A Look At Ted Thompson’s Gambling Habit

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Ted Thompson - Super Bowl Celebration
Thompson appears to have made another tough but good decision in letting Greg Jennings test the free agent market

After the 2010 season, Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones was not offered a new contract and became a free agent.  Having just come off of a Super Bowl win, it was widely speculated that Jones would see some decent demand throughout the league.  Jones was looking for something in the neighborhood of $5 million/year.  Not a single offer came his way.

Packers GM Ted Thompson emerged and offered Jones a three year deal worth $9.4 million.  Jones signed that deal and he was back in Green Bay.  This past season, Jones led the NFL in touchdown catches with 14.  For $3 million, that type of production was a very good return on investment when you consider that the team was without two of their top receivers in that of Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson for much of the season.  You need only remember that several higher-paid receivers were not nearly as productive as Jones, and many of them also had good quarterbacks.  Thompson clearly came out on top on the Jones decision.

Thompson, in his eight seasons as GM, has established a reputation for being frugal and largely absent in free agency.  If you read the Twitter feeds of many Packers fans, you’d think this team hadn’t been in a playoff game in years.  Sure, many of them think the Packers should sign every single free agent who comes available, age and asking price aside.  But some of the frustration is understandable as the Packers rarely seem to be players in that market.  After all, it’s hard to build a team strictly through the draft and undrafted free agency.  One or two key free agent pieces are usually needed to get over the hump.

The Packers faced a decision during this past season as to what to do with receiver and free-agent-to-be  Greg Jennings.  Upon the end of the 2012 season, the Packers still had not offered Jennings an extension and allowed him to become a free agent when they did not use the franchise tag on him at that deadline.  While I’m sure Thompson preferred to keep Jennings in a Packers uniform, he appeared content to let Jennings test the free agent market.  He drew the proverbial line in the sand and set his limit to what he would pay to keep Jennings.  Just what that dollar amount was is unknown, but as was the case with Jones, Thompson appears to be on the upside of another critical decision to let a key player test the market.

Initially, there was much division among Packers fans as to what Jennings value was to the team and whether he should be a priority to bring back.  He had been a vital part of the Packers’ success each season since being drafted in 2006.  He was a key piece of the team’s Super Bowl run and in the Super Bowl win itself (2 touchdown catches).  But Jennings missed half of this past season with a core injury and upon his return, he was largely ineffective.  He also turns 30 this upcoming season.  With all of those factors considered, there was plenty to muddy the waters on just where Jennings’ market stood entering yesterday’s start of free agency.

Day one saw Miami’s Mike Wallace sign a 5-year contract worth $60 million or $12 million/year.  Seattle’s Percy Harvin signed a 6-year, $67 million deal or just over $10 million/year.  Things were looking up for Jennings.  But Wednesday brought a changing of the tide in the receiver market.  With Jennings still unsigned, the Denver Broncos acquired free agent wide receiver Wes Welker for two years and $10 million.  Shortly after, the New England Patriots countered the loss of Welker with a five year, $31 million deal to Danny Amendola.  Suddenly, the market for Jennings became even murkier.

Jennings was initially thought to be a day one and top-tier free agent who could be worth over $10 million/season.  The idea that he would still be unsigned by the end of day two would have been considered absurd by some just days ago.  Many thought Jennings may not only be the top receiver available, but the top overall free agent.  Now it is apparent that is not the case.

So where does that leave Jennings in terms of value?  Rumors have floated around that the Packers have offered him anywhere from $7-$10 million/year and that those offers were turned down.  The Minnesota Vikings have also been rumored to have (and have apparently already lost) interest in Jennings, but not at an annual price tag of $10 million.  With his age and injury history, I would put Jennings closer to Welker and Amendola’s range ($5-$6 million at most) than Wallace and Harvin.

So here we are closing in on day three of free agency and Jennings is no closer to signing his next contract than he has been since the 2012 season ended.  No new teams have been rumored to be talking to Jennings and so the demand for his services appears to have peaked.

With each hour that passes, Thompson inches closer and closer to another big-stakes win at the casino that is NFL free agency.  That win comes in the form of  Jennings being more likely to return to Green Bay at a reasonable price.  If he does, the team would still be able to keep players like Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews.  The Packers then wouldn’t have to reach for and count on a rookie wide receiver to step in and contribute in a pass-heavy offense.  Rodgers would also keep one of his favorite targets and the team would keep some of the continuity of the current offense.  Lastly, the Packers would retain one of their seasoned veterans and a good locker room presence (sister’s tweets aside).

It’s times like this that I find myself once again saying: In Ted I trust.

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.com

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  • http://allpackers.com Nick Perry

    They just reported that Jennings is in Minnesota visiting with The Vikings. This was reported by the same idiot that tweeted Steven Jackson signed with the Packers and then withdrew his tweet. Personally I love Greg Jennings, but not at anywhere near 10 million a year or anywhere near that figure. I’m one that believes Jennings makes the whole receiving corps better. Nelson is definitely more productive. If Jennings goes to Minnesota I think it says he care’s nothing about winning, just money. Having that security for your family, can’t blame him for that. But I’d have to believe whatever the offer is from the Packers gives him plenty. Besides, does he really want Ponder throwing him the ball?

