Beginning on Monday, NFL teams have a two-week window (until March 4) for which to apply the franchise tag to one of their own unrestricted free agents.
For the Green Bay Packers, that means they have to decide whether or not they will tag wide receiver Greg Jennings, the only realistic option they may have at using it. Even so, the odds of the Packers using the tag on Jennings would appear unlikely.
There are two types of franchise tags, exclusive and non-exclusive. While the level of compensation for both types of tags is set by a mathematical formula, it still pays players in the realm of the old formula, the average of the top five players at their position.
The exclusive franchise tag prevents the player from signing with any other teams in free agency, while the non-exclusive tag would compensate the team losing the player with two first-round draft picks if he were to sign with another team.
Both Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com and Gregg Rostenthal of NFL.com looked at the probability of each NFL team using the franchise tag and concluded that the Packers were unlikely to use it on Jennings.
According to Florio, “Greg Jennings turns 30 in September. In other words, the Packers won’t be using the tag on Greg Jennings. The Packers learned while he was injured in 2012 that they can live without him, and they won’t be inclined to invest $10 million in cap space to a guy who plays a position that, with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, is virtually interchangeable. If the Packers wanted to keep Jennings, they’d be trying to sign him. They’re not, which likely means he won’t be tagged.”
Over at NFL.com, Rosenthal writes, “I could make a strong argument why Jennings would be worth it, but general manager Ted Thompson wouldn’t listen. The Packers are rolling with the young(er) guys in 2013.”
With contract extensions due to Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji in the near future, it’s difficult to envision the Packers spending in the neighborhood of over $10 million in Jennings.
It may not be entirely out of the question, however. The Packers could pull the ol’ tag-and-trade, but even then, that is a gamble.
If Jennings does leave via free agency, the Packers can and likely will receive a compensatory draft choice in 2014 for his loss. The exact level of compensation would depend on the size of his contract and how he performs with his new team, but it can be no higher than the third round.
Jennings has said that he would prefer not to receive the team’s franchise tag this offseason, obviously preferring to sign a multi-year contract whether with the Packers or another team.