Vikings agree to terms with WR Greg Jennings
MINNEAPOLIS – Greg Jennings has agreed to terms with the Minnesota Vikings, becoming the latest Green Bay Packer to head across the border and join their bitter NFC North rivals.
Jennings made his decision on Friday, giving the Vikings the No. 1 receiver they so desperately needed after trading Percy Harvin to Seattle. ESPN first reported the five-year deal. Whenever the Vikings have really needed to fill a big hole, they’ve gone to Green Bay to do it more often than not.
Jennings joins safety Darren Sharper, kicker Ryan Longwell and, of course, quarterback Brett Favre as high-profile Packers to defect to Minnesota.
Like all the rest of them, Jennings will be looking to prove that his best days are not behind him.
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.
The Vikings are betting that he’s going to return to the durable player that played in all 16 games from 2008-10, when he became one of the productive and reliable receivers in the league.
Jennings arrived in the Twin Cities on Thursday night and joined Vikings brass and star defensive end Jared Allen for dinner at a downtown Minneapolis steakhouse.
He spent all day on Friday at the team’s headquarters in Eden Prairie while he mulled whether to join the Vikings or head back to Green Bay, where the Packers were believed to have wanted him back.
Instead of catching passes from the elite Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, Jennings will be charged with helping third-year Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder take the next step in his development.
Even with the dynamic Harvin in the mix, Ponder hasn’t had a true game-breaker on the perimeter in his first two seasons in the league. It’s been one of the reasons coach Leslie Frazier and GM Rick Spielman have been so patient and supportive through Ponder’s ups and downs. They believed he was missing that threat on the outside to make his life easier.
The two-time Pro Bowler will join a non-descript receiving group that includes veteran Jerome Simpson, who is coming off an injury-plagued 2012 season, and youngsters Stephen Burton and Jarius Wright.
The Vikings no doubt will look to add more in the draft coming up next month as well, but having Jennings in the fold gives the group instant credibility and an accomplished veteran that can serve as a mentor to the younger players in the group.
Jennings was widely hailed as a great locker room presence who relished charitable work in the Green Bay community, which certainly can’t hurt as well.
One of the main reasons the Vikings parted with Harvin was the trouble the volatile 24-year-old would occasionally cause behind the scenes. That won’t be an issue with Jennings.
“He’s as great player,” Ponder said of Jennings earlier this week. “He’s been doing great things in Green Bay, and he’d bring leadership to that position. 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.”
The move was somewhat surprising from Spielman, who has preached that he wants to build through the draft rather than make many big splashes in the free agent market. He hinted at the opening of free agency that the Vikings would stay true to that philosophy, and they did through the first few days.
They locked up their own free agents, including right tackle Phil Loadholt and fullback Jerome Felton, and signed backup quarterback Matt Cassel to a one-year deal.
But it turns out that the chance to add Jennings to help Ponder proved too much to pass up.
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