Greg Jennings gives the Dolphins a crisp route runner, a mentor for their young receivers and a player who can deceive corners with savvy and guile on short and intermediate routes.
But his journey to Miami will be an adjustment, because there is no longer the guarantee of starting, or even the expectation, and the playing time might not be anything close to what he’s accustomed.
Once DeVante Parker shakes off the rust from foot surgery — he’s expected back for the regular-season opener — then it would not be surprising if Parker, Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills emerge as the Dolphins’ top three receivers, in some order.
There is certainly the opportunity for Jennings to crack the top three, especially if Parker needs time to round into form or if Jennings outplays Stills in training camp.
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Either way, Jennings’ playing time figures to diminish, barring injuries.
Jennings, who has started 114 of 127 NFL games, played 85.6 percent of Minnesota’s offensive snaps last season. It would be surprising if he’s on the field nearly as much for Miami. For perspective, Brandon Gibson — the Dolphins’ No. 4 receiver last season — played 45.3 percent of Miami’s snaps.
“I’m not concerned about any of that,” Jennings said. “I’m concerned about what I can do to help this team win. I’m not concerned with everyone around me when it comes to what I bring to the table. I’m confident in my talents. So when it comes to targets and opportunity, that will all come.”
At 31, Jennings naturally doesn’t believe his skills have diminished significantly since his only Pro Bowl appearances in 2010 and 2011.
“I don’t think anybody ever feels like they lose anything,” he said. “Going into my 10th year, there’s a lot more miles. [But] my body feels great.
“Still can catch the ball. Still can run routes.”
But he also said: “I think every year you have something to prove, not to any outsiders, but just to myself that I can still play this game at a high level.”
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been especially impressed by Jennings’ route running.
“It’s unbelievable how he can break corners down, with his savvy of how to get guys leaning,” Tannehill said.
Coach Joe Philbin said Jennings “has been a quarterback-friendly type of receiver through his career. He catches the ball with his hands very well. ... He’s a good route runner, crisp. He knows how to come in and out of his breaks well.”
But others have doubts.
“I wouldn’t count on him to make a difference,” said NFL.com analyst Charley Casserly, the former Redskins and Texans general manager. “He’s a good route runner, will be reliable. But he’s not a guy that’s going to change the defense.”
Jennings — who also visited New Orleans, Carolina and Jacksonville — said he was leaning against signing with the Dolphins until an April phone conversation with Dolphins president/football operations Mike Tannenbaum eased concerns.
“There were just a few things I had that I wanted to share with him personally, because everybody has a pitch. Everybody has an angle,” Jennings recently told ESPN from his charity golf tournament in Minnesota on Monday.
“Shoot straight, because I’m going to shoot straight. Every visit, I shared my heart. This is what I’m looking for: I’m looking to be a leader in the locker room. I’m looking to be respected as a man of God, as a football player. Those are the things that are really important to me — and more so, who I am, not what I can provide. Those were some of the things we cleared up.”
Ultimately, Jennings told South Florida reporters that coming to the Dolphins simply “felt right.”
As a possession receiver, Jennings essentially will replace Brian Hartline (though Hartline started) or Gibson. So have the Dolphins upgraded?
“Jennings and Hartline are about the same; maybe it’s a slight upgrade for Miami,” ESPN analyst and former Browns scout Matt Williamson said. “Jennings is pretty good after the catch. And he will be good in the locker room.”
Jennings was more productive than Hartline last season in the most tangible measurements. Jennings had more catches (59 to 39), more receiving yards (742 to 474), a higher yards per catch average (12.6 to 12.2), a better yards-after-catch average (3.5 to 3.3) and more touchdowns (six to two). Both had five drops, though Jennings had 26 more passes thrown to him.
Hartline, who was cut from a contract that would have paid him $5.9 million next season, instead will make a combined $6 million over the next two seasons in Cleveland.
Jennings signed a two-year, $8 million deal but must play well to stick around in 2016, when he has a $3.9 million salary and a $5.4 million cap hit.
The other Dolphins receivers seem to be soaking up Jennings’ knowledge.
“Everyone kind of gravitates to me a little bit, but I gravitate to them as well,” he said. “It’s been a great mesh from the get-go.”