Greg Jennings: Nice Guy. Justifiable Cut.

“Why’d the Vikings cut him? He was such a nice guy.”

That seemed to be the overriding sentiment when the Vikings announced they had cut bait with soon to be 32-year old wide receiver Greg Jennings Saturday afternoon, only two years into a five-year $47.5 million deal ($18m guaranteed). Not impassioned pleas of “He’s still a #1 receiver” or “Jennings still has something left in the tank”, those came after all of the nice guy pinings – and then to a much lesser degree.

Don’t get me wrong, Jennings is a nice guy. He seems very affable and approachable in the media and he and his wife Nicole do great things in the community via The Greg Jennings Foundation. Plus the goodbye he posted was one of the classiest exits from a team that I’ve ever seen.

But it did strike me as odd that in a salary cap sport where fans are very quick to point out when a player isn’t earning his money–especially on big money free agent deals–that Jennings seemed to have gotten a pass the last two seasons. Earning franchise wide receiver money while turning in average production and even mailed-in effort at times – Week 5 @ Green Bay being people’s exhibit A. (Although to be fair, a lot of players put a stamp on it that game. Something about getting it handed to you by your biggest rival in the cold rain with Christian Ponder as your quarterback doesn’t exactly inspire effort.)

Yes, in his two years playing with the Vikings he was receiving passes from three sub-par NFL quarterbacks (Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder, Josh “Who?” Freeman) and a rookie in Teddy Bridgewater – who we all believe will be great, but did experience the up & down growing pains that most rookie quarterbacks go through. But since when do we allow sub-par or inexperienced quarterback play to be an excuse for low production from receivers making elite wide receiver money? Never. If we started now, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson would like to have a few words with us.

According to Spotrac, Jennings was stated to be the 11th-highest paid receiver in the NFL this season, in terms of contract per year averages, at $9M. Those averages would have put him just behind former Packer teammates Randall Cobb ($10M) and Jordy Nelson ($9.76M), and ahead of the likes of Victor Cruz ($8.6M), Antonio Brown ($8.39), and Torrey Smith ($8M). That’s a group of peers that Jennings simply wasn’t part of anymore.

In two years in Purple, Jennings put up 127 receptions for 1556 yards and 10 TDs.

Antonio Brown put up 129 catches for 1698 yards and 13 TDs. In 2014 alone.

And yes, newly acquired wide receiver Mike Wallace is fourth on that list ($12M average), but his deal has no guaranteed money after this season and actually costs less against the 2015 cap ($9.9M) than Jennings would have ($11M). Since the Vikings could have easily moved on from either player next offseason, it’s essentially a one-year deal. With everything being close to equal, I don’t blame the Vikings for gambling on the young deep threat who could become a top tier receiver if he gets his head right.

Wallace has an opportunity to be part of the Vikings’ long-term plans. Jennings? Not so much. Additionally with Thielen progressing into his third season and Wright on the last year of his rookie deal, you can’t fault the Vikings for wanting to get a closer look at what they have in the pair.

If Jennings had been in trouble off the field (Chris Cook, Adrian Peterson) or was a headache on it and in the locker room or weight room (Percy Harvin), Vikings fans would have been up in arms about his princely contract in exchange for meh production and probably rejoiced when the team cut him loose. Instead, there was a lot of sadness and second guessing of the decision. That’s the benefit.

Being a “nice guy” gives you a wide berth with the fans just as much as being “not nice guy” gives you a narrow one. Ultimately, however, it doesn’t matter to NFL front offices. As long as you’re not so toxic that fans and sponsors revolt in disgust and if you can help the team win on Sundays, there will be a spot for you. Being a good person and teammate is just gravy on top. If being a “nice guy” was the only requirement in the NFL, Madieu Williams (2011 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award recipient) would still be on the Vikings and starting opposite of Harrison Smith.

Greg Jennings is a nice guy with a philanthropic heart and is a human being I wish more professional athletes would aspire to emulating.

…But I get why he was cut.

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Andy Carlson

Andy Carlson (Podcast Producer) is life-long Vikings fan with a sense of humor to help dull the pain of that existence. Sports are fun. They're meant to be be enjoyed and not taken too seriously. He lives that mantra over at the Purple FTW! Podcast: Dedicated to the Pain AND Pleasure that is the Minnesota Vikings. Check out his shenanigans there and on Twitter @AndyCarlsonShow and @PurpleForTheWin.

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  1. Trading for Wallace (9.9M) + cutting Jennings (6M dead money) = 15.9M cap hit to replace Jennings with Wallace.

    1. True, but a fair share of his reps and future receptions will now be invested in CP. I still think that is a good investment in our future.

    2. You’re forgetting the additional 5M that comes off. So, you could say we’re paying Wallace 14.9M instead of paying Jennings 11M. The real savings is 2016. Had to clear space for the bunch of 1st rounders we’ll have to try and keep. Besides, Wallace gives you what Jennings was plus the deep threat. After talking with some Fins fans, they say he’s not just a vertical runner. He actually made a lot intermediate plays as well as redzone, which was highlighted game 17 last year against us 🙂

  2. The $6MM dead money hit is the penalty for a bad FA signing. Greg is not a bad player or person, but was signed to what turns out be a bad FA deal. With the pessimism surrounding the Vikes’ offseason inaction, this the risk when throwing money around in FA. The size of the signing bonus and guaranteed money dictate a commitment to that FA player. If the player doesn’t work out, you have to eat some dead money or else you can’t move on and improve. Last year we cut Letroy Guion and John Carlson and absorbed a similiar dead money charge. Carlson was a bad FA sign, so dead money got eaten, but we became a better team without those 2 guys.

    I think Wallace is an upgrade physically and schematically, and we didn’t take on a lot of dead money. If we didn’t do the trade, we would have had $4MM in dead money still left on Jennings after this year, would have gotten the same meh production but would have some more cap space now. Cap space that we’re not really spending it seems.

    Wallace is certainly more interesting than another year from Jennings, who is a known quantity in our new scheme. I hope it all works out. There’s still a decent chance that a dream-date WR will be picked in the draft. It’s just as likely that we pick a mid or late rounder as well.

  3. These moves sort of remind me of Belichick. Gets rid of players “too soon” rather than “too late,” and takes on the trouble makers to give them a shot on a short leash.

    If our new HC is modeling himself after ol Hoody, I’m cool with that. Turns out Belichick’s a pretty successful guy.

    1. p.s. I know ol’ Zim doesn’t wield the power of Billy on these matters, but please don’t bring that up. It completely destroys my otherwise brilliant observation.

  4. Jennings is still a quality #2 receiver but I stopped reading after I searched for the word “restructure” and found it nowhere in Carlson’s piece. It’s ridiculous to call this a justifiable cut without taking into account the fact that every report has indicated that Jennings was willing to restructure his contract.

    1. Weird, I thought I was the only one who did a word search before reading an article. My key words are usually “booby” and “fart,” but still…solidarity.

        1. What’s wrong with this moniker? I feel like it’s fairly clever! In a perverted sort of way. Besides, it’s Adam’s fault for going to WordPress. I’m the victim here, if you don’t think about it.

    2. Yes Jennings apparently was willing to restructure, but at what number? There was some talk that his minimum acceptable salary was around $6m or $7m…. whatever it was, apparently it was not a number that the Vikes could live with. You have to add on top of that salary number the cap hit of this year’ portion of the signing bonus. So the overall number was likely significantly north of that $6m.

    3. Agree, call it what you will, but I disagree with the move to cut the smartest WR on the team. Experience counts. As well as being a leader. This move will end up hurting this offense this year.

      1. I agree cc.The biggest thing that irks me about this move is that there has been no movement on Greenway and his ridiculous contract.If we’re talking about guys not living up to their contract,Greenway is “exhibit A”

      2. I completely agree. It isn’t just “Jennings is a good guy. Why’d we cut him?” That’s an oversimplification. It’s that Jennings is a mentor, and we cut him so that we could add a diva deep-ball threat. With a team as young as ours, this strikes me as a dangerous swap. I don’t know that Wallace’s play on the field will be enough to overcome the shadow he will cast over the locker room.

        I hope I’m wrong, though.

  5. Greg Jennings-nice-guy, Good WR…wish he was still here..! But life goes on….Lets hope Wallace can do good….Good luck to you Jennings…!

  6. I agree. Trading for Wallace was low-risk, and Jennings was under-performing. He’s a class act, to be sure, but not good enough performance-wise for that kind of money. All-in-all, a wise move by the Vikings. Besides, if we opt to draft Cooper or Parker at 11, assuming that Wallace doesn’t get any worse, WR will be a position of strength for us.

  7. Everyone has been talking about Peterson and Greenway’s(still waiting for him to be cut) contracts and if they will restructure, or if not, when will they be released/traded for like 3-4 years now.
    Jennings was always a good face and voice for the ladies who always loved him because they recognize him from his Old Spice commercials et al.
    I don’t get why people are so surprised he’s been cut when he was making just a mil and change below what Peterson is set to make. Just because he always says the seemingly right things doesn’t mean he’s not a ‘all about me player’ who is concerned for his PR rating over the team. I remember feeling uncomfortable with some of the things he said, mind you not how he said them, and even had a couple instances on the sidelines that looked like he was questioning play calls. He also used the media for personal reasons to take shots at Aaron Rodgers.
    Adding a hungry Wallace, with a basically one-year prove deal, will give them more flexibility in the draft and not force them to reach for what ever WR. As of now we will have 3 players with a bunch of potential vying for two WR spots, which is great for competition.

    LB Kendricks paired with Barr is growing on me for the draft