Jolly’s Arrest Shouldn’t Change Packers’ Plans
There’s speculation [intlink id="205" type="category"]Johnny Jolly[/intlink]‘s second arrest for codeine possession, which put his NFL career in serious jeopardy, will force the Green Bay Packers to reevaluate re-signing defensive end [intlink id="163" type="category"]Cullen Jenkins[/intlink].
Jenkins, who had seven sacks in 11 games in 2010, will be one of the most sought-after defensive free agents whenever free agency begins. The Packers haven’t had discussions with Jenkins about a new contract and it’s widely believed the team is content to let him depart because of his substantial salary demands, age (30), and injury history — he’s missed 17 games the past three seasons.
Jolly’s stupidity shouldn’t change the Packers’ plans.
The free agent market will force the Packers to overpay Jenkins, who probably has two decent years left in him, providing he stays healthy.
Although he’s a solid pass rusher, Jenkins is no longer an every-down player in Green Bay. On running downs, the Packers used human house [intlink id="1337" type="category"]Howard Green[/intlink] instead of Jenkins, after the former was signed off waivers near midseason.
Giving Jenkins big money at this stage of his career could be akin to the $37.3 million, six-year deal then-coach and general manager Mike Sherman gave Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila in 2003. The deal included $13.25 million in bonus money, but Gbaja-Biamila became a liability against the run later in his career, losing his starting job in 2007 and getting cut by [intlink id="20" type="category"]Ted Thompson[/intlink] midway through the 2008 season.
The Packers ended up eating Gbaja-Biamila’s $6 million salary that year. He was 32 at the time.
Jolly’s arrest and the inevitable loss of Jenkins certainly takes away from the Packers’ defensive line depth, but you know Thompson prepared for this.
There’s no way the team was counting on Johnny Jolly to return. Getting him back would have a been a luxury. Not offering Jenkins a contract wasn’t a decision made on a whim, either.
In addition to starters [intlink id="473" type="category"]B.J. Raji[/intlink] and [intlink id="252" type="category"]Ryan Pickett[/intlink], the Packers return Green, [intlink id="1042" type="category"]C.J. Wilson[/intlink] and Jarius Wynn. Wilson, a rookie in 2010, showed great promise and even started for Jenkins early in the season, while Wynn improved and earned time in the rotation as the season progressed.
The Packers also return 2010 second-round pick [intlink id="1033" type="category"]Mike Neal[/intlink], who looked like a starter in the making before landing on injured reserve.
Certainly, the Packers will consider adding a defensive lineman in the draft, but he doesn’t have to be a high draft choice. Neal and Wilson will continue to develop in their second season in the Packers’ system and both have the potential to turn into legitimate starters in 2011.
If, for some reason, that doesn’t happen, the Packers can start Green and use their young defensive linemen in a pass-rushing rotation.
There’s simply no reason for the Packers to panic and deviate from plan because of Johnny Jolly.
Of course, you won’t have to tell Thompson that.