The 29-year-old Jennings played in only eight games for the Packers in 2012, plus two in the playoffs, because of a torn lower abdominal muscle and finished with a career-low 366 yards receiving with an average of 10.2 yards per catch, also his worst NFL total. In 2011, he missed three games with a sprained left knee.
But as the Vikings well know, Jennings has been one of the best in the league since he was drafted in the second round in 2006 out of Western Michigan. He has three years of at least 1,100 yards receiving and two 12-touchdown seasons. In 14 career games against the Vikings, Jennings racked up 964 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Packers won 10 times.
The Vikings sure haven’t been shy about signing players from their fiercest intra-division competitor.
They brought in safety Darren Sharper in 2005, kicker Ryan Longwell in 2006 and wide receiver Robert Ferguson in 2007. They’ve tried to woo others in recent years, too: fullback William Henderson, defensive end Aaron Kampman and wide receiver James Jones.
More important to the Vikings than nabbing a popular, productive player from the Packers, though, is upgrading their perilously thin group of wide receivers. After trading Percy Harvin, cutting Michael Jenkins and letting Devin Aromashodu become a free agent, the Vikings currently have only three players at the position with any NFL experience: Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton. Wright has played in seven career games. Burton has seven career catches.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has repeatedly stated the organization’s preference to focus on drafting and developing players rather than relying on free agency to fill gaps on the roster, but they’ll likely need to add at least one veteran to the group even if they draft a handful of them.
Quarterback Christian Ponder said in an interview this week he doesn’t think it’s paramount to add more experience but acknowledged he wouldn’t mind throwing to a polished, versatile wide receiver like Jennings.
“He’s as great player. He’s been doing great things in Green Bay, and he’d bring leadership to that position,” Ponder said. “Kind of a dynamic guy you can put in the slot and outside. I’ve always admired his work in Green Bay, and he seems like a great guy to have on a team.”
Plenty of money has been flying around the NFL the last few days for wide receivers, beginning with Mike Wallace’s big contract with Miami. Wes Welker went to Denver, and Danny Amendola replaced him in New England. Donnie Avery signed with Kansas City. By waiting during the initial wave, the Vikings ought to get a lower price for Jennings if he’s willing to come to a team with a still-developing quarterback in Ponder.
Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP
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