Ravens Game Proves Jennings Should Be Traded

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Ravens Game Proves Jennings Should Be Traded
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It has been three weeks since I wrote the article below. I imagine that, like Aaron Rodgers facial expressions clearly demonstrated agains the Ravens, fans are also become frustrated with Jennings - especially after the Ravens game.

I counted three sure passes Jennings should've caught. Some may count more.

Here is the article I wrote a few weeks ago:

Greg Jennings is a great guy both on and off the field.  He epitomizes Packer tradition and Packer fans.  Great attitude, excellent work ethic, overall nice guy.

Unfortunately, Green Bay Packer fans are often times loyal to a fault.

Even the world is aware of this.  Jay Sorgi, from the AM 620 WTMJ News Radio, reported on Nov. 19 that Iraqi prisoners being detained by troops from the Wisconsin National Guard started harassing the soldiers about Brett Favre and the “shenanigans” surrounding his break-up with the Packers.

Any suggestion of trading Packer favorites like Jennings, Driver, and even Aaron Kampman, an injured defensive end that attempted to make the switch to 3-4 linebacker, is absurd to most Packer fans simply because they “like them” or “identify with them” regardless of whether or not the Packers have a better opportunity to win by trading them. 

Of course, the same fans who think it’s ludicrous to trade favorite players will turn around and complain about GM Ted Thompson not doing enough to get the right players in Green Bay. 

At some point, a Super Bowl contending team has to know where their weakness and strengths are and then go out and get the right players. 

The Minnesota Vikings have obviously done that over the last couple of years and they truly might be the best team Favre has ever played on.  The 1996 Super Bowl winning Packers also acquired and traded the right players.

Only teams that excel in scouting future draft choices like the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots can build contenders through the draft.  Judging from Thompson’s draft choices, which have been good to ugly—the Packers are not one of those teams. 

Over the last three decades, I can think of only four professional ball players from Wisconsin who, in their prime, were untouchable.  Robyn Yount, Paul Molitor, Brett Favre, and Sydney Moncrief.   Unless the player is considered franchise and has a proven winning track record, they should always be available for trade if the price is right.

This leaves us with Jennings.  Last year, the Packers signed Jennings to a front-loaded contract extension that made him the second highest paid receiver in the NFL, behind Larry Fitzgerald.  Jennings makes more than Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Wayne, and Donald Driver.

In 2008, Jennings had a banner year with 1,292 yards and nine touchdowns.  Jennings was due to make $535,000 in 2009, but now has a contract that earns him close to $6.9 million a year with the extension.  

This year, he is barely on pace to make 1,000 yards and five touchdowns.

Is this a case of a player taking it easy once they get that guaranteed fortune?  Considering Jennings’ attitude and work ethic, I don’t think so. 

Jennings’ decrease in production probably has more to do with a lack of timing for Aaron Rodgers due to pocket pressure and opposing defenses playing Packer wide receivers tight on the line of scrimmage to take away the quick slant or short pass.   

But shouldn’t the second highest paid wide receiver still be able to get open?  Shouldn’t the second highest paid wide receiver win the battle for every ball thrown his way? 

Sterling Sharpe did when he was surrounded by considerably less talented teammates.  And once he caught the ball, he plowed through opposing defensive players to get the first down or break free in the open field. 

Greg Jennings is supposed to be the current Packers' Sterling Sharpe.  He is supposed to catch the short pass and move the chains.  He is not supposed to be tackled by one linebacker or defensive back when close to the line-of-scrimmage.

Sure, Jennings’ is phenomenal at breaking tackles in the open field on the move, but his contract pays him to break tackles close to the line of scrimmage and get crucial first downs.  His contract pays him to move the chains. 

The nature of the West Coast offense is to quickly get the ball in the hands of wide receivers that have a better chance of breaking tackles a few yards beyond the line-of-scrimmage than a running back that gets the ball four yards behind the line of scrimmage. 

Who needs great offensive linemen if receivers can catch the ball two yards past the line-of-scrimmage and break tackles to gain five or more yards?  Judging by the Packer’s offensive line play and the elephant contract extension signed by Jennings, the Packer coaching staff hoped that Jennings could pay dividends in the West Coast style offense.

Jennings’ West Coast flanker receiver position is supposed to get 100-plus catches a year.

Sterling Sharpe did this. Wes Walker continues to do it every year. 

By signing Jennings to the second highest paid contract for a wide receiver, the Packers showed complete faith that he would be able to do it this year as well.

But he’s not winning the battle for the ball. He’s not breaking tackles in close proximity to the line of scrimmage.  He is not using his body to “screen out” opposing defenses. 

The Packers have Donald Driver, who consistently proves he’s the best receiver on the field.  They also have Jordy Nelson and James Jones, two wide receivers who can play that flanker position and break tackles. 

Two excellent wide receivers that won’t stick around unless they have the opportunity to play consistently.

This is not to say Jennings isn’t an important part of the Packer’s offense—he is—but he had pro-bowl statistics last year and the Packers only won six games.  He is an average wide receiver this year and they already won seven games and have five more to go.

Jennings is not necessary for Packer success now, or in the future.  

At his current level of play, Jennings is not going to be the difference between the Packers making the Super Bowl and not making the Super Bowl in the next couple of years. 

Unless Jennings steps up and proves that he has the ability to be that second highest paid wide receiver in the league, whether he plays with a good team or a bad team, it’s time for the Packers to consider trading him this off season and stop waiting for potential to bloom. 

In his fourth year and at prime performance age, Jennings should have better numbers while also drawing double coverage.  He doesn’t and—unlike Sharpe—getting the ball in his hands doesn’t equal an automatic first down.

Many loyal Packer fans will argue that Jennings’s injuries have led to his decline this year and that he will produce better numbers when 100 percent healthy.

Brett Favre was able to produce NFL MVP numbers with a thumb sprain on his throwing hand.  Sterling Sharpe still rammed through linebackers with pulled hamstrings knowing that one good hit could paralyze him for life. 

Soldiers hunt down Al-Qaeda in the mountains of Afghanistan with blisters on their feet and lower back strain from carrying 40lb rucksacks—and many of them make less than one percent of Jennings's salary.

Others will argue that Jennings’s work ethic and attitude makes him worth keeping.  Most of the fans reading this column are probably hard workers with good attitudes; after all, the people of Wisconsin are famous for their work ethic.  Go ahead and ask your boss if he believes those elements are worthy of a 10-fold pay increase combined with a deduction in performance.

A good offensive lineman or a cover two cornerback can make a significant difference in the Packer’s success.  The Packers have the best wide receiver depth in the league, but are in desperate need of both starters and depth on the offensive line and secondary position.

Despite his contract, Jennings also carries the most weight in the trade market.  Teams like the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Chicago Bears are all in desperate need of a proven wide receiver and would entertain an offer to trade a first round draft pick for Jennings. 

The Baltimore Ravens currently have depth in their secondary while the Tennessee Titans have depth in their offensive line.  By trading Jennings in the offseason, the Packers could get a proven player that will instantly give the team a better chance of winning.

Loyalty aside, it’s time to trade Jennings if the Packers want to win now.

 

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