Receiver market puts Jennings in prime shape

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Tom Silverstein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Thursday, March 15, 2012

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings and his wife left for Africa early this week on a relief mission.

Boy, will they be happy when they get back.

Over the last two days, NFL owners have done almost as much for Jenning as he could do for himself, doling out enormous amounts of money to free agent wide receivers and driving up prices for future free agents.

Consider some of the deals, the details of which were acquired through union salary information and published reports:

-- Vincent Jackson, San Diego to Tampa Bay. Salary: five years, $55 million, $26 million guaranteed.

-- Marques Colston, re-signed New Orleans. Salary: five years, $40 million, a reported $20 million guaranteed

-- DeSean Jackson, re-signed Philadelphia. Salary: five years, a reported $47 million, $15 million guaranteed.

-- Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis to Washington. Salary: five years, $42.5 million, $20.5 million guaranteed.

-- Laurent Robinson, Dallas to Jacksonville. Salary, five years, a reported $32.5 million, $14.2 million guaranteed

None of these deals touches the reported eight-year, $132 million contract ($60 million guaranteed) that Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson signed Wednesday, making him the highest-paid player in NFL history. He set the bar high for two free agents with franchise tags on them, New England’s Wes Welker and Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe.

“That deal is signed, right?” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said, turning to Johnson at a news conference. “I’d have had held out for more money, Calvin.”

All of these eye-opening contracts are paving ground for the 28-year-old Jennings, whose contract expires after the coming season. If the Packers want to re-sign him, they may have to start working on it this off-season because the closer Jennings gets to free agency, the greater the lure to reach free agency.

The Packers would have the option of using the franchise tag on Jennings, but this year the cost to use it on a receiver was $9.515 million and it is likely to be the other side of $10 million when it is recalculated next year. It’s hard for a team to carry more than one or two players with $10 million salary cap numbers.

Jennings has a pretty good case for why he is worth at least what all the others except Johnson received this off-season. If you project his statistics over 16 games (he missed three with a knee sprain), Jennings would rank first in catches, yards and touchdowns among the six who signed big deals.

The Packers might decide they can’t afford Jennings, in which case they’d have to hope Randall Cobb develops into a star and Jordy Nelson plays as effectively as he has.

Whatever the case, Jennings may be handing out thank you cards to his brethren for pumping up the market for him.

Close to home

Center Scott Wells’ off-season home is 15 minutes away from the Tennessee Titans facility in Nashville, so what better place to make a permanent residence than right there.

Wells, who attended the University of Tennessee, has maintained a place in Brentwood, Tenn., and may be closer to giving up the one he owns in Green Bay. According to an NFL source, Wells journeyed a short distance to the Titans facility and met with the team on an official visit.

The Titans had shown early interest in Wells. It makes sense for him to finish out his career in the state where it began, but there is still the matter of negotiating a contract.

The big question is whether the Titans are really interested in Houston center Chris Myers or are using him to drive down Wells’ price. The Titans are scheduled to bring in Myers Thursday.

Another Tennessee alum visited the Titans on Wednesday, according to numerous reports, it’s not known if Peyton Manning met with Wells. The two did not play together for the Volunteers.

If things break down with the Titans, it’s possible Wells could wind up back with the Packers.

West Coaster

Backup quarterback Matt Flynn took a visit to Seattle, and there was speculation the Seahawks would not let him leave without a deal.

General manager John Schneider, who was a personnel analyst with the Packers when they drafted Flynn, is in need of a franchise quarterback after grinding through last year with Tarvaris Jackson.

The Miami Dolphins, led by Joe Philbin, the former Packers offensive coordinator, may still be in the running for Manning, and it’s unclear if they’ve reached out to Flynn and his representatives.

Nothing legal

A day after being suspended four games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, there was no indication defensive tackle Mike Neal was going to fight the ruling through legal challenges.

Earlier this week, two Denver Broncos players, D.J. Williams and Ryan McBean, sued the NFL to overturn their suspensions. The NFL Players Association has also questioned the process by which urine samples were selected.

An NFLPA official did not return an email asking if it was supporting Neal in a similar way, but there has been no indication it was. A league source said Neal has not hired David Cornwell, the powerful attorney who led the effort to overturn a similar ruling against the Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun.

Last updated: 7:57 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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