glory.
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