The Green Bay Packers did not use their franchise tag on Greg Jennings, essentially clearing way for the former Pro Bowl receiver to test free agency next week.
As we reported at the Scouting Combine, the Packers hadn’t closed the door on bringing back Jennings, whether that was through the use of the franchise tag or waiting out the early free-agent frenzy in hopes of signing him at a more palatable price.
With the franchise tag out of the question, the Packers will hope Jennings doesn't find a blockbuster contract on the open market. With the Chiefs locking up Dwayne Bowe, Jennings and Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace are the top two free-agent receivers available, with Wes Welker leading the best of the rest.
It’s a thin market for impact players, but teams aren’t flush with cap space after the cap rose only slightly.
Tagging Jennings would have cost the team $10.537 million. That would have taken up about half of the Packers’ $21 million in cap space — a big concern with the team hoping to work out extensions with Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji (free agents after 2013) and Aaron Rodgers (free agent after 2014).
Franchise tags had to be used by 3 p.m. (Central) on Monday. Free agency begins once 2012 contracts expire at 3 p.m. (Central) on March 12.
Jennings’ season was ruined by an abdominal injury that he sustained in the opening game against San Francisco and eventually required surgery. Jennings wound up playing in just eight games and finished fifth on the team with 36 receptions for 366 yards, a career-worst 10.2-yard average, with four touchdowns.
Jennings, who will turn 30 on Sept. 21, ranks seventh in franchise history in catches (425) and receiving yards (6,537). Even while missing half the season, he ranks fourth in the NFL with 50 touchdown catches and fifth with 59 receptions of 25-plus yards since 2007.
Last year, 21 teams used their franchise tag. This year, only eight players were franchised: Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd, Chicago defensive tackle Henry Melton, Cincinnati defensive end Michael Johnson, Dallas linebacker/defensive end Anthony Spencer, Denver offensive tackle Ryan Clady, Indianapolis punter Pat McAfee, Kansas City offensive tackle Branden Albert and Miami defensive tackle Randy Starks.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.