Big Offseason Decision Awaits on Jenkins

Cullen Jenkins, who failed to make the roster in 2003 and got his career jump-started in NFL Europe, is the Packers' second-best pass rusher. However, for a litany of reasons, Jenkins sounds like a guy who knows he'll be looking for a new team. He looks back and ahead in this exclusive.

Even with in-season contract extensions handed out to defensive stalwarts Tramon Williams and Desmond Bishop, the Green Bay Packers have a bumper crop of free agents they need to make decisions on.

The most difficult decision will be on standout defensive end Cullen Jenkins, who finished second on the team with seven sacks despite missing five games with an injured calf. He's been the Packers' second-best pass rusher for the past few seasons, first behind Aaron Kampman and then Clay Matthews.

Big, athletic pass rushers don't grow on trees and he's certain to be in high demand in free agency – whenever free agency starts, considering there won't be a free agency period until a new collective bargaining agreement is struck.

"Cullen Jenkins has been an excellent player for us in my whole time here," coach Mike McCarthy said on Wednesday. "Really those types of decisions are something that we'll be working on here in the coming weeks. But Cullen is a very good fit for our defense. It's a part of the landscape of the NFL. I don't have an answer for you today. I have really enjoyed coaching Cullen. He has been an extremely productive and premier player, especially when he is healthy. I have enjoyed coaching him and hopefully we'll see what happens."

Nonetheless, Jenkins seemed to sense the writing on the wall that the Super Bowl victory over Pittsburgh would be his final game in Green Bay. To his knowledge, he said his agent and the Packers have "talked about possibly talking" twice but nothing of substance had been discussed. There's only so much money to go around, and the Packers have handed out lucrative contracts to Williams, Bishop, Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Nick Collins.

"I'd like to be back," Jenkins said after the Return to Titletown celebration. "I've always liked this organization since I got here. It's where my journey began and hopefully it'll be where it ends, but I do understand there's a business side involved. That's been the stand that's been taken so far to this point. I wanted a little security before the season started but we weren't able to get it done You understand that it's the business part of it. If I don't end up back here, there'll be no hard feelings."

Jenkins' journey began as an undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan. He didn't make the roster as a rookie and spent the year out of the league without so much as a tryout or a stint on a practice squad. He would sign with the Georgia Force of the Arena Football League but the Packers called him before the Force's training camp and wanted him to play in NFL Europe.

"I remember a little bit of being over there: the training camp practices, some of the games, a lot of drinking," Jenkins said with a laugh a few days before the Super Bowl.

Still, NFL Europe was the turning point of Jenkins' career. It was there where Jenkins gained the confidence he needed to really compete in an NFL training camp and be someone other than just the little brother of Kris Jenkins.

"It was a good experience for me because I've always been kind of self-conscious about how good I actually am or what my opportunities actually were, if I really had a legit chance," Jenkins said. "I was nervous at first because I know you have to make the team. Heck, I didn't know if I was going to make the team. Coming from a small school, you always think the guys at the bigger schools are so much better with so much great competition. Getting out there in Europe and finally getting to compete, everybody was really high on me and speaking highly of me, it started giving me a lot of confidence because I was playing against a lot of guys who had been on (NFL) rosters before or practice squads or played for a year or two or three. When you compete against them and you're doing pretty good, it makes you feel more confident about your chances." By late in the 2006 season, McCarthy inserted Jenkins into the starting lineup in place of Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Green Bay finished that season with four consecutive wins, a springboard to a run to the NFC title game in 2007 and Super Bowl XLV a week ago.

Jenkins' pass-rushing prowess was a surprise, considering he had 11.5 sacks in college. But he learned the nuances during frequent film sessions with Kampman. In 2008, Jenkins' dominant season was short-circuited by a torn pectoral after recording 2.5 sacks in just four games. He played all 16 games in 2009, fighting through nagging injuries for 4.5 sacks. This season, he had a sack in each of his first four games despite playing with a cast on his broken hand en route to a career-high total.

Still, that resume might not be enough for the Packers. The injuries are an issue – the 30-year-old Jenkins has heard the chatter -- and the Packers have second-round pick Mike Neal waiting. The rookie missed most of this season after requiring shoulder surgery. Plus, they're high on seventh-round pick C.J. Wilson, and have returning starters B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett, 2009 draft pick Jarius Wynn and midseason addition Howard Green under contract. Johnny Jolly, who was suspended for the 2010 season, could be an option, as well.

"Obviously, the numbers, I do have some numbers," Jenkins said. "I've put up pretty good numbers, decent numbers since I've been in the league. It's what they decide. We've got great guys coming up. They've got Mike, who's a heck of a pass rusher. They've got a lot of options. I understand the business side of it. I've seen it enough to know the different possibilities and scenarios that they have."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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