Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson left the door open for the team to re-sign wide receiver Greg Jennings.
“I’m not going to talk about specifically about any of our scheduled to be unrestricted free agents other than to say it is our policy (and) we think it’s a good way to manage the NFL if you’re able to retain your own players,” Thompson said on Friday here at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. “We’d very much like to do that, and that includes Greg.”
Liking to retain Jennings and being able to do so could be two different things. Jennings reportedly is seeking $14 million a season – though a source late Friday afternoon told Packer Report that isn’t the case and a deal or franchise tag is possible. Either way, wishing for that much and receiving that much are two different things, as well, especially with a steady salary cap.
However, the Packers have gained significant cap space by releasing Charles Woodson ($9.44 million cap charge), the rollover from last year’s cap ($7 million) and the retirement of Jeff Saturday ($3.75 million). That’s more than $20 million, though the Packers will use much of that space with hoped-for contract extensions for 2014 free agents-to-be Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji. Those two have a combined cap charge of about $8.4 million this season. It’s certainly possible that in-season extensions would at least double that amount.
The Packers entered the offseason about $7 million below the projected salary cap. Now, they’d be about $27 million below. Is that enough for Thompson to check everything off his to-do list?
“I don’t think I’ve ever talked about the cap publicly and I’m not going to start right now,” Thompson said. “But good question.”
Without Woodson, Donald Driver and Saturday, the Packers have just one player (Ryan Pickett) older than age 30. Coach Mike McCarthy said leadership will have to grow from within to fill those voids.
“You don’t replace Charles Woodson, you don’t just go out and replace Donald Driver,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I’ve talked about the type of people they are. Locker room culture is something that I wouldn’t say is a moving target but it’s something that’s either growing or not growing. So, it’s important for the leaders and particularly our young guys. Leadership’s not always designated by how many years you’ve been in the league or how good a player you are. There’s leadership opportunities for every man in that locker room. It’s important for our leadership to grow. We have a very healthy culture in our locker room. It’s something we pay close attention to. Charles and Donald are special people, special players, so it’s not trying to replace them. It’s really putting the energy, the effort, the focus, the education, on the individuals now there for that locker room to grow.”
McCarthy rattled off the names of several people, ranging from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to second-year player Randall Cobb, along with offensive linemen Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang, as budding leaders.
-- Jerel Worthy, one of the second-round picks last year, suffered a torn ACL at Minnesota in Week 17. McCarthy said it would be a “stretch” for Worthy to be ready for training camp.
-- Tight end Andrew Quarless, who missed the season after a serious knee injury in 2011, should be ready for offseason practices.
-- Offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, the 2011 first-round pick who broke his leg late in his rookie season and also didn’t play in 2012, is in the “training room every, single day,” McCarthy said. McCarthy hopes he’ll be ready for OTAs, as well.
-- In an effort to get a handle on the read-option scheme that devastated his defense in the playoff game, McCarthy and his defensive staff will spend time working with Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin. The Aggies see plenty of read-option in the SEC.
-- McCarthy said “we’re looking at everything” to get a handle on the injury bug that has ravaged his team two of the past three years.
-- Thompson has been aggressive in the draft in recent years, including moving up to get Matthews in 2009 and three times in 2012 to collect Worthy, Casey Hayward and Terrell Manning. “Well, you do what you think is best,” Thompson said. “We felt like there were value players there last year and we felt like it was worth it. We had done that a couple times in the past and felt like it was worth it then. Historically speaking, we have probably traded back more than we’ve traded forward. If you can do that, like I said when I always bring up my dad, he’s a frugal guy, and from a draft numbers standpoint, that’s the better buy if you can still get a good player. You don’t want to sacrifice a good player for the sake of gaining another pick somewhere.”
-- Thompson said it’s foolish to gamble that a player he likes in one round might be available in the next. “I’m my father’s son and he’s a very frugal man and if I can buy a Coca-Cola for 25 cents instead of 50 cents, I’m going to go the store that’s 25 cents, but it’s not that way in the draft. You can’t always shop bargain-basement practices.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.