The Green Bay Packers went into free agency on Tuesday figuring to lose unrestricted receiver Greg Jennings. Might they gain the services of Steven Jackson?
Or might they have both players?
According to ProFootballTalk.com, the Packers are the “early leaders” for the bruising, all-around running back who will turn 30 on July 22. Later, a source who had been in contact with the Rams told Packer Report that Jackson indeed will sign with the Packers.
Jackson voided his contract last week. In nine seasons with St. Louis, he rushed for 10,135 yards. That’s more than any active rusher in the league.
“Everybody knows about Steven Jackson,” Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said before the teams met in October. “He’s a big, strong guy, and if you don’t do a good job of tackling, he bleeds you for yards. If he can get running north and south, he’s so doggone big, and he finishes runs well.”
Jackson has topped 1,000 yards in each of the past eight seasons, including 1,042 yards on a 4.1-yard average in 2012. He’s also caught 407 passes. Last season’s 38 receptions were his fewest since his rookie season, making him the kind of every-down runner coach Mike McCarthy prefers.
Jennings — the Pro Bowl receiver who missed half of last season with an abdominal injury that required surgery — is considered one of the top players on the market. The source who told Packer Report at the Scouting Combine that the Packers were very much in contention for Jennings said that remains the case.
Jennings caught just 36 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns for the season, but was much better after getting into a groove from his seven-game absence. In his final four games (including playoffs), he caught 25 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns. Put over 16 games, that would equate to 100 receptions, 1,120 yards and 16 touchdowns.
One rumored landing place for Jennings quickly evaporated, with Miami opting for Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace, instead.
Free agency began at 3 p.m. (Central) on Tuesday, with 524 unrestricted and restricted free agents available.
Green Bay suffered one loss, with linebacker Erik Walden jumping to Indianapolis to join the Colts' 3-4 scheme. Walden was the primary player opposite Clay Matthews last season. It will be up to last year's No. 1 pick, Nick Perry, to stay healthy and make a big jump forward. Undrafted rookie Dezman Moses is the only other player on the depth chart.
Meanwhile, the Packers are taking a bit of a gamble with restricted cornerback Sam Shields. As Scout.com’s Aaron Wilson was the first to report, the Packers gave Shields the second-round restricted free agent tender.
That tender is worth $2.023 million. It’s a risky decision for Green Bay. As one scout told Packer Report this week, Shields “definitely” would have been a first-round pick had he been in this year’s draft class. As a relatively proven commodity with room to improve after just completing his fourth season at the position, it’s certainly possible that a cornerback-hungry team will throw a big-money offer at Shields in hopes that the Packers — with cap concerns with contract extensions looming for Clay Matthews, Aaron Rodgers and B.J. Raji — can’t match the offer.
In that case, the Packers would receive a second-round pick as compensation.
The Packers gave Evan Dietrich-Smith the low tender of $1.323 million, giving them the opportunity to match any offer for their promising center. They did not tender tight end Tom Crabtree and linebackers Robert Francois and Frank Zombo, making them free agents.
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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 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.