GREEN BAY – Greg Jennings called into ESPN’s NFL Live on Tuesday afternoon. Perhaps the Green Bay Packers free-agent wide receiver was able to do so because his phone wasn’t exactly ringing off the hook on the first day of free agency.
In fact, as the opening day of the frenzy came to a close, two NFL sources said the two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver could very well wind up right back where he began, in Green Bay.
According to one source, the Packers extended an offer to Jennings “a while ago” that averaged roughly $10 million per year, and the other source said Jennings’ agent, Eugene Parker, had been in discussions with the Packers about his possible return.
The Minnesota Vikings were reportedly one team that had expressed an interest in Jennings, but Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com in Minneapolis/St. Paul reported that the Vikings were not in fact actively pursuing Jennings, so it was unclear as of Tuesday night which teams were courting him. Pelissero said the Vikings were not interested at Jennings' asking price, which at the time was in the $11 million to $12 million per year range.
With Miami having signed ex-Pittsburgh wide receiver Mike Wallace to a reported five-year, $65 million deal with $30 million in guaranteed money, it’s hard to say what Jennings might fetch on the open market, but it seems obvious that he won’t get such a lucrative deal.
On NFL Live at 3:20 p.m. CST, Jennings wouldn’t say which teams, if any, were pursuing him.
“I definitely have some destinations in mind and I’m going to keep them close to the vest,” Jennings said. “I’m just enjoying this opportunity to be in free agency. A lot of players don’t get to experience this opportunity, and I’m one that does. So I’m going to embrace the opportunity and take my visits when we get those taken care of and lined up and I’m excited about it.”
The Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Rob Demovsky reported that, according to a source, if Jennings hadn’t signed with another team before midnight, the likelihood of his return to Green Bay would increase. But Jennings’ own comments on ESPN indicated otherwise.
“I want to experience it. I’m not one to jump the gun, I try to look at myself and believe I’m a pretty smart guy,” Jennings said. “I want to weigh out all my options. I want to make sure I end up in a place where my family is going to be happy as well as myself and I can thrive.
“You don’t get to experience this too often. You kind of get this experience coming out of high school, when you’re recruited heavily by colleges. I’m back in that boat again.”
The Packers essentially spent half of last season without Jennings, who suffered a lower abdominal muscle tear in the regular-season opener against San Francisco. Including playoffs, he ended up playing only 531 snaps, roughly half of the 1,149 played by James Jones, who was the only receiver who stayed healthy for all 18 games. Jennings finished with 36 catches for 366 yards and four touchdowns in regular-season play before catching 10 passes for 115 yards and one TD in the playoffs.
In January, Jennings and his wife Nicole put the family’s house in the Green Bay suburb of De Pere on the market, and after the Packers opted not to use the franchise tag on Jennings, which would have come with a $10.4 million one-year salary, Jennings appeared to be a goner. During his interview with ESPN, he never mentioned the possibility of coming back to the Packers.
At the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February, Packers general manager Ted Thompson said in a roundabout way that he hadn’t yet written off Jennings coming back.
“I’m not going to talk about specifically about any of our scheduled to be unrestricted free agents other than to say it is our policy, we think it’s a good way to manage the NFL if you’re able to retain your own players,” Thompson said. “We’d very much like to do that, and that includes Greg.”
Jennings has been realistic from the very beginning of the 2012 season, when he took the fact that the team hadn’t made any effort to sign him to an extension before training camp began as proof that he was playing his final year in Green Bay. He even said as much in a July interview at the start of training camp, and he never really wavered on that position, even as he packed up his belongings after the season-ending loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
In a phone interview on the NFL Network last month, Jennings didn’t rule out a return to Green Bay, saying, “It is what it is. Everyone hopes to stay where they were drafted, but the reality of it is it’s a business. So understanding that and being mindful of that, I have to stay afloat and again make sure that all of my ducks are in a row.”
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