The sheen of winning Super Bowl XLV hasn’t quite worn off, but the Green Bay Packers front office is going to have to make some important offseason decisions very soon.
The biggest of those may be what to do with defensive end Cullen Jenkins.
Jenkins enters the offseason without a contract and the Packers didn’t make an effort to extend his deal during the season. Part of the reason may be his injury history.
Although Jenkins is the Packers best pass rusher as a down lineman, he’s missed significant time because of injury in his career, including six games this season.
When he’s active, he’s a valuable player. Jenkins racked up seven sacks this season and took some of the pressure off Clay Matthews when he was in the lineup.
Regardless of his injury history, Jenkins is likely to receive a substantial offer if he hits the open market. He’s a proven pass rusher and those type of players are always overpaid in free agency.
If that happens, the Packers are unlikely to match.
Clouding the situation somewhat is the Packers depth along the defensive line. Defensive end Mike Neal, who spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve, will return. Defensive end Johnny Jolly, who was suspended indefinitely by commissioner Roger Goodell, is now eligible for reinstatement. The Packers added defensive tackle Howard Green — a midseason waiver claim — and he played well. C.J. Wilson will continue to improve in his second season.
Does that make Jenkins expendable? Possibly.
If the Packers don’t give him a new contract before free agency begins, whenever the new collective bargaining agreement is finished, I wouldn’t bet on Jenkins returning.