  • PatMc

    The Vikings “might” offer 7 or 8 million per year which TT will match. TT will save 2 plus million per year if TT thinks Jennings will produce. I’d expect TT to put clauses into the contract (productivity) equals the big bucks.

    It looks like Jennings should of taken TT original offer.

  • Ryan

    It would be hard not to laugh if he chose the Vikings over the Packers. Who would actually choose Ponder over Rodgers, cmon.

    • Dobber

      Maybe he just wants the extra camera time he’ll get blocking downfield as AP runs past him?

  • Savage57

    I would submit that this is probably the last ‘leverage’ play that Jennings can make. If there is anything at all that might make TT think twice (and there’s not much) it’s the idea of key guys going to another team in the division because of the ‘double-whammy’ factor.

    I hope it’s all bluff and GJ decides that the grass isn’t greener to the west and that in fact it’s not grass at all!

  • Ron LC

    I’m of the opinion that Jennings has burned a lot of bridges in GB. His ego won’t allow him to go back because he felt abused. He’ll accept a sub-par deal with the Queens rather than go back to GB.

    • Dobber

      I don’t think that’s necessarily true. When it comes to FA and posturing by agents and players, everyone is trying to bloat their value and significance. GJ has a reputation for being a good teammate, player and locker room presence. That will win out with the GB brass, I think.

      Secondly, in all honesty, the Vikes would be trading Harvin for Jennings this offseason (and I suspect they’ll be picking a WR early, too). Both players healthy, that’s a step down for the Vikes. Harvin is so versatile (he’s what we’re all hoping Randall Cobb can become) that Jennings only gives the Vikings offense a portion of what they’re losing.

      GJ to the Vikes doesn’t scare me.

    • Turophile

      Ron. I’d say he hasn’t burned his bridges. Why get down on the Packers when 32 teams have had the chance to determine his worth and none have gone for a big contract.

      Now he knows his market value. He may not like it, but FA can be cruel to older guys with high expectations. Also, I see Jennings as a smart player, not a masochistic diva.

      The offer from the Packers (Russ Ball via TT)is looking like it may be the best offer out there, so why should he feel abused by the best offer ?

      • Stroh

        See i’m not even convinced Thompson ever off Jennings a contract. I haven’t seen any media reports stating he was offered. I think they want the 25 yr Finley instead of the 30 yr old Jennings. Not in Thompson history to pay 30 yr old players. They didn’t offer Jenkins at 30 yrs old. Jackson at RB makes a lot more sense and makes the Packers better. Jennings not so much…

        Mostly seems fans think Jennings was even offered a contract.

    • JimR_in_DC

      Possibly, Ron. Still, he might surprise us and come back under a lesser deal than what he was originally offered. I’m curious about how Jennings’ agent, who also represents Steven Jackson, will play all of this. We seem to want Jackson, but will his/their agent use signing one player as leverage to get a good deal for the other?

      • ThomasMagnumPI

        I think that having the same agent representing both of these players is a HUGE lever, working in favor of the GBP. I would assume that TT has it very much in mind that “losing” GJ in FA will net them a 3rd-4th round compensatory pick next year (not to mention Waldon’s signing with IND), assuming no other high-money FA signings are made. This makes SJax relatively MORE expensive for the GBP if Jennings is not retained.

        If the GBP are able to re-sign GJ, then I expect them to also sign SJ. If GJ does sign with MIN, then I think the SJax situation becomes tricky, to say the least.

  • Dobber

    If anything, what history is telling us is that TT and the scouting staff has a keen eye for his players and where they likely fall in the market relative to other players in FA, and also what their values to the Packers happen to be.

    …Hawk aside.

    • Savage57

      Too true.

  • Razer

    Not sure why Jennings hasn’t create the interest that Welker and Amendola has. He is 3 years younger than Welker and his worst year is better than Amendola’s best production. Other than asking price, my guess is that people may see Jennings as soft. As a slot receiver, you need to a living through the middle. Since winning the Super Bowl and doing his TV gig, I don’t see Jennings as a guy who is too interested in taking a hit. If you are not going to do what Welker or Boulden do, then you need to stretch the field with speed. Jennings is neither and definitely not worth $10 million.

    The dilemma for the Packers is that they are paying two WR a lot less than Jennings is asking and both Nelson and Jones are performing at an equal level. Don’t disrupt the family for one guy.

  • Tarynfor12

    Jennings needs to have a serious re-evaluation talk with whoever is looking back in the mirror.

  • Stroh

    I dont think Jennings is back no matter what. Much better off w Finley and Jackson at RB. I don’t believe a contract was offered. Situation is exactly like Jenkins. We have WR but need a RB. Let him go to Minn if he wants. Just not valuable enough to our success to pay him. Its a cold hard truth…

  • Brad

    There is no Steven Jackson in the Packers future, although it would have been nice at 4 million a year.

  • http://lovettpa@msn.com old time packer fan

    If it were between Jennings & Jackson I’d rather have Jackson, simply because of need. we have productive receivers, but a thousand yard back would be a plus going into the 2013 year.Letting atlanta get Jackson for the price they did was a mistake in my opinion.