Bob McGinn is reporting that the Packers plan to release tight end Jermichael Finley after the 2012 season.
Finley was drafted in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft as a third-year sophomore from the University of Texas. He exploded onto the scene towards the end of the 2009 season, including perhaps the best game of his career against the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs.
But since suffering a season-ending knee injury in the fifth game of the 2010 season, Finley has yet to return to that same form.
In the past 29 games, Finley has caught 98 passes–an average of 3.4 receptions per game. Pro Football Focus has charged Finley with 23 drops over that same timespan.
The Packers re-signed Finley to a two-year contract extension prior to this season. However, it appears the team may go in another direction at tight end once the offseason rolls around.
“If the Packers cannot find a trade partner, they are prepared to release Finley because of financial, competitive and behavioral reasons.
There is no way the Packers will pick up the second half of the two-year, $14 million contract they gave Finley in late February, according to sources.
Finley hasn’t performed anywhere near the sixth-best tight end in the National Football League, which is where he ranks in average salary per year at $7 million.” — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
If Finley is, in fact, on his way out, the Packers’ offense will likely look a lot different next season. Greg Jennings is in the final year of his current contract, and his financial demands may be too steep for the Packers to meet. Donald Driver is expected to retire after the season.
Second-year wide receiver Randall Cobb has emerged as the No. 1 target for Aaron Rodgers. Cobb figures to be the team’s slot receiver moving forward, while Jordy Nelson and James Jones figure to be the starters on the outside, assuming Jennings is playing elsewhere next season.
But if the Packers cut ties with Finley, there may be a slight chance that the team brings Jennings back.
The Packers would almost surely bring in another player to compete with Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor next season if Finley were released.
When he was at his best, Finley was a headache for opposing defenses. But now, he may cause more headaches for his own team. Finley’s agent criticized Aaron Rodgers as a leader earlier this season, and Finley’s subpar play and questionable off-field comments have drawn the ire of many Packers fans.
Finley and the Packers are in Chicago and scheduled to play the Chicago Bears today at noon. The fifth-year tight end has enjoyed playing against the Bears, scoring four touchdowns in two games during the 2011 season.——————
Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.