Recently on Twitter, free agent wide receiver Greg Jennings posted a picture of his empty locker with the following note:
I am one who thinks the Green Bay Packers need to do what they can to keep Jennings and this post was actually a bit encouraging. It seems as though Jennings is doing the “litmus test” to see how Packer nation feels about the possibility of him leaving. I responded in support of his staying as did many others.
I realize that the large majority feel that Jennings is headed out of Green Bay when free agency starts in March. I have heard all of the stats about how much he could command on the open market and how the Packers have several other vital pieces of their team that are up for free agency soon. Losing good players is just part of the business of football.
Still, I saw a lot of value in what Jennings brought to the team after he returned from injury in early December this past season. Jennings caught 24 passes and had three touchdowns. He had another six catches and a touchdown in last week’s divisional playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. Not gaudy numbers by any means, but many of Jennings’ catches were made because he found a way to get open.
Since his rookie year in 2006, Jennings has been one of the Packers top pass-catching threats. His ability to run after the catch was something that we saw showcased in the week 17 game against the Minnesota Vikings during a 45 yard pickup. He can still get open and adds a dimension to an offense that defenses can’t afford to ignore. He’s a very smart receiver who can read coverage and find a soft spot. He has good hands and can run well with the ball in hand.
Jennings turns 30 this coming September. No doubt, that is the typical age where a receiver starts to decline in speed and production, minus a few exceptions. Yes, I remember that Jennings missed significant time this season with his core injury and has been dinged up in the past. But this is a man who loves football, meshes well with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and makes the offense better.
There’s the key: he makes the Packers offense better. This team has to find a way to keep him. Here is a quick look at last year’s free agent wide receivers and their base salaries in 2012:
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay $11 million
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City $9.5 million (franchise tender)
Wes Welker, New England $9.5 million
Brandon Marshall, Chicago $9.3 million
Santonio Holmes, NY Jets $7.75 million
Sidney Rice, Seattle $7 million
Roddy White, Atlanta $5.5 million
Of these receivers, White, Welker and Jackson are 30 or older. Jackson topped last year’s list at $11 million. So the question with regards to Jennings’ market value is which category do teams in need place him? Do I think Jennings is worth $11 million to the Packers? No way. I do see him as more comparable to Roddy White in Atlanta. If the Packers can keep Jennings for just under $5 million on a two year deal, they should.
My gut tells me that Jennings will get better money thrown his way and the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings have been mentioned as strong potential suitors.
This takes me back to my initial thought. I realize that there is a lot of time left and many things can change. But it appears that Jennings has not yet ruled out a return to Green Bay. Now the Packers would have to do their part and make him a reasonable offer. We saw them let Cullen Jenkins go free after 2010 and Matt Flynn last season. It’s very possible they have already decided to let Jennings go.
I think it would be a mistake that would stifle the Packers’ offense more than many think. They could address this in the draft and be OK, but my vote is for Greg Jennings to be in Green & Gold next season.——————
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: