Most projections concerning free agency, whenever that begins, have assessed this year's crop as a thin one. That's especially true if the league chooses to implement last year's rules, making the starting point for unrestricted free agency six years of experience rather than four, as under the old rules.
Jenkins is only 30 and, even coming off a 2010 season when hand and calf injuries limited him to eight starts and 11 games, appears to be a guy in demand for defenses running either scheme.
He's played well as a 4-3 defensive tackle and 3-4 defensive end. The Bears, who run a 4-3 and severed ties with veteran tackle Tommie Harris, have been linked to Jenkins. They'd obviously love to bolster their defense at the expense of their rival. Jenkins also has been linked in reports with Washington and Dallas, which run 3-4 schemes, and there figure to be other suitors running 3-4 schemes when the NFL opens for business.
Ironically, Jenkins balked when coordinator Dom Capers introduced the 3-4 front to the Packers in 2009. But the scheme is apt to make Jenkins a rich man because he's been a rare playmaker at the position.
At 305 pounds, Jenkins can anchor versus the run, yet is mobile enough to provide some pass rush. Even while missing five games, he registered seven sacks in 2010 and, among 3-4 ends, only Justin Smith of San Francisco (8.5) had more. The Redskins had 6.5 sacks combined from their ends in 2010; Dallas had just four. Jenkins had four sacks in the first four games of the season.
Jenkins has said all along that he'd like to return to Green Bay. The Packers, however, showed only tepid interest in working out a deal during the season.
"Obviously, that's where I've been my whole career," Jenkins told NFL Network recently. "In a perfect world, you can finish out your career where you start. … It's one of those things you only have so much control over. You have to see how everything plays out and let the system work its course."
In that perfect world, the Packers would like Jenkins back, as well. However, because of high demand, Jenkins figures to have his choice of big-money contracts once free agency opens. The Packers, like many teams, are reluctant to lay out long-term, big-money contracts to players who will be entering the back side of their careers.
Not only did Jenkins miss the five games last season but he missed the final 12 in 2008 with a torn pectoral. Defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, during last year's minicamp, called Jenkins' playing style "reckless." He meant it in a good way but also said that style lends itself to injuries.
Combine that with almost $130 million committed in existing contracts — the second-highest figure in the NFL — and their presumed depth, and it's little wonder why they seem unlikely to make a serious pitch to retain Jenkins. Even with Jenkins healthy down the stretch, midseason addition Howard Green was in the starting lineup and playing on run downs. Look for the same kind of rotation this year, with last year's second-round pick, Mike Neal, filling Jenkins' role. Opposite Howard/Neal, Ryan Pickett is back to start, with C.J. Wilson, Jarius Wynn and seventh-round pick Lawrence Guy battling for playing time.
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.