Matthews, Raji Could Make It Tough To Keep Greg Jennings All Green Bay Packers All the Time

Greg JenningsWhen Bob McGinn suggested the Green Bay Packers should trade wide receiver Greg Jennings this year, many fans thought he was nuts despite being one of the most respected voices on the Packers beat.

The thinking of many fans, bloggers and beat writers alike was along the lines of, “receivers like Jennings don’t come around very often.  Ted would be nuts to let him walk.”

It’s a very easy argument to understand. Jennings and Aaron Rodgers share a unique chemistry and that’s not something Thompson can replace with draft pick, even a first round selection.   He’s also one of the most beloved players on the team by the fans so naturally they refuse to consider the idea of Jennings in any other colors than green and yellow.

That said, one must consider the reality of the situation.  Rodgers himself admitted it’s a very real possibility Jennings won’t be back in 2013.  Plus the Packers are faced with signing Jennings, Rodgers, Clay Matthews and BJ Raji in the next few years. Jordy Nelson also will need a new contract thanks to his stellar play.  It’s very possible one of them will be a casualty of simple math as the Packers try to stay a reasonable amount under the salary cap.

Unbelievably, that casualty very well could be Jennings.

Before the season began, many would have selected Raji out of those players to most likely be the one who is not brought back.  It made sense, given Raji’s lackluster performance (along with the rest of the defense) last season.   The Packers were and still are incredibly deep at wide receiver but thanks to how Mike McCarthy likes to run a multiple offense, it seemed like Jennings was a near-lock to be brought back.

Two games into 2012 however, the situation has taken a strange turn.

After getting burned by the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, the Packers defense roared to live against Jay Cutler and the now supposedly explosive Chicago Bears offense.  In the 23-10 victory, the Packers sacked Cutler seven times, intercepted him four times and potentially may have sent the Bears into a season long tailspin.

Two of the key players in the defensive resurgence? Matthews and Raji.

Thompson’s dynamic duo from the 2009 draft is at it again.  The two were a force to be reckoned with in 2010 as the Packers marched their way to the Super Bowl XLV title.  Matthews was a sack machine and Raji found ways to get to the quarterback.  The Freezer also made a play for the ages with his pick six of Caleb Hanie against the Bears in the NFC Championship Game.

Last season, both experienced a drop in performance.  Matthews faced constant double teams thanks to no other legitimate pass rush threat on defense and Raji just plain stunk.  The Packers defense as a whole struggled throughout 2011 and eventually was the team’s Achilles heel in a 15-1 season when the Packers lost to the New York Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs.

With two games of the 2012 regular season in the books, it appears Matthews and Raji have both returned to 2010 form.  Matthews has six sacks, which matches his total from all 16 regular season games last year, and Raji has been able to get close holes along the front line. As Adam Czech mentioned here recently,  Pro Football Focus has given Raji an overall 2.7 and a 2.0 against the run versus the Bears.  Matthews’ performance against Chicago speaks for itself.

If the two can maintain their current level of performance, Ted Thompson is going to be in a bit of a jam.  It’s pretty much certain Rodgers will remain with the Packers and Matthews isn’t too far behind.  Nelson will get his much deserved pay raise, so that leaves Raji and Jennings as the last two remaining “big names” Thompson will have to sign to contract extensions or new contracts.

Earlier this was considered a no-brainer.  But thanks to Jennings suddenly having trouble remaining healthy as well as Raji’s improved play, Thompson will likely have to consider letting the wide receiver walk in free agency.

For all of Jennings’ abilities and as much as he is touted as a rare talent, he would be a much easier player to replace than someone who plays on the defensive line like Raji.   The Packers under Thompson have proven adept at finding wide receiver talent in all corners of the NFL draft.  Nelson, Jennings and Randall Cobb all were drafted in the second round by Thompson.  Unlike many positions, the drop-off in talent at the wide receiver position is not that steep.  Thompson easily could find another receiver and with a quarterback like Rodgers, the Packers offense very likely would not miss a beat.

