Greg Jennings steps into the unknown

March, 15, 2013
3/15/13
8:10
PM ET
Receiver Greg Jennings agreed to a five-year contract Friday night with the Minnesota Vikings, and here is my highly controversial and thoroughly debatable takeaway:

The deal makes perfect sense for the Vikings. It elevated them from having zero legitimate NFL receivers on their roster to one. You have to start somewhere.

It made plenty of sense for Jennings' former team, the Green Bay Packers. They have three dynamic receivers on their roster and need every ounce of salary-cap space to re-sign key players at other positions -- most notably quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews.

Where it gets complicated is the impact of this decision on Jennings himself. Whether he admits to it or not, Jennings had an extraordinarily difficult verdict to render -- assuming the Packers had at least made a cursory offer to bring him back for 2013.

[+] EnlargeGreg Jennings
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsAfter seven seasons in Green Bay, Greg Jennings will now play for the division-rival Vikings.
And no, I'm not talking about the phantom offense of jumping from one NFC North team to another. I realize some of you will have a hard time understanding this, but Jennings had no obligation to be "loyal" to the Packers or the Packers' fans. This is a business, and as an unrestricted free agent, Jennings had a rare opportunity as a blue-chip player to make a decision based solely on what is best for him and his family. He had every right to capitalize on that.

But was signing with the Vikings best for Jennings? I'm a little hesitant to draw dramatic conclusions because we don't, as of this moment, know how much of a choice he had. We don't know if the Packers made a remotely competitive offer or if the Vikings were his only option.

Think about it for a moment, however. On many levels, Jennings is entering a much less stable environment than the one he left. The Vikings don't have a long-term commitment to either their coach or their quarterback; coach Leslie Frazier and quarterback Christian Ponder will have to excel in 2013 to ensure a return in 2014. The Vikings can't offer the same level of offensive skill players that at least played a role in Jennings' success with the Packers, and for the fun of it, let's also note they're going to make two stadium transitions in the next four years.

Perhaps the Packers made Jennings' decision easy by making only a cursory offer, or less. Maybe Jennings, who already has a Super Bowl ring, liked the idea of spearheading a renaissance in an offense much less formed than the Packers'. But I understand why it took him a few days to take this visit, much less agree to terms on a contract, and I give him credit for accepting a much bigger challenge. (And yes, I know, probably for much more money.)

The move leaves the Packers exactly where we figured they would be when the offseason began: With a receiving corps led by James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. It probably increases the chances of high-priced tight end Jermichael Finley remaining with the team, and it leaves room for the Packers to draft and/or develop the next Greg Jennings. That's how they roll, like it or not.

For the Vikings, of course, it was almost mandatory to sign a player with the pedigree of a No. 1 receiver. The departure of Percy Harvin left them with Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright as the "top" receivers on their roster. That duo would have offered minimal support for Ponder as he gears up for the most important season of his career, and as of now it means that Jennings can count on heavy attention from opposing defenses.

Some might argue that Jennings will rue the day he chose Ponder over Rodgers, if in fact he had a legitimate choice to make there. I would suggest that a first-class receiver, and Jennings certainly counts as one even if his absolute best days are behind him, can elevate a quarterback's play. The Vikings' offense needs more work -- I don't like the idea of Simpson or Wright starting alongside Jennings any more than you do -- but it was going nowhere without a receiver of Jennings' caliber.

As we move into the weekend, we can say with some confidence that the Vikings are better off with Jennings and that the Packers weren't weakened much, if at all, by his loss. Jennings? We'll soon see what lies behind the door he chose.

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