GREEN BAY, Wis. — This could be Greg Jennings’ final season as a member of the Packers, and he knows it.
Jennings, who has been a Pro Bowl selection each of the past two seasons, will be a free agent in 2013. With no new deal completed and the regular season beginning, the 28-year-old wide receiver is already bracing for the possibility that an agreement on a multi-year contract extension with Green Bay won’t be happening anytime soon.
“If I’m here, I would love to be here,” Jennings said at his locker following Wednesday’s practice. “If I’m not, it is what it is. This is my locker, (and) I want this to be my locker until I hang my cleats up and decide that I’ll give this locker up to somebody else.”
Jennings will turn 29 in two weeks, presenting Packers general manager Ted Thompson with a very difficult decision. Jennings has been a star in Green Bay since the team drafted him in the second round in 2006, racking up three consecutive seasons with 1,100-plus receiving yards from 2008 to 2010. Missing three games due to a knee injury caused him to fall short of that last season, but Jennings still plays like one of the NFL’s elite receivers.
Last season, Thompson struck a deal on an extension with wide receiver Jordy Nelson following the Packers’ Week 4 win. However, Jennings is hoping that he doesn’t have to think about his contract at all during the season.
“I don’t want hear anything about it or think about it now,” Jennings said. “Everyone knows what the reality of it is when guys are coming up on a deal. Will you be here? If I don’t get a contract, no. But that’s writing on the wall of itself. Do I want to be here? Absolutely. Everyone upstairs knows that. The guys around me know that.
“But at the end of the day, the focus has to be football. I have to go out there and prepare as I’ve always prepared. Put myself in the best situation to make plays for my team and this organization.”
But as Jennings approaches his seventh NFL season, he insists his contract situation will not be on his mind.
“It’s not a distraction, I’m not going to allow it to be a distraction,” Jennings said. “I’ve never allowed my individual off-the-field deals that I need to take care of become a distraction to myself, let alone the team.
“I’m glad you guys are asking me right now so we can kill it because it’s a non-issue. It’s one of those deals where I can’t control the situation. I have an agent. He’s working diligently on that. He knows my stance on it. I don’t want to be involved that. I don’t want to worry about that from a week to week, day to day standpoint.”
Considering some of the big money given to wide receivers in recent months, Jennings’ agent, Eugene Parker, could be seeking a very large payday for his client.
This offseason, Vincent Jackson, who is four months older than Jennings, signed a five-year, $55 million deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jackson played his first seven years in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers, so his situation is nearly identical to what Jennings’ will be following this season. But Jennings’ statistics are better than what Jackson had put up, so $55 million may not even be enough.
The problem for the Packers is that Jennings is the first of four Pro Bowl players on the roster who will need a new contract in the next three years. Linebacker Clay Matthews and nose tackle B.J. Raji both have two years left on their contracts, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ current deal expires after the 2014 season. Rodgers’ current contract is not paying him nearly what he’s worth. Rodgers signed an extension in 2008 after starting just seven games with Green Bay. Since then, he has led the Packers to a Super Bowl victory and was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
That’s why signing Jennings to an extension could mean that there isn’t a way to then also keep Rodgers, Matthews and Raji.
“I don’t know what their mindset is in regard to being able to keep all four guys,” Jennings said. “I’m sure they would love to (re-sign) and I’m sure all four guys would love to stay, but who knows? Only time will tell.”