Should the Miami Dolphins Target Free Agent WR Greg Jennings?

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IFebruary 4, 2013

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 05:  Wide receiver Greg Jennings #85 of the Green Bay Packers runs after a catch against the Minnesota Vikings during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Lambeau Field on January 5, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings has already generated a good deal of buzz with regards to a possible reunion with his former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. With the Miami Dolphins, the hope is that Jennings could provide the explosive element the Dolphins lack at wide receiver.

Jennings certainly seems to be okay with the idea of a reunion with Philbin; Jennings spoke to MiamiDolphins.com about his relationship with head coach Joe Philbin, and had nothing but nice things to say about his former offensive coordinator.

I love Joe. I had a great relationship with him. He's one of my favorite coaches. Obviously he coaches a lot, little subtle things here and there, but he's a great coach to have. He was a great coach to play for. He's one of those guys that you can have a relationship with outside of football. As a player, you admire a coach when he actually opens himself up like that.

"Joe, how you doing? Remember me?" he would later say with a smile.

If Philbin remembers Jennings from their time together in Green Bay, he would be foolish not to want to bring him in. That being said, Philbin would be foolish to ignore what happened in their year apart.

In battling with a nagging groin injury and abdominal surgery, Jennings played a career-low eight games, and caught a career-low 36 passes for 366 yards (10.2 yards per reception) and four touchdowns. He also had the third-lowest YPR for any wide receiver with over 35 receptions.

All that being said, he might still be a fit. To see that, we must look at Jennings in context of what general manager Jeff Ireland is looking for in wide receivers.

Among the many qualities he likes in wide receivers, Ireland listed:

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  • catching the ball (derp)
  • speed
  • catching in traffic
  • running after the catch
  • scoring touchdowns (double derp)

Jennings is one of few Packers receivers who have not been plagued by drops; he has dropped just seven passes out of 114 total "catchable balls" (catches plus drops) thrown his direction in the past two years, according to ProFootballFocus.com, giving him a drop rate of 6.1 (drops divided by catchable balls).

For reference, the league's 10 most sure-handed receivers finished with drop rates below 4.26 this year.

Seems like a good fit from that perspective.

In other areas, though, Jennings has struggled. He was a top 10 YAC receiver in 2009 and 2010, but has slipped significantly in that category over the past two years.

Make no mistake: What the Dolphins need more than anything else is the speed. 

On WQAM 560-AM in December (via The Palm Beach Post), NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock described watching the Dolphins offense as "like watching an offense playing in the red zone for 100 yards," citing a lack of speed as the primary reason for their troubles. 

There's more than one way to utilize speed to create big plays—yards after catch or deep passes—but the Dolphins couldn't come up with much of anything. Their 42 pass plays of 20 yards or more ranked 24th in the NFL, and their 14 pass plays of 30 yards or more ranked 27th.

Can Jennings help in that regard?

Bleacher Report NFC North lead writer Andrew Garda told me he thinks so:

Jennings can be a dynamic vertical threat, and despite being banged up the last two years, he's been largely healthy and productive over the course of his career.

While not the fastest player, he has the speed to gain separation and would be a very useful weapon for Tannehill. While Tannehill has a pair of decent receivers, neither Hartline or Bess strike me as consistent threats. In fact I think you'd see a big bump in both players with Jennings in the mix.

Of course, the question is, how good is he outside of Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers? Can he create the same numbers with a quarterback who isn't playing at a Hall of Fame level? And how much would he cost to find out?

As Garda alludes, there's a significant risk that a team is taking in bringing in Jennings at a high price tag. Not only would they be banking on him continuing his production with lesser QB play, but they'd also be hoping to get something closer to the 2009-2010 version of Jennings than what we've seen over the past two years.

Since 2011, he hasn't been the kind of receiver that will change the dynamic of the Dolphins' offense. In that time, Jennings has 16 receptions of 20 yards or more and six receptions of 30 yards or more. In the two seasons prior, he had 37 receptions of 20 yards or more and 25 receptions of 30 yards or more.

The folks over at ProFootballFocus.com outlined why they think Jennings could help the Dolphins in a recent breakdown:

He can play outside or in the slot, and has 42 TD catches and 51 forced missed tackles in the past five years. He did fail to break 1,000 yards receiving for the past two years (though his 989 yards in 2011 was close), but again much of that can be attributed to his injuries. Does GM Jeff Ireland believe the past two seasons were flukes in respect to his health, or will they be cautious in the type of contract they offer him?

There are plenty of reasons to be cautious, including the sheer number of alternatives. With big name receivers like Mike Wallace and Dwayne Bowe set to hit the market, the Dolphins don't necessarily have to turn to Jennings. 

The Dolphins could also turn to the draft. There aren't many big-time threats at wide receiver in this class, but a few names (i.e. Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson, California WR Keenan Allen, Louisiana Tech WR Quinton Patton) have perked the ears of some Dolphins fans.

Long story short, the Dolphins would be wise to explore other alternatives before going in on an aging wide receiver whose play has dipped in recent years due to injury. That being said, the market may not be kind to such a receiver. The Dolphins have enough salary cap space ($35.8 million as of January 8) that for the right price—say three years, between $13 and $15 million—it wouldn't be such a bad move after all.

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.


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