Packers’ Pro Bowler Predicted to Land With Bears in 2023

Jones, Jenkins, Packers

Getty RB Aaron Jones #33 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates his rushing touchdown against the New Orleans Saints with OL Elgton Jenkins #74 at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 27, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

The Green Bay Packers have been forced to swallow a difficult truth this year — that nothing lasts.

The Packers won 13 games and accompanying division titles each of the last three seasons, achievements that now feel like a distant memory after toiling to a pedestrian record of 4-6. Aaron Rodgers entered the 2022 campaign off of two straight MVPs only to throw more interceptions through 10 games than in any other full season since 2016. And just months ago, it seemed like the eight-year marriage between the quarterback and receiver Davante Adams would stretch on prosperously forever. Then, just like that, it was over.

This coming offseason is likely to bring more disruptive change, as it could see Green Bay parting with another former Pro Bowler in offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins. What’s worse, should he depart in free agency, multiple factors might pull him into the rival huddle of the Chicago Bears.

Jenkins Expected to Command Major Money From Bears in Free Agency

Elgton Jenkins Injury

GettyOffensive lineman Elgton Jenkins #74 of the Green Bay Packers run blocks against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on October 28, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona.

Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus on Tuesday, November 15, released his list of the NFL’s top 10 free agents heading into 2023. Jenkins slotted in at the No. 5 spot.

The beauty of signing a player like Elgton Jenkins in free agency is that he makes sense as an addition no matter where a team needs reinforcements along its offensive line. Returning from a torn ACL suffered in 2021, Jenkins has a 67.7 grade on the season despite shifting from right tackle to left guard over the past few weeks.

Jenkins has graded above 65.0 for his career at center, left guard, left tackle and right tackle, and while right guard just happens to be the only spot he hasn’t received significant snaps, it’s not like he’s been bad there. He was in the midst of what appeared to be a third-year breakout in 2021, earning an 82.1 overall grade before his injury, and is a smart bet to return to form once fully healthy again.

Spielberger added that the Bears have the coaching staff, the money and the need to make them a perfect fit for Jenkins — a fit for which he expects the franchise will be willing to pay handsomely.

“The Chicago Bears with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy coming over from Green Bay this past offseason could not be a more ideal fit for his services, and they happen to have roughly $125 million in projected 2023 cap space at their disposal,” Spielberger continued. “If the Packers don’t work out an extension or place the tag on Jenkins, expect [the Bears] to throw a literal bag at one of the league’s most versatile offensive linemen.”

Packers May Have Erred By Holding Off on Extension Talks With Jenkins

Jones, Jenkins, Packers

GettyRB Aaron Jones #33 of the Green Bay Packers runs behind offensive linemen Elgton Jenkins #74 and Jon Runyan #76 at Soldier Field on October 17, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Packers spent big during last offseason to bring back Rodgers and several high-priced players on a defense that has underachieved in 2022. Green Bay chose to hold off on extension talks with Jenkins following his injury, waiting to see how his knee responded to the rigors of the season.

“The Packers love him,” Heavy’s NFL insider Matt Lombardo wrote in a September 9 column. “But, from everything I hear, it sounds like they want to see him healthy before any contract talks take place.”

That decision leaves open the possibility that Jenkins could feel alienated from the team come contract time and act on a desire to leave, or simply that he’ll be offered such a lucrative deal by a team like the Bears that the Packers will be unable to justify matching it.

Complicating the situation further will be the contract situation of running back Aaron Jones, who will carry a salary cap hit of more than $20 million unless the Packers cut him — a precarious proposition considering he has been arguably their best offensive player in 2022 and waiving him would still cost the the team nearly $9.6 million in dead money.

Losing Jenkins is a nerve-wracking prospect, as Green Bay has come out on the wrong end of recent transactions in which the team has parted ways with star players.

Adams is having another Pro-Bowl caliber year for the Las Vegas Raiders, even despite that franchise’s struggles, and the lack of his presence has loomed even larger in Green Bay. Za’Darius Smith has also been among the best pass rushers in the league for the Minnesota Vikings this season, tallying 9.5 sacks through nine games for a team currently tied for the NFC’s best record at 8-1.

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