PHOENIX -- For nearly a year, most of assumed the Green Bay Packers had made an internal decision to let receiver Greg Jennings move on when his contract expired last spring. That majority opinion included Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who spoke in September as if it was a foregone conclusion.
That does not appear to be the case, however. After interviews Sunday with general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy here at the NFL owners meeting, I was left with the impression that the Packers wanted Jennings back and weren't thrilled to see him sign with a division rival. Neither man suggested that the Packers made a similar contract offer as the Vikings, but it's clear they were holding out hope that Jennings would accept their terms last week.
Asked if he wanted Jennings back for 2013, Thompson said: "Yes. Good man. Good player."
Said McCarthy: "I think everybody was still hopeful it would work out in Green Bay. I don't think anybody wanted to see him go in the division. I didn't want to see him go to the Minnesota Vikings. But he was in a clear-cut business situation. When you're there, you do what's best for him and his family."
The Vikings' offer was for five years and could max out at $47.5 million, and he will receive at least $27 million over the next three years. I don't know exactly what the Packers' final offer was, but several people I trust said it averaged $8 million per season. (Granted, the structure could have been substantially different.) Regardless, the difference was a non-insignificant sum and it meshed with Jennings' assertion that the Vikings "stepped up" last week.
McCarthy, for one, said he didn't blame Jennings for the decision. In fact, the two discussed the possibility during Jennings' exit interview after the season.
"You don't ever want to lose a person like this," McCarthy said. "But really what it comes down to is what him and I talked about in the exit interview. This is his time to stand up and be patient and look at it. Not too many people get to this point."
In the end, as we discussed Friday, the Packers are in position to absorb this loss and will almost certainly benefit from the unused salary cap space. But for whatever it's worth, I didn't take what Thompson and McCarthy said Sunday as spin after the loss of a popular and productive player to a division rival. Thompson might have been guilty of remaining rigid to a value relative to what Jennings eventually received, especially when the suitor was a division rival, but I think we all know he is far from a reactionary leader.
"These are major macro decisions you're making," Thompson said. "I don't think you can make them based on whether we play somebody next year or not…
"Free agency is a difficult thing to predict. It didn't work out."