UPDATE: Thursday, Mar. 14, at 7:24 a.m. ET by Brandon Galvin
And it's on: Packers free-agent WR Greg Jennings is visiting today with...the Minnesota Vikings.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2013
---End of update---
The Green Bay Packers decided not to use the franchise tag on pending free-agent WR Greg Jennings on the Monday deadline. Alex Marvez of FOX Sports originally broke the news:
But that does not necessarily mean that Jennings won't return to the team he has been with for his entire seven-year NFL career.
Jennings will be 30 near the beginning of the 2013 season, which means this will be his final opportunity to cash in on a lucrative, long-term contract. Here is the latest buzz and speculation surrounding the explosive receiver.
Green Bay Packers
Tom Silverstein of the Wisconsin-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that it is hard to project what the market will be for Jennings. Multiple reports have indicated that he is seeking somewhere in the $12 to $14 million range annually.
With a plethora of receiving talent in Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb, it would be surprising if the Packers forked over that sort of money to Jennings—especially since he's struggled through injuries the past two seasons.
Those health issues are apparently red flags to prospective suitors, though, according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King:
...I've asked several general managers for their opinions about who might be most disappointed in a class of free agents that is heavy at tackle, wide receiver and pass rusher...very talented players like tackle Jake Long of Miami and wide receiver Greg Jennings of Green Bay will likely be disappointed because of their recent injury histories.
That gives at least some legs to the notion that the market won't be as kind to Jennings as some might expect. It also opens up the possibility of his return to Green Bay.
In reference to dynamic but inconsistent tight end Jermichael Finley, Silverstein's sources indicate that the Packers are likely to give Finley another shot in 2013:
If the Packers thought they could get Jennings at an average of $7 million to $8 million per year, they could sign him and release Finley, who is scheduled to make $8.25 million this year. However, multiple sources connected to the team have said that they would be surprised if Finley wasn't around this season.
A separate report by Silverstein revealed that the team and GM Ted Thompson would love to keep Jennings around if at all possible.
Although it'd be disappointing financially to take a lesser salary with the Pack, it has been Jennings' only NFL home and has brought him plenty of success. If he ultimately doesn't get the deal he's looking for from another team, coming back to Green Bay wouldn't be a bad way to end his career.
Former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is the head coach, which makes this a logical fit on paper. Jennings was quoted by NFL.com's Chris Wesseling as saying he "wouldn't mind at all" playing in Miami, due to the nice weather and emerging QB Ryan Tannehill.
But apparently Philbin doesn't think too highly of Jennings as a player, according to Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel:
Things can always change, but I've been told that #Dolphins' Joe Philbin isn't a huge fan of Greg Jennings as a player. Needs a WR but ...— Bob McGinn (@BobMcGinn) February 25, 2013
Given Jennings' success in Philbin and Mike McCarthy's offense, it's somewhat surprising that Jennings isn't more respected. With the ability to play both in the slot and outside, Jennings offers pretty rare versatility at the wide receiver position.
As originally reported by Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins used the franchise tag on DT Randy Starks. That means 2012 leading receiver Brian Hartline is going to hit the open market, although the two sides believe a deal can be reached:
Agent Drew Rosenhaus is nothing if not persistent. Hartline wants to remain in Miami and believes he has a chemistry with quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But he also wants $6 million per season.
Salguero also indicates that the Dolphins may prefer to let Hartline walk and pay Jennings somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 million. However, Salguero references Pittsburgh Steelers speedy WR Mike Wallace as the team's likely top target in free agency.
Sliverstein adds more conjecture about other destinations that might make sense, which includes Miami due to the prior Green Bay ties between Jennings and Philbin.
It is not a particularly strong draft for wide receivers, so teams like New England, Minnesota, Seattle, the New York Jets and the Dolphins could be interested in a veteran like Jennings. It should be clear quickly what the market for the Packers receiver is once free agency starts.
The St. Louis Rams and Indianapolis Colts have been mentioned as possible fits by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, as Wesseling documented. Both would make sense, since the Colts could use another experienced, No. 1-caliber option to go opposite Reggie Wayne, who isn't getting any younger.
Meanwhile, the Rams have some promising talent at the position but may decide to pull the trigger on Jennings. With Danny Amendola not getting the franchise tag, St. Louis may lose him. Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch reported that the two sides were far apart on a deal.
GM Les Snead made it publicly known well before Monday that Amendola wouldn't be given a one-year, eight-figure contract that would've come with the tag. Given Jennings' aforementioned versatilty, Jennings could make up for Amendola's loss if the Rams can't reach an agreement with him.
At this point, mum's mostly the word on Jennings. But this is a storyline that should only continue to develop and become more intriguing as March 12 approaches.