Packers decide to stand pat

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Tom Silverstein
Friday, February 25, 2011
— The Green Bay Packers chose not to use a franchise or transition tag on any of their impending free agents and for defensive end Cullen Jenkins it means just one thing:

He’s out of here.

After the deadline passed Thursday afternoon for NFL teams to apply the restrictive tag to their free agents, Jenkins said his chances of remaining with the Packers were slim and none.

“I’m 99 percent sure something won’t happen,” Jenkins said when asked in a phone interview from his home in Michigan whether there was a chance the Packers could re-sign him before the start of free agency. “Not at this point. You get to a point where you want to go where you feel you’re wanted.

“The way everything came down, it’s just time for a new start.”

More than a dozen teams applied the tags to individual free agents, fearful that they wouldn’t get deals done with their best players before the start of free agency on March 4. There’s a good chance free agency won’t start on time because of a work stoppage, but the tags would likely be in effect when the two sides finally do come to an agreement.

It’s not surprising that the Packers didn’t franchise Jenkins, their best inside pass rusher and a staple on the defensive line since 2004. He is generally considered the best of the Packers scheduled to become a free agent, but the price to put the franchise tag on him would have been around $12 million for one year.

The franchise tag would have prohibited Jenkins from shopping himself on the free-agent market. The Packers also could have used the less expensive transition tag (about $10 million) to guarantee they would have the right to match an offer he received from another team.

Instead, they chose not to use either tag.

“It’s just part of the decision-making process,” general manager Ted Thompson said during a break at the NFL scouting combine. “We chose not to use it this time.”

Speaking before Jenkins had made his remarks, Thompson said he had not given up on re-signing any of the team’s free agents before the signing period begins. Whether that is March 4 or later will depend on whether the players and owners can negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.

Jenkins wasn’t necessarily expecting the Packers to put the tag on him. He said it has been clear since the end of the 2009 season that the club was not interested in signing him long-term and that his future was going to be somewhere else.

“We’ve gone for so long,” Jenkins said. “We approached them last off-season about doing an extension and we haven’t heard anything. You would think you would have received an offer by now.

“It’s just one of those things where they have other plans. They showed that in the way they went about it. It’s time for me and my family to look at options somewhere else. Whenever they get the CBA done, I’ll get out there and see what the situation is.”

Asked if he thought the Packers could still convince him to stay, Jenkins said it wouldn’t be easy.

“You know obviously that you never close the door completely,” he said. “But it will be real tough.”

Even though Jenkins has been the team’s best pass-rushing defensive lineman - he has 29 sacks in seven years, including 14 in his last three - he is 30 years old and has missed 17 games over the last three seasons due to injury. He missed five games in 2010 with a recurring calf injury. Jenkins made $3.5 million in the final year of a four-year, $16 million deal last season.

His role has been limited more to an inside pass rusher in nickel situations - the Packers play nickel more than 70% of the time. He was replaced by run-stuffing Howard Green on early downs after coming back from his injury.

Despite the reduction in snaps, Jenkins finished second behind linebacker Clay Matthews in quarterback pressures and was versatile enough to play both inside in a 4-3 setup and end in a 3-4. The ability to play both positions should broaden the number of teams that are interested in him and possibly create bidding that could result in a big contract .

As for the future, the Packers are high on defensive linemen Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson, both rookies in 2010, and may feel they can get by fine without Jenkins.

Neal was a force in the Washington game after overcoming a side injury early in the year, but he tore his rotator cuff the next week in practice and was lost for the season. The injuries to the tightly muscled Neal may raise a red flag and result in them drafting another end.

The only other player who probably drew some consideration for the franchise / transition tag was kicker Mason Crosby. It would have cost the Packers around $3 million to keep him for this season and it probably didn’t make sense to spend that much on him.

Franchise salaries are based on the average of the five highest-paid players at a position from the year before. Transition is the average of the 10 highest-paid players.

Crosby will have a chance to find out how he’s viewed around the league if a deal isn’t reached with the Packers. He connected on 78.6% of his field goals this year to raise his career mark to 78.1 He is 1 for 4 in game-winning kicks in his career.

Among the Packers’ other free agents are receiver James Jones, safety Atari Bigby, safety Charlie Peprah, running back Brandon Jackson, guard Daryn Colledge, center Jason Spitz and running back John Kuhn.

Last updated: 4:13 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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