Dec 30, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings (85) against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome. The Vikings defeated the Packers 37-34. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
For fans of the Green Bay Packers, yesterday’s news that Greg Jennings had signed a five-year deal with division rival Minnesota brought out a lot of emotions.
Many viewed it as the end of great players’ time with Green Bay, and accordingly felt sad and nostalgic. Others, unfortunately, responded in an ugly and classless way, wishing injury and misfortune on one the principals of the Packers’ last Super Bowl winning team. It’s regrettable and disappointing that so many fans would treat a classy person like Greg Jennings that way, but such is the case with a fanbase as large and passionate as the Packers’.
Partially due to that emotion, many myths have been propagated regarding Jennings and his move to Minnesota. We address them here, and explain why they are indeed untrue:
Myth: The Packers offered Jennings more money than the Vikings
Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The misunderstanding is rooted largely in the difference between average salary and total money. Assuming the rumored $10 million per year offer from Green Bay was real, that doesn’t automatically mean Jennings took less money to go to Minnesota.
The contract Jennings signed averages out to $9.5 million per season. While that figure is less than the Packers’ offer, we can assume with confidence that Green Bay wasn’t offering five years. My best guess is their offer was in the order of $30 million over three years. Not only is that less total money, but it would mean Jennings would hit the free agent market when he is a 33-year-old. Receivers at that age, especially ones who are under six feet, generally don’t garner much interest. By signing the five-year deal with the Vikings, Jennings gives himself the best chance at earning big money into his mid-30s.
Myth: The Vikings will definitely cut Jennings before his five years are up
Greg Jennings (85) celebrates a touchdown against the Denver Broncos at Lambeau Field. Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
While the contract Jennings signed only guarantees $18 million, that doesn’t mean he can only depend on earning that amount. Even if we assume Jennings will decline in productivity over the course of the deal, the Vikings have no reason to release Jennings until at least three years have elapsed. At that point, Jennings could easily renegotiate his deal and still receive more money than he would have had he been an unrestricted free agent heading toward his thirty-third birthday. This deal gives Jennings leverage at age 33 that he wouldn’t have had with Green Bay. The worst case scenario for him is the Vikings cut him after three seasons and he still picks up checks for the remaining guaranteed money.
Myth: Jennings demonstrated disloyalty by going to Minnesota
You can apply this to any player on any team. The players don’t owe their teams, teammates, or fans anything, nor should they. In the NFL, the team can cut players or force them to accept pay cuts for any reason. Players are treated like chattel and then reprimanded when they try to optimize their value. To decry a player for leaving your favorite team, no matter what team he leaves for, is an absolute farce.
Donald Driver (left) and Greg Jennings (85) talk during training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Furthermore, anyone who thinks there are exceptions to this are living in a fantasy. Take Donald Driver. He spent his entire career with the Packers and said repeatedly that he’s happy to have only played for one team, but that’s easy to say once you’ve retired. So quickly do people forget that when his rookie contract expired, he nearly bolted. Had the Packers not come back with an offer for more money, Driver wouldn’t have lasted five years with the club.
Would Driver have been a bad person to have done so? Absolutely not, and neither is Jennings for leaving now. This is how the NFL works, and moreover, it’s always been this way. Some fans may pine for an era when players stuck with their original teams and those clubs fostered brotherhood, but that simply never happened. Even the Lombardi Packers were made up of many retread players. Hall of Famers like Fuzzy Thurston and Emlen Tunnell were signed from other teams. Accordingly, to contend that the NFL “became too much like a business” is a hilarious falsehood. It’s the same way it’s always been.
Myth: Ted Thompson needs to be fired
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb (18) talks with general manager Ted Thompson during the Green Bay Packers organized team activities at Ray Nitschke Field. Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
I hope most of you aren’t in this camp. Ted Thompson isn’t perfect, but he doesn’t misevaluate very often. His track record when it comes to deciding whether to re-sign players or walk away is incontrovertibly good. Two years ago, Thompson predicted that Jennings might become too expensive or too much of a liability and drafted Randall Cobb as a replacement. At the time, many considered Cobb’s selection as a “luxury,” but he’s already proven those critics wrong.
Cobb has effectively become the Packers go-to receiver in only two years in the league, during which time Jennings has missed 11 regular season games. That’s not to say Jennings is no longer a good player – he is – but the Packers are better served developing their young players and finding new talent through the draft.
In the end, both the Packers and Jennings made the right decision. Jennings received the long-term security he understandably desired and Green Bay retains the cap room necessary to keep their most important players – Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews – in a Packer uniform for many years to come.
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.