Teams are allowed to begin using the franchise tag today, but don’t look for the Packers to employ that mechanism to ensure keeping Greg Jennings around for another season. Here are some reasons why GM Ted Thompson might be reluctant to guarantee the two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver $10 million for 2013:
MONEY- Green Bay is $17 million under the salary cap, but that’s not as much cushion as it would seem. Remember, the team still has a handful of restricted free agents to deal with and a trio of star players to extend. Tenders to Sam Shields, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Tom Crabtree and Robert Francois could cost as much as $5 million. Add in a new contract for either Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews or B.J. Raji, and Thompson would quickly find himself pretty tight against the cap heading into April’s draft.
AGE/HEALTH- Jennings will turn 30 in September, and since taking over as GM 8 years ago, you can count on one hand the number of players over the age of 29 that Thompson has extended. And none of those players were coming off back-to-back seasons marred by injuries. After playing in 75 of his first 80 games, Jennings has missed 11 of the last 19. When a previously durable veteran suddenly begins to spend almost as much time on the sideline as he does on the field, it’s often the start of a troubling trend.
DEPTH AT WR- The offense missed Jennings this past season, but it still managed to score enough points to lead the Packers to another NFC North title. And even without its top wide receiver, this corps is still among the very best. Jordy Nelson is one year removed from gaining 1,263 yards, James Jones led the NFL in TD catches with 14 and Randall Cobb is a budding star. Just as importantly, Thompson has proven to be as adept at drafting quality receivers as singer John Mayer is at finding incredibly hot girlfriends.
Is it possible that Jennings could return to the Packers if he doesn’t get what he wants on the open market? Anything’s possible, but it’s highly unlikely. As was the case with defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins in 2011 and center Scott Wells a year ago, you get the sense that Jennings is upset with the organization for not making more of an effort to extend him. You also get the sense that he’s ready to move on – even if that means accepting a deal with another team that isn’t quite what he was looking for.