Jennings unsure where route will lead: WR entering final year of contract

GREEN BAY -- Greg Jennings was cleaning out his locker at the end of the Packers' disappointing season. But before Green Bay's standout receiver departed for the off-season, he wanted to make one thing clear.

GREEN BAY -- Greg Jennings was cleaning out his locker at the end of the Packers' disappointing season. But before Green Bay's standout receiver departed for the off-season, he wanted to make one thing clear.

Jennings, who will enter the final year of his contract, would love to get a new deal done with the Packers sometime before next season starts.

"I don't want to leave," Jennings said. "I want to be a Green Bay Packer; my wife doesn't want to leave. I love the community here. It's a great place to raise your family. I would like to end my career here. That would be awesome."

Right now, though, the Packers and Jennings haven't even begun discussing a new contract.

A large part of that is on Jennings, who said he didn't want to become a "distraction" and negotiate a new deal during the season. But the Packers haven't exactly been aggressive trying to get something done with Jennings.


Green Bay has done nothing to let Jennings or his people know he's wanted beyond 2009. And while it's generally assumed the Packers will do everything they can to keep Jennings, they haven't told that to their top offensive weapon.

"That would feel so good for someone to say that," Jennings said. "But I'm sure they want me here, I want to be here. I'm positive they know how I feel. And I pretty much know how they feel. I'm not concerned about it at all. I feel like I'm going to be a Green Bay Packer."

Jennings has been a vital contributor since arriving as a second-round draft choice in 2006, but he took his game to a new level in 2008.

Jennings led the Packers in receptions (80), receiving yards (1,292) and touchdowns (nine). Jennings finished sixth in the NFL in receiving yards, averaged a stellar 16.2 yards per catch and was named a Pro Bowl alternate.

Jennings and quarterback Aaron Rodgers were in sync from Day 1. And in the process, Jennings grabbed the torch from Donald Driver as the Packers' No. 1 option in the passing game.

"Really a good year," Packer offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said of Jennings. "He's been solid since he got here, but he keeps getting better. He's got a great future."

Will that be in Green Bay, though?

Jennings, one of the Packers' brightest players, understands full well the risk-reward element of playing out your contract.


If Jennings has a big 2009, his asking price will rise dramatically. On the other hand, if he is seriously injured, he'll lose out on millions of dollars in guaranteed money.

"There is risk," Jennings said. "There were risks this year. Injury factor is always on the back of your mind. With me, I really don't even think like that."

Back in 1998, Antonio Freeman entered the final year of his contract and set career highs in receptions (84), yards (1,424) and touchdowns (14). That helped land him a seven-year, $42 million deal that included a $10 million signing bonus. At the time, that made Freeman the NFL's highest paid wide receiver.

"I took a gamble," Freeman said at the time, "and it worked out."

For what it's worth, Jennings has said he'd rather not take the same gamble.

Jennings, who grew up in Kalamazoo, Mich., and attended Western Michigan, isn't a big-city guy. Jennings owns a house in De Pere. He's become extremely active in the community. And he admits "I'm not a big spender at all."

"It's not really all about the money," said Jennings, who, along with his wife Nicole, has a 2-year old daughter, Amya. "I'm more concerned about my family, what their comfort-level is here versus someplace else, and we're comfortable here. We like it here; it's close to home for me. It's actually a perfect situation for myself and my family. So we don't want to leave at all."

If the Packers want the same thing, they might have to get creative. In addition to Jennings, Green Bay's free agent class of 2009 will also include Aaron Kampman, Nick Collins, Daryn Colledge, Jason Spitz, Ryan Pickett and Tony Moll, among others.


The top free-agent wide receiver last year, Bernard Berrian, signed a six-year, $43.4 million contract with Minnesota. Jennings is universally regarded as far superior to Berrian.

As it stands today, the 2010 season would be uncapped, which could allow big-money teams like Washington and Dallas to spend like never before. Jennings admits there's a certain allure to that.

"In some ways yes but not really," he said. "If that's the route I have to take, I'm ready for it. But would I like to get something done? Sure. I would love to get something done. Ultimately, that decision isn't really up to me, so I have to sit and kind of play it by ear. If something happens, it does. If it doesn't, there's always after next year."

Packer Nation has to be hoping that next year isn't Jennings' last year in Green Bay. Jennings, for one, doesn't think that's likely.

"Any way we can get in done discreetly, the best way possible, then that's great," he said. "If not, then I'll play my contract out and what happens, happens."

-- Copyright (c) 2009, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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