Last season with the Packers’ offense under McCarthy at their peak explosiveness, Jennings’  receiving yardage went below  1,000 yards for the first time since 2007.  Thanks to the emergence of Nelson, Jennings was no longer the only stud receiver on the Packers roster.  With McCarthy running a multiple-style offense and a quarterback that loves to spread the ball around,  Jennings show his numbers drop despite the Packers offense increasing its performance in almost all areas of the passing game, most noticeably putting up a franchise-record point total.

When you take that and combine with the odd media tour Jennings did during camp to publicly talk about his contract scenario, and you have a divorce building. Jennings was not being the prima donna Sterling Sharpe was being in the early 1990s, but the Packers prefer to keep contract situations behind closed doors so it’s safe to say Thompson was none too thrilled about Jennings going public the way he did.

Jennings has long been a fan favorite in Green Bay.  From his dedicated charity work to his popular #BeGreat Twitter slogans, Jennings has been first class to his fans. That’s likely why so many are having trouble wrapping their heads around the idea of letting him go.

Will Thompson trade Jennings before the deadline? I have no idea.  But crazier things have happened in the NFL.

Thompson excels at making the tough decisions that come with his job.  This arguably will be the toughest since he decided to trade Brett Favre to the Jets in 2008.

That decision has worked out fairly well.  Packer fans hope whatever he does with Jennings proves to be the right call as well.


Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and


32 thoughts on “Matthews, Raji Could Make It Tough To Keep Greg Jennings

  1. As with all trades, it depends on the offer. If we can get a first rounder from a team like MIA, then maybe it’s worth it. TT has shown he can draft WR so it’s more plausible to me than on first blush.

  2. You lost me at: ” … Jennings in any other colors than green and yellow. ”

    Dark Green (PMS 5535-C), Gold (PMS 1235-C) and White…

    The GREEN BAY PACKERS official colors. You best recognize son!!!

    GBP 4 LIFE

  3. The decision is going to be hard to make, but the Roster is stacked and Jennings will be asking for money.

    Sad to say, but Jennings is expendable due to his position. I had a really good feeling about Cobb. He has been for the first two weeks, dependable. Someone on the Packers’ WR Roster is going to have to be sacrificed.

    Jones – Trade
    Driver – Forced Retirement
    Jennings – Money.

    One of these guys will not be on the staff next season.

  4. The only issue I have with this article is that you said, “Jennings and Aaron Rodgers share a unique chemistry and that’s not something Thompson can replace with draft pick, even a first round selection” … and then went on to debunk your own statement!

    You’re right… If there’s one thing Thompson has proven he absolutely CAN do, it’s replace guys like Jennings through the draft.

    (It’s sacrilege for me to say this, but man, imagine of Ron Wolf had been this good at finding stud receivers when Favre was playing).

    1. I think Rodgers’ INT Thursday night is a perfect example of what Jennings is worth. Those two seem to have a near-telepathic bond.

  5. I think either Oakland or Miami could be possible landing spots. Don’t forget Seattle either as they are in a different division and TT still has ties to the organization. They are desperate for WR help. If we could get a 2nd and 4th, I would encourage it. Interestingly, Tori Gurley was just released from the Viking practice squad. Chances are the Packers have seen enough and don’t want him anymore, but he would be an easy sign if they do trade Jennings. Next year, a WR group of Nelson, Jones, Cobb, Driver? and Boykin would be ok with me. Throw in Gurley if Driver retires and we are set. Speed with Nelson, Size and strength with Jones/Gurley, shiftyness with Cobb and Boykin. GoPack!

    1. Scheny, you’re forgetting Borel, the guy the Packers did keep in Gurley’s place! The kid had a good camp. I like everyone else love Jennings, but the handwriting is on the wall, he wants BIG money, and if anyone here wants to risk losing Matthews over Jennings you’re kidding yourselves! Rodgers and Matthews are the faces of the Green Bay Packers!

    2. Not only does TT have ties to SEA from his time here, but just 3 years ago John Schneider left green bay to take over the GM position in Seattle.

      The ties are very deep.

  6. I see no way that GB can keep an $11 million dollar reciever. Mathews, Raji, and Rogers were always going to be signed first. I would trade WR’s Driver and Jennings if I could get the right draft picks.

  7. Nelson had one good season.

    Raji was terrible in week 1. He’s been good for one week over the past 19 – last week against one of the worst performances by an OLine that I’ve ever seen.

    I wouldn’t put either of the two players ahead of Jennings at this point.

    I hope they all play well enough to reach the Pro Bowl, and even All Pro status this year!

    Why would you ever trade your best receiver (Jennings) during the middle of a run at the Super Bowl? Mind-boggling.

    1. I agree. Is everyone forgetting that we (the Packers) are fighting for the Super Bowl ‘THIS YEAR’. To be concerned with getting a 1st or 2nd round draft pick next year is absurd. I am confident that all 32 teams in the NFL would gladly give up next year’s 1st or 2nd draft pick in exchange for winning this year’s Super Bowl. Even with occasional injuries, he is just too valuable to the success of the Packers this year to even consider trading.

  8. I would say part ways with Driver and Finley in whatever way frees up the most money. If that isn’t enough add Bush to the list too.

  9. We’re also going to lose Driver, Pickett, and Woodson around the same time all those players get their contracts. That’s almost another 20 million deducted from the salary cap.

    And I haven’t counted out Thompson cutting or trading A.J. Hawk, ESPECIALLY is D.J. Smith turns out to be the real deal.

    It’s just possible to keep Jennings, say maybe, a one-year contract. At least.

    1. The way how AJ Hawk has played, I would say trading is the only option. Cutting him without picks for his play would be unwise.

      He has been consistent in tackles, just not in playmaking gamechangers. As we all know, Tackling is a lost art in the game.

  10. Donald Driver took a pay cut to stay with the Pack. Jennings can too or he can leave for big bucks elsewhere. I hate to see him go but NFL careers are short.

  11. There are really two issues: 1) Should GJ be on the 2013 Packer roster? 2) If no, should he be traded now or be allowed to depart via free agency?

    1) I think TT will have to make the very difficult decision to say no. There are simply too many other younger guys that need to get locked into long-term deals and WR is the deepest position on the Packer roster. TT has also proven he is very good at drafting WRs. His record here is better than at any other position.

    2) If Jennings walks in free agency, the Packers probably get about a #4 compensatory pick in the 2014 draft. If he is traded now for a draft pick, not only will it be a higher pick, but it will also come in 2013. The Packers will probably need a RB, C, ILB, and WR in the higher rounds to keep their roster stocked.

    I like the idea of trading Jennings before the trade deadline.

  12. Jennings agent wants to go FA. End of story. There is little that can be done by TT to advance negotiations before Jennings is on the market. If Jennings doesn’t play regularly (INJURIES)this season he’ll be lossing value on a linear path. He and his agent are playing a risky game. If TT wants him back there’s always the “franchise tag.” Or trade is always an option at some point. I’d love to see him back but they can’t tie up too much cash when there are others more important to be signed. That’s Mathews and AR. Raji is much like Jennings. We’d hate to see them go BUT!

    1. Agents are employees of Players.

      If JENNINGS decides he wants to stay in Green Bay, he can simply state to his agent, “I want to stay in Green Bay. Get it done”,and there will be no testing free agency if the Packers choose to follow suit. I’m not buying this whole agent-has-decided-to-test-FA thing.

      That said, the Packers have set precedent with allowing star players to test the free agency waters to get a clear picture of what fair market value is. The Packers will make what they believe is a fair offer; if the player decides to take it, great, every one is happy, the Packers know they didn’t over pay, the player has accepted the Packers terms while knowing what else was potentially out there for them. If some team wants to pay the player stupid money, the Packers allow him to walk feeling good they didn’t over pay, and the player gets to fatten his wallet. Win Win.

