Jenkins, who will be entering his fourth season with Green Bay, took over as the team's starting defensive end in place of Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila late last season. He got 3 ½ of his career-high 6 ½ sacks as a regular on base downs and playing inside on passing downs in Green Bay's final four games of the season. That highlighted what has been a steady, quiet climb toward the first-team defense for Jenkins, who was cut by the Packers at the end of training camp in 2003, then made the team as a free agent in 2004.
Jenkins is scheduled to become a restricted free agent on March 2, when the league's free agency period begins. The Packers are expected, and should, tender Jenkins a contract which ensures them the right to match any deal he signs in free agency, or receive a high draft pick as compensation. The possibility of Jenkins signing a multi-year deal with the team either before, or after the start of free agency, seems to be a very good possibility. The Packers are at least $20 million under the league's projected salary cap of $109 million at this time and have plenty of cap room to make a deal.
In fact, it would be in Green Bay's better interest to reward Jenkins with a multi-year deal now, rather than wait. If he continues to play the way he did near the end of last season, his price will only go up by the week during the regular season. In the meantime, the Packers have the option of offering Jenkins four different tenders, which they undoubtedly will do if a long-term deal is not in place by March 1.
The low tender this year is $850,000 and allows the team to match any deal the player signs with another team, or receive a draft pick in the round the player was taken as compensation. Since Jenkins was not drafted, the Packers would receive no compensation, so rule out that tender.
The first-round tender of $1.85 million or the new second-round tender of $1.3 million, is probably what Jenkins will receive from Green Bay. Under the first-round tender, if another team offers him a contract in free agency that the Packers refuse to match, they will receive a first-round draft pick as compensation. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement also includes a second-round tender in which the team gets a second-round pick if it decides not to match another team's offer sheet.
There's the first- and third-round round tender of $2.35 million (first- and third-round draft picks as compensation), but don't expect the Packers to offer it to Jenkins.
The Packers would be wise to put the first-round tender on Jenkins, who turned 26 on Jan. 20. He is exactly the kind of player any team would want on its roster – very unselfish, humble, a hard worker, keeps his mouth shut, and overachieves. And he has a load of potential. What more do you want? If the Packers are not ready to offer Jenkins a long-term deal, the least they can do is give him a first-round tender.
Jenkins has made steady progress in the last three seasons. He is entering the prime pro football playing days of his career. He flashed his potential when he had the opportunity last season, and that's a prime indicator of better games to come. The sooner the Packers lock him up, the better.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.