Forward Thinking

As free agency opened and NFL media and social media alike exploded, it came down to a few days for Greg Jennings to make a decision on his NFL future. Even with the Packers in play, our Matt Tevsh says that Jennings probably had his mind made up to depart Green Bay long before signing with the Vikings.

In the end, it came down to the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings in an undercard fight for Greg Jennings.

And in the end, unlike how it unfolded on the field in the playoffs, the Vikings won.

Strange as it may seem, Jennings is a member of the Vikings, putting the finishing touches on a reported five-year, $47.5 million contract four days after the official opening of the free agency period.

"Minnesota stepped up to the plate," said Jennings at the podium in Minnesota on Friday. "They showed me and my family that they wanted the Jennings family to be a part of what they were doing as an organization and that's why I'm standing here."

Jennings could easily still be in Green Bay and making a nice living, to boot. But during a final season of discontent in 2012, he never really gave the Packers much of a chance to retain him.

All last season, Jennings seemed to have one foot out the door. Behind his upbeat attitude, there was a body language on game day that suggested this was probably it in Green Bay after seven mostly great years.

Granted, an abdominal injury and subsequent surgery forced him to the sideline for a career-high eight games and he never got into a groove until the final three games of the season (including the playoffs). A career-low 10.2 yards per reception was a striking drop in production, even in limited action, for one of the game's top big-play wide receivers.

A day after the season ended, he cleaned out everything in his locker as members of the media waited to talk to him, a symbolic gesture if there ever was one. Weeks later, he put his Green Bay-area house on the real estate market before the free agency period even began.

But the biggest sign was that he turned down previous Packers contract offers. By his own philosophy, Packers general manager Ted Thompson retains his key players before they hit the free agent market. A report this week claimed the Packers twice in the past year offered Jennings a deal that would average about $10 million per season. That deal never got done.

As it turns out, Jennings' deal with the Vikings averages less per year, "only" $9.5 million. Go figure.

Jennings took the risk, and who could really blame him? At his age (29) and his position, this was probably his last chance to strike it rich. Several receivers in free agency last year – namely Calvin Johnson – struck huge deals. And with only a few elite receivers on the market this offseason, he had to figure he could do better in terms of dollars and years.

But this year's market opened with only one bang at wide receiver – Mike Wallace getting $60 million over five years from the Miami Dolphins. Wes Welker, who will be 32 next season, received a much more modest deal from the Denver Broncos. Jennings fell in between.

The Packers extended Jennings' rookie contract back in June 2009 after his best season (80 catches, 1,292 yards). That deal included an $11.25 million signing bonus with a per-year salary of over $9.1 million. Based on that previous deal and what he got from the Vikings, the Packers likely offered him something competitive, if not as lucrative, in the past few days.

So, the question must be asked – did he even want to be in Green Bay at all?

Perhaps taking a few more million a year to go from Aaron Rodgers to Christian Ponder?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Maybe Jennings, despite his team-first attitude, finally wanted a shot to be a clear-cut No. 1 receiver, which he will have in Minnesota.

While a deal from the Packers equal to Wallace's may have given Jennings some more food for thought, it might not have made any difference, either. The thinking here is that he already had his mind made up.

"It was, definitely the option was there," Jennings told the NFL Network of Green Bay being in play over the past couple of days. "Obviously, Minnesota showed me they wanted me to be here - being a part of the success that they had and add a piece to the puzzle. You know, Green Bay, I loved playing there, was more appreciative than any one of the seven years that they allowed me to be a part of that organization. I had a lot of success but it was time to move on."


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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com


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