Would Greg Jennings Leave?

[Editor's Note: I wrote this article a couple weeks back as part of my audition for Bleacher Report, for whom I will be contributing occasional articles about the Packers. 'I'm posting it here today because some life circumstances are going to keep me from the blog for the next couple days. You can see my first article for Bleacher Report here.]

Although preseason cuts have come and gone, the Green Bay Packers can’t stop looking at the future of their roster. Aaron Rodgers, B.J. Raji, Greg Jennings and Clay Matthews are all up for contract extensions in the very near future, and at least one of them is preparing for life outside of Green Bay.

Greg Jennings has spent six very productive years with the Packers, amassing over six thousand receiving yards and scoring 49 touchdowns, but he seems to see the writing on the wall. His contract is up after this season, and he said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel earlier this month he’s prepared to move on.

“Whether the contract comes with Green Bay in the near future or one of the other 31 teams, that’s the reality of it,” he said. “That the way I have to approach it. My mindset is 20 weeks of football with the Packers and then this is it.”

He may be right. Of the four Packers up for extension, Jennings is probably the fourth most important. Clearly Rodgers is the most vital, and after the defending MVP, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji both can claim to be among the more important cogs in Dom Capers’ defensive machine. Jennings, as solid as he is, showed last season that he’s replaceable. Jordy Nelson put up career numbers throughout the season, and got even better with Jennings on the sideline.

From the Packers’ perspective, their options are limited. Most contract negotiations tend to end once the regular season starts, so barring some unforeseen major developments in the immediate future, contract talks will likely be put on hold until February at the earliest. According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Jennings is likely looking to earn more than the $11.1 million per year and $26 million guaranteed that Vincent Jackson got from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Packers would have the option to apply the franchise tag to Jennings, but he’s stated he’d be “disappointed” by that move. Whether he’s disappointed or not may not factor into the Packers’ plans, but it’s at least worth noting.

Complicating the decision to bring Jennings back is the Packers’ seemingly endless depth at wide receiver. It would seem hard to justify overpaying a receiver when his counterparts at receiver could feasibly pick up the slack without missing much. Although Donald Driver is a question mark for next season, Nelson, James Jones, and Randall Cobb are all under contract, as is Jermichael Finley, who plays virtually as much receiver as tight end. Throw in Jarrett Boykin and a stable of other young pass catchers at tight end, and suddenly Jennings may not be as vital as he appears.

Ultimately, the question might not even come down to the other receivers. All things considered, Ted Thompson and the Packers’ front office may decide they need to pay their franchise quarterback and defensive stalwarts before rewarding a potentially replaceable asset at receiver. As productive as Jennings has been, he may be catching passes somewhere else in 2013.