This past Friday afternoon as the Packers finished with their second workout of the young Training Camp, Greg Jennings talked not only about football, but about himself – specifically where things stand with contract negotiation.
Jennings is in the final year of his current deal with the Green Bay Packers and is hoping for a new agreement. But “hoping” could be the operative word. He understands a lot of things on and off the field and when it comes to understanding his value on the football field, he doesn’t back down.
This past off-season, gigantic deals to many wide receivers who may or may not be Jenning’s equal, in value were completed. Most notably was the deal cooked up for Detroit Lions “Mega-Tron,” Calvin Johnson. While Jennings knows that Johnson deserves every cent he is earning by signing on the dotted line, the Packers go-to guy also knows that Johnson has been the single-most recognizable face for that franchise – more so than the quarterback and that “stomping” defensive lineman.
Jennings is a fan favorite, but isn’t the face of the Packers. We all know Aaron Rodgers is that guy.
But there were others who got giant deals that may or may not be considered overpayment. Consider these deals: Vincent Jackson signed a five-year, $55 million deal ($26 million guaranteed) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Pierre Garçon got a five-year, $42.5 million deal ($20.5 million guaranteed) to leave Indianapolis for Washington; Marques Colston signed a five-year, $36.3 million ($17.7 million guaranteed) to return to New Orleans; DeSean Jackson, who’d been franchise tagged by the Philadelphia Eagles, got a five-year deal worth $47 million ($15 million guaranteed); and Robert Meachem got a four-year, $25.9 million deal ($14 million guaranteed) to leave New Orleans and replace Vincent Jackson in San Diego.
So, just what is Jennings worth?
Just ask Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. Here’s what he said about Jennings in published reports:
“Wow, Greg Jennings. He has a number of things I think he’s exceptional at,” McCarthy said. “You can start mentally, he has an exceptional understanding of not only what he’s asked to do but what people are trying to do against him. He’s very astute as far as recognizing defenses. He’s always been a very good preparation individual as far as during the course of the week and match-ups and (being) educated on players and keeping track of how they played him the last time he faced them and so forth.
“He understands his size. He understands what people are trying to do to him, particularly when he’s in the slot. And physically, he’s so disciplined and his body control really stands out. He makes his routes look the same. His ability to get in and out of breaks is exceptional. He creates separation. His hand/eye coordination and yards after the catch is as good as it gets.”
And so, what is Jennings’ response to all this? Here’s some of what he’s been reported as saying:
“Everyone always is like, ‘Oh, you’re going to be a Packer.’ And I want to be. I want to be. I do. I do,” Jennings said Friday, following the second practice of training camp. “But at the end of the day, there are 32 teams in the business I’m in. I do what I do. I can fit in any one of those. Now, I don’t want to go fit in anywhere else. I want to be here. I want to be here. But, my talents can be transported wherever they need to be, if that ends up being the case.
“Is that what I want? Absolutely not. But at the end of the day, when you think about some of the things that could happen …”
And in the National Football League, anything can and usually does happen.
Jennings knows there are other players on the Packers squad who are in for big paydays in the next couple of years – Aaron Rodgers, we know he’s grossly underpaid; Clay Matthews, he’s another who will command big money; and what about B.J. Raji and Jermichael Finley?
Add to that fact that there is plenty of depth on the Packers’ roster at the wide receiver position. Do the Packers cut their losses with Jennings and move ahead with the likes of Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb, as well as the up-and-comers Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel?
Much of that drama will be played out during training camp.
And if the Packers don’t make an offer that Jennings and his agent can live with before the start of the 2012 Regular Season, the Packers wide receiver has told all parties involved not to even bother him. By that time, he just wants to play football for what he thinks is the greatest franchise in the league.
However, here’s what he went on record as saying about the issue:
“What I told my agent is, ‘I don’t want to hear about anything unless we’re getting serious. Don’t call me about every little detail. I don’t want to hear about it. My focus is making sure that I’m prepared to practice every day, to play if we have a game. That’s the bottom line. At the end of the day, I do not want to be a distraction. He knows as well as the Packers know, ‘Look guys, if you don’t get it done before (the end of) training camp, I’m not being a distraction to this team.’ I will not do that. I will not – will not – be a distraction. I will not be selfish. There is a point when you have to be a little selfish in terms of negotiations, but we’re trying to focus on a goal here as a team. You’ve got to let your ego diminish. If we don’t get it done, I’m focusing on football, and it is what it is.
“I’m not naïve to that. I understand that aspect of it and on that side of it, I lean heavily – because I understand the business, I’ve seen what has transpired over the years. I know when it comes down to money, there are going to be times where they’re going to take a player that they can work with, that they can possibly pour a little water on and have blossom and grow, versus a guy they’re going to have to pay a lot – especially when they have some important guys coming up. I’m not naïve to that at all, I definitely recognize that. That’s why it’s going to be what it’s going to be.
“That definitely runs through my mind – we’ve got a lot of young guys, a lot of great talented guys (at receiver). We’ve got a great quarterback who’s basically going to back up the Wells Fargo truck and say, ‘Load me up.’ It just so happens I’m trying to do it before he does.”
Jennings knows he only needs to be patient. If a deal with the Packers doesn’t materialize, he’s got 31 other teams that would love to put a bid in for his services.
Life will go on if he doesn’t sign with the Packers. Other teams have lost significant contributors and survived.
Jennings may be different. He’s a leader. He’s a communicator. He’s a character man.
Packers fans can only hope for the best at this point and hope the franchise can somehow come up with a deal to keep Jennings as a member of the team.
Time will tell.