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Could Jennings Be the Odd Man Out?

by Mike Conklin

E-mail: mikeconklin@packerpedia.com
May 22, 2012

 

To see how important Greg Jennings is to the Packers offense, one need look no further than last year's game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Jennings' absence was felt, and the offense sputtered. But a closer look at makeup of the team reveals that it is possible the Packers may have to get used to life without Jennings sooner than fans may think.

In 2013, Jennings' contract will expire. He will also turn 30 years old.

Jennings finds himself in an eerily similar situation to that of Cullen Jenkins last year. Like Jenkins, Jennings proved himself as a young player with the Packers and signed a more lucrative second contract to remain with the team as one of its core players. And like Jenkins, his second contract will expire the same year he turns 30.

Jenkins said later that the Packers never really approached him with a contract offer, and as a result he ended up leaving Green Bay for Philadelphia. The Packers chose to let him walk, despite the fact that there was a lack of proven depth on the defensive line.

In Jennings' case, the Packers have much more proven depth at his position, and are stacked with ascending players. And even though Jennings did well on his last contract--4 years for $26.9 million--he surely noticed the free agent contracts handed out to other wide receivers this offseason, including a 5 year, $55 million contract given to 29-year old Vincent Jackson. Jennings will undoubtedly have high salary demands, as this will likely be his last major bite at the free agent apple in the NFL.

The situation becomes even more clouded when you add into the equation the fact that the Packers have several ascending players who are still playing on their rookie contracts. Within the next two years, the contracts for T.J. Lang, Clay Matthews, and B.J. Raji will expire. And right on their heels is Aaron Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP who is grossly underpaid at this point when compared to his peers. It is likely that the Packers will have to tear up the last year or two of his deal and pay him significantly more.

As great of a player as Jennings is, he surely is not as important to his team as Rodgers or Matthews, and maybe not even Raji. And in Lang's case, he proved in only his first year as a starter that he was an upgrade over Daryn Colledge, and at the age of 24 his arrow seems to be pointing upward.

One of the often overlooked facts about the draft-and-develop philosophy espoused by Thompson and McCarthy is that if you do a good enough job at it, you will always have to let good players go. The salary cap demands it. Thompson and McCarthy have done a great job acquiring and developing young talent, and as a result they will not be able to keep everybody they want. And all things being equal, it stands to reason that the older guy will usually be the odd man out.

“It’s a young man’s league in my opinion," McCarthy just said last week. "No disrespect to the older players. I think that’s a trend that’s only potentially going to pick up.”

Following that line of reasoning, that trend may result in Greg Jennings playing his final season in Green Bay this year. If nothing else, it certainly is a possibility.

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