The Green Bay Packers have long enjoyed a stable of able wide receivers for as long as many of us can remember. Sterling Sharpe, Robert Brooks, Antonio Freeman, Donald Driver, Javon Walker, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, to name many of the top pass catchers over the past two decades (and I’m sorry if your favorite unsung hero was Robert Ferguson and I left him off the list).
It seems that the Packers have been blessed with above-average talent at the receiver position, much like they have been at quarterback. With that rich history, it would stand to reason that Packers fans and the team itself should be encouraged about what they might have in their young receivers, Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis. Maybe you are, maybe you’re not. Either way, read on.
While we anguish over whether the Packers can find that stud linebacker on the inside or how they’re going to replace cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Davon House, the Packers are rumored to be looking to sign a veteran. . . wide receiver?
Rumors can come from anyone, anywhere. With the advent of Twitter, many a rumor has been started and fake account created to start a brush fire of controversy over an idea that may or may not be true. In this case, the source of the thought that the Packers could be looking to add a seasoned pass catcher was NFL.com Insider Ian Rapoport. He’s not ESPN’s Adam Schefter, but not too shabby. Taken in context, all Rapoport is merely speculating that the Packers could be a team in the market for a free agent receiver.
Given Packers general manager Ted Thompson’s history with free agents, it makes sense that this almost doesn’t make a ton of sense, doesn’t it? Last season when Green Bay was a mere few minutes from a Super Bowl appearance against a team they had already beaten earlier in the season, the Packers didn’t have many glaring holes on their roster but if we had to pick one, it would have likely been on the defensive side of the ball. The team had to move Clay Matthews inside to cover for the lack of play-making ability in A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones and Sam Barrington so clearly there was, and still is, a need there. And now corner has emerged as a bigger need area. Granted, there aren’t many solid veteran free agents out there at either of those positions so it’s not as if Ted is ignoring some viable options. But. . receiver?
One of the names mentioned by Rapoport was Wes Welker. Welker is a free agent who would be entering his 11th season in the league in 2015. He has 890 catches, over 9,800 receiving yards and 50 touchdown catches in his career. He has spent the majority of that time with elite quarterbacks in New England’s Tom Brady and Denver’s Peyton Manning. He’s seen plenty of playoff games and has been on successful teams most of his tenure. He did have the blemish of missing some games at the beginning of 2014 due to a positive test for Adderall, but overall, Welker has been a dependable guy. He’s appeared in no fewer than 11 games over the past eight seasons. The question about Welker as far as the Packers are concerned is how they would use him. They have a pure slot and dynamic piece in Cobb. Abbrederis would appear to fit the same type of need. Adams can get outside opposite Nelson and Janis is still a big question mark. I’m not certain if this rumor makes it any further than this quick speculation, but adding a receiver like Welker with Aaron Rodgers and the existing offense wouldn’t make it any worse. Welker surely will want to play for a contender and a good quarterback and he’s going to be hard pressed to find one better than Rodgers, assuming that Denver is not interested in bringing him back.
Another name that could come into play and has generated no shortage of discussion over the past few days is Jennings. He was released by the Minnesota Vikings earlier this week after just two seasons of a five-year deal. Jennings’ departure from the Packers in early 2013 wasn’t without its fanfare and drama. After making it clear late in the 2012 season that he was going to do what was best for himself and his family and after shunning an offer from the Packers that would have averaged around $11 million per season, Jennings found himself having to look outside of Green Bay for a team willing to show him the money. That was the Vikings, led by Leslie Frazier and quarterbacked by Christian Ponder. . and Matt Cassel. . and Josh Freeman. . and Teddy Bridgewater. Four quarterbacks in two seasons. The Packers have had two in 23 years. So of course, now that he needs a job, Jennings has taken to the media to say that he’s willing to mend fences with the Packers over some of the comments that he made after he left the Packers. Comments about the team, Green Bay and Rodgers. And who can forget the famous tweets from Jennings’ sister?
While many have turned the page on Jennings in Green Bay and don’t ever want to see him anywhere near Lambeau Field let alone in a Packers uniform again, we have to ask ourselves if we’ve heard the last of this thought. If the Packers aren’t yet sold on what they have in Abbrederis and Janis and with their not having offered Jarrett Boykin a chance to return, they need to add one either via free agency or the draft. Thompson tends to prefer the draft and has used some late-round picks in recent years to add some receivers to the mix. He found Charles Johnson in the last round of the 2013 draft and tried to stash him on the practice squad, which led to Johnson signing with the Cleveland Browns and then lading in Minnesota in 2014. He appears to be headed towards a nice career and would have been a great addition to the Packers, had he not bolted at the first opportunity he had. The point is, Ted isn’t too bad at finding receivers. But if this year’s crop of mid-to-late around receivers doesn’t excite Ted, we may not have heard the last of a possible Jennings return to Green Bay.
While Thompson doesn’t like to involve players in any personnel decisions, this situation could be an exception. Given the words that were exchanged between Rodgers and Jennings two years ago, I’d be surprised if the team didn’t approach Rodgers before even picking up the phone to reach out to Jennings. Rodgers doesn’t tend to forget those who have questioned and wronged him in the past. He’s also very much about the team and achieving as much success as he can. And as I tweeted yesterday, while the Packers have other current options at receiver, the addition of Jennings would improve the offense. Jennings or Welker, if the Packers add either one, knowing that it would be a move for immediate short-term gain, you could argue that it shows an “all in, win now” mentality by the team.
And let’s not forget about the money. The Packers are currently well under the salary cap and can still make a play for an outside veteran or get a long-term deal done with one of their own whose contract is coming due soon. But they aren’t going to overpay for anyone at this point in the free agency game. That was done a week ago when the period began and the Packers, under Thompson, have never been players in the day one, splash signing frenzy. Both Welker and Jennings should get offers that will exceed what the Packers are comfortable paying for their services. And chances are, one or both will take the best offer that’s available to them. Both are past their prime and this is likely their last chance to cash in. If either are going to end up in green and gold, they’re likely going to have to choose the Packers more than the Packers would be choosing them.——————
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: