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Jenkins an end with a means for Packers

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by Heatherthepackgirl, Jan 17, 2007.

  1. Heatherthepackgirl

    Heatherthepackgirl Cheesehead

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    By ROB REISCHEL
    Special to Packer Plus
    Posted: Jan. 16, 2007

    Green Bay - Cullen Jenkins went undrafted coming out of Central Michigan in 2002. He spent a year out of football in 2003 and had to earn his stripes in NFL Europe before finally sticking with the Green Bay Packers.

    And the $430,720 Jenkins played for in 2006 was the most he's ever earned in a season.

    That's about to change.

    Jenkins, who emerged as a potential standout defensive end this year, is a restricted free agent. And his big payday could be coming soon.

    "I hope so. I hope so," Jenkins said shortly before the season ended. "If it happens, it will be kind of cool. It kinds of helps knowing I was a (street) free agent and here I am now. Hopefully it works out."

    Jenkins, who turns 26 on Saturday, is Green Bay's only restricted free agent. And the Packers will try to sign Jenkins to a long-term deal before free agency begins on March 2.

    If the two sides can't work out a deal, the Packers will place one of three one-year tenders on Jenkins.

    The highest tender would cost the Packers about $2.2 million. But if another team signed Jenkins and the Packers elected not to match the offer, they'd receive first- and third-round draft choices.

    The middle tender ($1.7 million) would award Green Bay a first round draft choice in they didn't match an offer. And the low tender ($750,000) would give the Packers the right to match, but Green Bay would receive no compensation if it elected not to.

    Considering Jenkins is coming off a career-season in which he moved into the starting lineup at right defensive end, stabilized the run defense and had a career-high 6½ sacks, the Packers will almost certainly put the middle tender on Jenkins.

    "He played all right," Packers general manager Ted Thompson said of Jenkins. "He has some versatility and he played well. Good year."

    That's putting it mildly.

    Jenkins was having a solid season as a part-time player when his fortunes - and those of Green Bay's defense - completely changed during a Week 13 victory at San Francisco. With starting end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila getting run over again, the Packers' coaching staff moved Jenkins into the lineup for "KGB."

    The 6-foot-3, 290-pound Jenkins provided beef and muscle that the 250-pound Gbaja-Biamila couldn't. And Green Bay's defense took on an entirely different mentality.

    Over the first 12 games of the year with "KGB" starting, the Packers allowed 123.9 rushing yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry. After Jenkins assumed the starting job, Green Bay allowed 84.5 rushing yards and 3.80 yards per carry over the final four games.

    Jenkins was also surprisingly nifty as an edge pass rusher. Jenkins set a single-game high with three sacks against Detroit on Dec. 17. And when "KGB" came in on passing downs, Jenkins shifted to tackle where he also provided a steady push.

    The Packers insisted they were ready to make a move to Jenkins earlier in the year, but he missed two games in October with an ankle injury. As it was, Jenkins proved quite the find when Green Bay finally made him a full-time player.

    "Cullen is a very instinctive football player," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of Jenkins. "It's something we discussed earlier in the season, right about the time he had the ankle injury, and we put it off. But he has that unique ability to play inside and outside.

    "He's a very good leverage player. He has an excellent motor, and . . . he's instinctive. He's really taken advantage of his opportunities."

    Jenkins, whose brother Kris is a Pro Bowl defensive tackle with Carolina, wondered if he'd ever get such an opportunity.

    The Packers waived Jenkins on their first batch of roster cuts in 2003. And even after Jenkins made the team in 2004, he's had to battle for every snap he's gotten.

    Today, Jenkins' long road is likely to lead to a long-term contract. At worst, he'll play for a one-year tender offer and continue negotiating with the team.

    "It's nice to see guys like that have some success," said defensive end Aaron Kampman, who was a fifth-round draft choice himself. "I always knew (Jenkins) was capable of big things and making a lot of plays. It's just always about opportunities in this league. He got his and he really ran with it."

    Now, Jenkins figures to be running to the bank in the near future. For Jenkins - who married his high school sweetheart and has two young children - it will be a sweet day if a bigger deal eventually comes his way.

    "I'm trying not to pay a lot of attention to it," Jenkins said. "Because in this league, I know stuff always seems to get done at the last minute.

    "I just know I played pretty well. It was my best year. I think I was just a lot more consistent. The older you get, the more you learn, and you come in each year, work hard and hope you get better. I think I did that."

    And soon, he's likely to be rewarded.
     

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