GREEN BAY -- Greg Jennings unrestricted free agency will be truly unrestricted.
The Green Bay Packers opted not to use their franchise tag on the two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver on Monday, allowing the deadline at 3 p.m.Central time to pass. That means Jennings, 29, will hit the open market when the new NFL league year opens on March 12, a week from Tuesday.
Players are allowed to begin negotiating with teams on Saturday but cannot officially sign with anyone until Tuesday.
The fact the Packers chose not to use the tag on Jennings, who spent his first seven seasons with the team and was selected to a pair of Pro Bowls, doesn't guarantee that he won't return to the team but significantly increases the odds that he'll wind up elsewhere.
The franchise tag would have carried a one-year, fully guaranteed salary of $10.537 million for Jennings, the tag number for wide receivers. No NFL team used its franchise tag on a wideout Monday.
In fact, only eight teams used their franchise tags, down from 21 a year ago: Buffalo tagged safety Jairus Byrd, Chicago tagged defensive tackle Henry Melton, Cincinnati tagged defensive end Michael Johnson, Dallas tagged linebacker Anthony Spencer, Denver tagged left tackle Ryan Clady, Indianapolis tagged punter Pat McAfee, Kansas City tagged offensive tackle Branden Albert and Miami tagged defensive tackle Randy Starks.
NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday, citing a source with knowledge of the Packers’ plans, that the team was contemplating using the franchise tag on Jennings. It's unclear whether the Packers ever actually contemplated using the tag, even for the purpose of trading Jenningsand getting something in return for him, as they did in 2008 when they tagged defensive lineman Corey Williams and dealt him to Clevelandfor a second-round draft pick that year.
Given the Packers' talent at wide receiver and need to sign linebacker Clay Matthews and quarterback Aaron Rodgers to lucrative long-term extensions, the odds of Jenningsbeing tagged seemed small. The chances of him returning also seem small, although he could find a softer market than he expects. If that happens, the Packers could make a play to retain him, as they did with wide receiver James Jones in 2011 when he garnered little interest on the open market.
In January, Jenningsand his wife Nicole put the family’s house in the Green Baysuburb of De Pere on the market, and he made it clear in December that he did not want the Packers to use the franchise tag on him.
“(There’s) nothing good about it. You don’t see Wes Welker smiling about it,” Jenningssaid, referring to the New Englandwide receiver who received the Patriots’ tag last year but was not tagged this time around. “You want your job to have some sense of sustainability, some foundation where you can just sit your family and know you’ll be somewhere for a certain amount of time. Well, franchise tags give you one year. So it’s like, ‘OK, we’ve got one year.’ Who knows? I’ll be in the same position talking about contract situation all over again. It’s just not clear. It’s not in the best interest of the player to be in that position.”
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