    2. I agree. I think he has a view of himself that is between Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. My opinion is he is full of himself. I think the fact that he has been injured for the last 6 games shows he is preparing properly and would rather dog it then push it. He will get paid Vincent Jackson $$$ either way, so why risk it. As I noted in another post, I am sick of seeing him on TV. In the past, I enjoying his tweeting, but now they are nothing more then promotions for a company. He has gotten bigger then Green Bay and it is time to go.

      I have faith in Nelson/Cobb/Jones and TT to draft to fill that void. After all, when Jennings was drafted, did anyone think he would become what he has? NO!

  13. I think a lot of this may hinge on how the staff views the progress of Boykin as the season progresses. I think Driver is done after this year in no uncertain terms. So there has to be a feeling that someone besides Nelson, Jones, and Cobb can be a major contributor next year. Maybe Finley but who knows with that head case. Even plugging in Boykin and drafting a young WR will be a huge risk but Raji, CM III and, of course, Rodgers have to be resigned.

  14. I think the Packer offense missed Jennings tremendously against Chicago. Jordy had a great year last year as the #2 wr. Does anyone see Jordy as a #1? I believe the wr’s as a whole struggles against the Bears due to every one having to move up. Jordy from 2 to 1 and so forth. The key to our wrs is the depth. Generally our #3 is better than the opposing defense #3 cb and same with our 4 and 5 wrs. Taking the #1 wr (Jennings) out of the equation changes the dynamic completely.

    1. There’s a gaping whole in the immensely popular “Jordy had one great season…as a #2” argument.

      Jordy Nelson was simply the most dominant wide receiver in the NFL for roughly a 24 game stretch.

      Not the most dominant #2 WR in the NFL. No WR played at a higher level during the last season and a half. period.

  15. Nelson just got a 3 year deal. He’s not in the immediate plans.

    But CM3, Raji and AR will take up more than 180 million over the next 6 years. (wow).

    There’s no room for Jennings. and fyi – he did the same PR tour before this last short term contract….

  16. How much cap space do we have, and when are these players’ contracts up? Who else are we expecting to loose other than Driver? Let’s put some numbers into this debate!

  17. I think losing Jennings is bigger than people expect, and when he does go it’s going to be case of lose/lose for both parties. But Jennings is going to have to think about himself and those greenbacks.

  18. raji would not preclude the packers from signing jennings. rodgers will. he is giant purple striped elephant in the room. the packers will have to find about 12 million in cap space when he signs a new deal. there will be ways to make that happen pretty easily, but unfortunaltely there will not be room for a deal for jennings. he is going to want/get 10-12 million a year. it is just too much. i am guessing that TT will franchise jennings and he will be traded during the draft. nothing will happen this year as mcginn suggested in his article though. jennings is great and he will be tough to replace, but that is the nature of the beast when you have a top 5 qb needs to get paid.

    i would think a second and third round pick for jennings is reasonable. or a late first rounder. marshall got two 3rds and he has tons of baggage. also, jennings is just better.

    also, would people please stop with the jones trade stuff. he is going to be a packer until his deal is up. he has not proven enough to get traded, and if he does have a good season he will be a very cheap option for TT.

  19. IF things keep going the way they have been the Packers won’t have Finley’s big contract to worry about next season!
    We love you J-Mike, good luck in your new city.

  20. I think there is a benefit of keeping Jennings on this season and not trading him will be that he demands full coverage if not double coverage which helps our offence out allowing others to get the single coverage to get open for AR.
    By trading him and getting a 2nd or lower pick in the draft for him would not help out for the season we are now in, with a goal of getting to the Super Bowl.
    TT drafts have been very good and having one more pick next year just doesn’t seem to be as important as what Greg can do for this team this year!

  21. 85 will not be traded this year… move along. If the goal remains SB trophy’s, you find a way to keep him. Period.. he makes the O go, and the O is what we hang our hat on. A lot of fat could be trimmed to make that happen.


    What’s up with your name, and why is your pic so big?

    GBP 4 LIFE

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