An honest look at Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley
If you've spent any time on this blog since the season ended you know that when the discussion has turned to free agency two names have dominated the conversation.
I shared with you some pertinent truths and myths about Mike Wallace earlier in the week. (As the post was at the top of the blog only a couple of hours you might want to check it out).
Now I'd like to share some Jennings knowledge from folks who know him more than me. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel recently graded every Packers offensive and defensive player. It is a major undertaking and, no, I'm not going to do it here because I don't think I could be fair to everyone. I have not studied enough tape to tell you exactly how Randy Starks compared to Paul Soliai.
Fair or not, right or wrong, the Journal-Sentinel did it with the Packers.
And what did the paper say about Greg Jennings and the season he had in 2012? Read:
"Will be 30 early next season, has missed 11 of the last 22 games due to injury and in all probability will be allowed to walk in March as an unrestricted free agent. Averaged merely 10.5 yards per catch, including 4.3 after the catch. Early in season as a slot, there were times it seemed he was just looking for a place to fall down. Just how strong his market value will be could hinge on how much stock scouts put on his superb performance at Minnesota in the regular-season finale. Gifted, precise runner still offers vertical stretch. There are just too many other capable players at his position and too many players at other positions that must be paid. Grade: C-plus."
And now we have a problem. I'm not ready to proclaim the paragraph above as the gospel on Jennings. But it says a lot when you consider his age, recent injury history, recent production and compare it to earlier in his career while using two critical factors:
Critical factor No. 1: The man has perhaps the best QB in the business throwing to him and he had a C-plus season and the team is ready to dump him.
Critical factor No. 2: He wants to get paid! A lot. We're talking no less than $7 million per year and likley way north of that.
That, of course, does not change the truth that Jennings is familiar with Dolphins coach Joe Philbin and vice versa. That doesn't change the fact Jennings has family members that want him to play in Miami.
But is he the right investment? Is he the best value for the buck?
Free agency is a crapshoot. We all know that. It misses more often than it hits. And it misses mostly when excellent personnel departments determine that a player isn't worth the money he's asking and let him go to another personnel department that doesn't know the player nearly as well but values him more.
The Packers have an excellent personnel department. They don't make a ton of mistakes. They let Matt Flynn walk as a free agent QB last offseason and while he got a big payday from Seattle, he couldn't beat out a rookie third-round pick name Russell Wilson. Now he's sort of a problem for the Seahawks because backup QBs should not be making $6.5 million per season.
The Dolphins wisely kicked the tires on Flynn and passed. They didn't want to pay that price. Jeff Ireland, who takes a ton of heat here, got that one absolutely right.
It didn't matter that Flynn and Philbin were boys. The Dolphins passed.
That is encouraging to me because it suggests familiarity will not blind the Dolphins with Jennings either. Let's face it, he's a good player. He would upgrade Miami. He's a great citizen.
But the price is the thing, folks. He's probably not worth what he'll be asking, particularly if there is another faster, younger, admittedly more expensive, but better fit on the market. Mike Wallace.
And if the Dolphins are budgetting only one major expensive unrestricted free agent wide receiver signing, it should not be a player who had a C-plus contract season.
While I have you, let me also draw your attention to the tight end topic. The same Journal-Sentinel reported during the season that the Packers were going to part ways with tight end Jermichael Finley. The paper reported he'd be either traded or cut before a $3 million roster bonus hits this offseason.
Trading for him, something I initially advocated, would be a terrible approach. I was wrong in suggesting that before doing my homework.
My homework tells me getting Finley in trade would cost something like $10 million against the salary cap. No thanks.
If he's available after being cut, that is another story because then the team can work a new deal with him. But trading for that contract should be out.
Anyway, this is what the newspaper said about Finley's 2012 season:
"Dropped five passes and lost one fumble in the first five games, just one drop and no fumbles after that. Preparation for games appeared far more professional down the stretch, wasn't fixated on his numbers and let game come to him. Caught an occasional seam pass but did best work in the flats. Possesses good, not great, speed and fine athleticism. Degree of stiffness hurts him after the catch and on some routes as a split receiver. Played 47.5% of his 769 snaps from a conventional TE position and 5.7% as extra blocker in the backfield. Regressed as a run blocker, allowing 9½ "bad" runs after having just six in first four seasons. Owed a $3 million roster bonus if on roster in March. Grade: C-plus."
Oh goodie, another player who had an average season! Doesn't sound great does it?
Look, I'm not kicking Finley to the curb. He's a good player. He's better than what Miami has. But he's not the best in the business. He's not elite. He's good.