GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 12: Wide receiver Greg Jennings #85 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates with a 'Lambeau leap' after catching a two-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter against the Seattle Seahawks during the NFC divisional playoff game on January 12, 2008 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Seahawks 42-20 to advance to the NFC championship game. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Editor’s Note: NESN.com will evaluate and analyze one potential Patriots free agent addition every day from Feb. 18 through the start of NFL free agency on March 12.
Fool me once? Shame on you. Fool me twice? Well, that’s something Bill Belichick will try to avoid this offseason.
The Patriots have a dearth of wide receivers on their roster and need to find some playmakers for Tom Brady. Their best option might be in a player they passed on once before.
With the 52nd pick in the 2006 NFL draft, the Patriots could have selected Greg Jennings and secured their future on the outside. Instead, Belichick traded up to the 36th pick to take wide receiver Chad Jackson and gifting Jennings to the Green Bay Packers along with another draft pick. Bad move.
While Jennings was busy becoming Aaron Rodgers‘ favorite target in Green Bay, making Pro Bowls and winning a Super Bowl in the process, Jackson lasted just two middling seasons in New England before being cut.
After the Packers decided against hitting him with the franchise tag this offseason, Jennings is once again available for the Patriots choosing but he’ll cost a helluva lot more this time around.
Jennings headlines this year’s crop of free-agent receivers, along with the Steelers’ Mike Wallace, and he should be in line for a big payday, too. The Patriots are in dire need of some help on the outside and Jennings seems like a great option, even if accompanied by a hefty price tag.
Wes Welker is “miffed” at the Patriots, and his future in Foxboro has appeared both doubtful and promising over the past few days. Brandon Lloyd is also rumored to be an expected casualty this offseason, meaning the Patriots could be without their two starting receivers from 2012 come Week 1 in 2013. Jennings would make for a more than capable replacement, though.
Sure, his injury history has to be a concern. Jennings missed three weeks with a MCL sprain in 2011 and then played in just eight games in 2012 due to a lingering groin injury. So, the injuries will require extensive examination but they shouldn’t keep any team, including the Patriots, from dropping some dough on such a big-time playmaker.
Jennings has still been one of the most productive wide receivers in the NFL over the past six seasons, averaging more than 60 catches and eight touchdowns since his rookie year in ’06. And at just 29 years old, he’s still got some of his best years ahead of him.
Never mind Welker, because that’s a completely different role in the Patriots’ offense, but if Lloyd is, in fact, on the outs then Jennings makes tons of sense in New England. He’s quick. He’s reliable. He is great outside the numbers and would provide the deep threat that’s been ever so sought after since Randy Moss left town.
The price tag might fall somewhere in the five-year, $50 million range, which is probably more than the Patriots would like to pay, but value is value.
The Patriots missed on Jennings once before, and Belichick isn’t the type of guy that makes the same mistake twice.
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Other free agent possibilities: Gosder Cherilus - Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - Danny Amendola - Anthony Spencer - Anthony Fasano - Dwight Freeney - Brandon Moore - Dunta Robinson - Glover Quin