The National Football League reinstated defensive end Johnny Jolly on Wednesday, nearly nine months after he had applied for reinstatement with the NFL in June. The Green Bay Packers still own the rights to Jolly, who in prison seemed to turn his life around after multiple drug relapses.
The question at hand is whether or not the Packers should take a chance on bringing Jolly back. When examining the current state of the Green Bay defensive line, the answer is clear: yes they should. That said, the Packers should bring Jolly back at the veteran minimum for a couple reasons: one, he hasn’t played since 2009 so his football condition is in doubt and second, there is always that danger he could fall off the wagon again.
Jolly’s contract was tolled while he was under suspension from the summer of 2010 forward and he signed a $2.5 million free agent tender before he was suspended. The Packers won’t bring him back at that salary, so cutting him and then re-signing him at the minimum would make perfect sense.
Look at the current Packers defensive line. Ryan Pickett is in the twilight of his career and has been banged up over the past several seasons. B.J. Raji played better in 2012 after a lackluster performance the season before. 2012 second-round pick Jerel Worthy tore his ACL and his ability to contribute in 2013 is very much in doubt. Mike Neal finally showed some promise, but his injury history will hover over him until he can remain healthy for another full season.
Therefore, what do the Packers have to lose by at least bringing Jolly to training camp?
Having the Packers stand by Jolly could do wonders for his confidence as he continues to piece his life back together after his time in prison. Jolly was beginning to show promise before he was suspended and even though he just turned 30, there is still a chance for him to return to form.
Some think bringing Jolly back is too much of a risk for the Packers to take and would be better off rolling the dice by bringing back defensive end Cullen Jenkins instead. Why not bring back both Jenkins and Jolly? Jenkins would probably demand more in salary than Jolly, but the Packers would do well to bring them both in and let them battle it out in training camp if not keep both on the roster for depth.
If Worthy is indeed a lost cause for the majority of 2013, this would be an easy decision for the Packers. General manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy stand by their players when they go through rough patches and if Jolly does indeed pan out and keeps his head on straight, then it will be one of the true feel good stories of the 2013-14 season.
If Jolly struggles and shows no hope of returning to form (or worse, has a relapse), then the Packers can cut him at the most minimal of losses. It would a very low risk, high reward type deal. The team (along with any of the other 31 NFL franchises) would likely include a clause into the contract that would absolve the team of any obligations should Jolly again run afoul with the law.
Should the Packers bring back Johnny Jolly?
The Packers pride themselves as a team of high character, but the situation with Jolly is an illness. Jolly has been nothing but remorseful in his remarks since being sentenced to prison. There is no better city or team to give Jolly one last chance at a clean life than the Green Bay Packers. If they bring him back, Jolly will work hard to make sure that their hard-tested faith is rewarded.
Packer fans everywhere are rooting for Jolly to succeed, whether it is in a Packer uniform or just at life in general. There would be nothing better than seeing Jolly help a defensive line that has struggled the past couple of seasons and have him along for the ride as they make another push for a Super Bowl.
That would be happy ending for everyone involved.