Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Lombardi Ave. He has previously written for Hail to the Orange, College Hoops Net, Mocking the Draft, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JBHirschhorn.
This past Sunday, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Green Bay Packers are seriously considering applying the franchise tag to free agent wide receiver Greg Jennings. The news came as a shock to most, as Jennings had been all but written off as a luxury the Packers couldn’t afford. Suddenly the paradigm has shifted and a future with the Packers number one receiver isn’t so intangible after all.
But let’s just slay this beast now. Nothing has changed. Greg Jennings is still as good as gone.
When a rumor, any rumor, hits the newswire during the pre-draft part of the offseason, the smart approach is that of skepticism. These rumors do often come from someone close to the situation, but that’s not a good reason to believe them. All parties involved want to calibrate the audience to believe their side, regardless of how far they have to strive from the truth. These rumors are almost always a skewered form of what’s actually happening, if anything is happening at all.
Review of the Jennings rumor
After going a full year without any meaningful conversation with Jennings and his agent regarding an extension, Packers GM Ted Thompson apparently is now seriously considering applying the franchise tag. This is the same Ted Thompson who habitually cuts ties with older, injured veterans and has built a team with only two players aged 30 or older under contract. This Ted Thompson apparently has decided to franchise a player who’s missed 11 games over the last two seasons and turns 30 in September.
Doesn’t that seem a little out of character for a man who’s never out of character?
Unless David Byrne is masquerading as Ted Thompson in the Packers’ front office, this rumor is no more likely than Reggie White lining up for Green Bay next season. The Packers under Thompson have shied away from holding onto expensive veterans who appear to be on the downside of their career. You don’t have to look back very far to find an example. Hell, you don’t even need to flip the page on the calendar. On Feb. 15, Charles Woodson was handed his walking papers. Woodson was set to make $10 million and nearing his 37 birthday. Despite playing competently when healthy, he’d become too much of a health risk. Accordingly, Thompson decided his cap space was better spent elsewhere.
Some have theorized that the Packers might be planning to tag Jennings so that they can trade him for draft picks. While that would make far more sense than retaining Jennings, that boat doesn’t hold much water either.
If you recall the 2012 offseason, the Packers faced a similar franchise tag situation with quarterback Matt Flynn. Flynn was considered the top quarterback available in free agency after Peyton Manning, and the news surrounding 1265 Lombardi Ave. was that the Packers would franchise Flynn and trade him to the highest bidder.
As we know now, Thompson never pulled the trigger on the franchise tag. By all accounts, Thompson is a straight shooter and doesn’t like to bend the rules. While there is no way to stop teams from applying the franchise tag for the purposes of trading the tagged player, it goes against the spirit of the rules. It may seem silly, but that’s a line Thompson has repeatedly refused to cross, and thus it’s very unlikely the Packers will do a tag and trade with Jennings.
So why is this rumor even out there?
At this point we’re left with only conjecture, but we’re not totally in the dark. This past Friday, it was reported that the Jennings camp is seeking a contract that pays around $14 million per year. Such a deal would make Jennings the third highest paid receiver in the NFL. Even the most ardent Jennings supporter would be hard pressed to rank him that highly.
If Jennings were that much of a game changer, wouldn’t the Packers be knocking down his door with contract offers? That’s where this rumor comes in. It seems logical that the Jennings camp leaked this story to the press to create the illusion that the Packers do indeed want to keep him. While that won’t manifest a contract with the Packers, it does provide leverage in a negotiation with his next team. Jennings will be able to get a lot more money if there are not only several teams bidding for his services, but his original team still values his abilities.
Regardless of the exact reason for the rumor, it’s unlikely that the end result is another season for Jennings in Green Bay. The Packers have more vital extensions to sign with B.J. Raji, Clay Matthews, and Aaron Rodgers, and Jennings can get a far larger contract on the open market. At this stage, both parties have more to gain apart than they do together.