Should Green Bay Packers Trade Greg Jennings?
Author’s Note: This article deals with the speculation and risk-reward of the Green Bay Packers trading wide receiver Greg Jennings. As this is being written, there is no official news or talks of a trade.
The Green Bay Packers have a roster that is loaded with talent and youth; their active roster has only five players age 30 and over. General manager Ted Thompson has designed a brilliant blueprint that builds depth through the draft, addressing needs in free agency only when necessary.
When this plan gets executed to its full potential, like Thompson has done, it comes with both positives and negatives. The positives include having a roster with talent deep enough to overcome multiple injuries and win a Super Bowl. After hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, the negatives must be dealt with. In Thompson’s case, that has been parting ways with players that cost too much to keep, or that are not needed at that position due to depth, as talented as that player may be.
For wide receiver Greg Jennings, Thompson could likely see him as being too expensive and too unnecessary for the Packers roster. If so, then Thompson should go ahead and get a return on his investment and trade Jennings, who is in the final year of his contract.
Though the decision to trade Jennings would not be a popular one, it would certainly be a smart one. Ted Thompson smart. No one would see the immediate intelligence in this move, taking years to fully understand why. That was the case in both drafting and starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers. While fans demanded that Brett Favre should be allowed to come out of retirement and get his starting job back, Thompson sat back quietly, confident that Rodgers could fill his shoes. Three seasons later, they won the Super Bowl. Packer Nation apologized for doubting Thompson, finally aware of why he does what he does.
Thompson is years ahead of everyone; it comes with being general manager. When deciding on whether to trade Jennings, Thompson has to ask what the 28-year-old (29 on September 21st) has done lately, and completely disregard his six seasons with the team.
In under a year, Jennings has had three injuries that have forced him to miss games. Towards the end of last season, Jennings tore his MCL and missed three games. A concussion during the preseason caused missed time from games and practices. Most recently, a groin injury made him sit out of at least one game.
Aside from three different injuries in less than one year, the Packers have enough depth at receiver to succeed without Jennings. Five players are either the same age or younger than Jennings: James Jones (28), Jordy Nelson (27), Jermichael Finley (25), Randall Cobb (22), and Jarrett Boykin (22).
Jones and Nelson have blossomed at the receiver position, overcoming big drops early in their careers and during the playoffs. Jones is now much more consistent and has become a reliable deep threat. Nelson has become just as valuable as Jennings, if not more, for Rodgers and the Packers offense.
Finley shows unlimited potential, but has yet to step up to the top tier level. Nevertheless, he’s still steadily improving. Plus, his natural size and speed create so many mismatches in opposing defenses that Rodgers can exploit. Cobb displays plenty of promise and has already taken on an increased role in the Packers offense. Boykin was kept on the Packers active roster, which shows that they have faith in his talent. The coaches can groom him into a valuable weapon just like they did everyone else.
Additionally, Thompson should trade Jennings simply because he will cost too much to keep. In 2009, Jennings signed a three-year extension, worth just over $26 million with $16 million guaranteed. Last season, Nelson signed a three-year extension in the middle of a breakout year, which was worth just over $13 million with only $5 million guaranteed. Nelson’s total and guaranteed amount of money is roughly one-half and one-third, respectively, of the extension Jennings got two years prior.
So come the end of this season, when it is time to re-sign Jennings, it’s going to be expensive for Thompson. Not Calvin Johnson 8-years, $132 million expensive, but more expensive than before. Vincent Jackson’s five-year, $55.55 million deal he signed this offseason with the Buccaneers would be a starting point for Jennings’ side to use in negotiations. If not, DeSean Jackson’s five-year, $47 million deal (worth up to $51 million) could be a compromise for Jennings’ side. Then there’s always the franchise tag, worth slightly under $10 million for one season.
But, Thompson has to also consider the cost and salary cap space Jennings’ new deal would take up, especially since there are multiple core players who will be in need of a new contract. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews and defensive tackle B.J. Raji, both first round picks in the 2009 draft, have their current deals expiring after the 2013 season. Rodgers, whose contract expires in March of 2015, will get a hefty amount of money whenever his next contract is constructed.
Lastly, Thompson has to consider what he would get in a trade for Jennings. In terms of just draft picks, Jennings could easily warrant a couple second and third round selections. Barring serious injury, he’s got at least half a dozen good years left in him. He runs routes as good as anyone and is sure-handed nearly every single time. He’s a two-time Pro Bowler with 49 career touchdowns, and a talent many teams could use. In return, Thompson would love to use those draft picks.
Who would trade for Jennings? Here are five teams (in no particular order) that need him now:
Browns: Jennings would provide veteran leadership and instruction to a young, inconsistent receiving corps.
Bengals: Jennings would divert defenses’ attention away from A.J. Green, forming one of the NFL’s best receiving duos while making Andy Dalton better.
Dolphins: Jennings would be a true No. 1 receiver for Ryan Tannehill, as well as play for head coach Joe Philbin, who was the Packers offensive coordinator from 2007-2011.
Patriots: Jennings would make the Patriots offense return to 2007 form, being the deep threat for Brady that Randy Moss was. It makes sense given that Aaron Hernandez is hurt and Wes Welker is being used less. Sure, they have Brandon Lloyd but why pass up the chance to have a guy better than Lloyd, or perhaps both?
Raiders: Jennings would be a true No. 1 for the Raiders offense, and additionally help fix a currently banged-up receiving corps.
These teams need Jennings. The Packers do not need Jennings anymore. He’s not in their long-term plan; he’s expensive and expendable. That’s why Thompson should trade him.
Michael Cellars currently attends Kent State University, where he is majoring in English with minors in writing and psychology. In addition to his studies, he serves in the Ohio Army National Guard. During his free time, he surrounds himself with as much of the NFL as possible, and writes for football websites NFL Soup and Football Nation. Michael’s favorite team is the Green Bay Packers, who he has been an avid fan for his entire life.