Expect to see Jermichael Finley back with the Pack

Packers TE Jermichael Finley
Packers TE Jermichael Finley
Packers TE Jermichael Finley

Much has been made about the future of Packers tight end Jermichael Finley in Green Bay.

Finley, 25, is entering the final year of the two-year, $14 million contract he signed last offseason, and those close to the situation have been on both sides of the fence in regards to his return.

Longtime beat writer Bob McGinn wrote in December that the team appeared to be finished with Finley, but after the maligned tight end improved late in the season, ESPN Milwaukee’s Jason Wilde suggests it’s nearly impossible to think the team would release him.

Before the team’s bye week, Finley averaged 3.2 catches for just 30.1 yards per game in nine games. After the bye, those numbers improved to 4.5 receptions and 56.5 yards per game.

Finley is due a $3 million roster bonus next month and is owed a total of $8.25 million in 2013. In an interview with ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Finley suggested he would consider restructuring his contract but wouldn’t be willing to take a pay cut.

“I’d have to walk for sure, meaning I couldn’t take a pay cut,” Finley said. “Maybe I’d restructure if it’s a deal that I like and it makes sense, but I’m not the guy that’s just going to sign anything and let anything pass. I’m not that guy.”

Finley certainly has a unique way of wording things.

His comments to Anderson can be interpreted several different ways. The negative interpretation suggests that Finley is a me-first player unwilling to back out of a deal that he has yet to live up to. The other side of it is that Finley is willing to restructure his deal in order to remain in Green Bay beyond next season.

Early last season, his comments on the lack of chemistry between he and Aaron Rodgers elicited a similar polarizing response.

“I need the quarterback on my side, and I need to catch the ball when he throws it to me,” Finley said. “It takes two things to get that going. So, the chemistry, I feel like we need to get that going.”

One could read Finley’s quote and immediately rush to the conclusion that he’s publicly calling out his quarterback. On the other hand, Finley accepted accountability to a certain degree, citing the fact that he needed to make the most of his opportunities.

It’s possible that the Packers could extend Finley beyond 2013 and save themselves some cap space in 2013. But it’s also a possibility that the team releases Finley and looks to someone else as the team’s tight end moving forward.

But whether it’s on a restructured contract or on the terms of his current deal, I fully expect Finley to be back in Green Bay in 2013.

If the team decides to cut Finley, and wide receiver Greg Jennings lands elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent, the Packers will have to replace a large part of their production in the passing game. Although he has yet to live up to his potential or fan expectations, Finley has been an effective player for the Packers the past couple seasons.

Finley has appeared in all 16 games in each of the past two years, averaging 58 catches for 717 yards and five touchdowns per season.

Perhaps Finley’s most important impact on the team is how he opens the field for other players to make plays. Whether you’re in Finley’s corner or aboard the Anti-Finley Committee, opposing defenses still worry about Finley. The same cannot be said about any other tight end on the roster.

Against the Arizona Cardinals in week seven last season, Tom Crabtree was on the receiving end of a 72-yard touchdown. Middle linebacker Paris Lenon was trusted to cover Crabtree man-to-man on the play without safety help, and Crabtree got the better of him. Had Jermichael Finley been on the field, the defense would have responded much differently.

Finley’s presence in the middle of the field demands attention from safeties and opens up the perimeter for Jordy Nelson and James Jones. Along with budding star Randall Cobb, Finley gives the Packers a pair of difference-makers between the hashmarks.

Some have interpreted his most recent comments as Finley packing his bags and leaving Green Bay, but that’s not how I see it. This is just another example of Finley’s comments being twisted and turned into whatever one chooses to believe.

The Packers have perhaps the best quarterback in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers. While the window is still wide open for Rodgers to win another Super Bowl, the clock is always ticking unless it’s out of batteries. Letting go of Finley on top of losing Jennings would put even more pressure on the MVP quarterback and the personnel department to find a viable replacement.

Don’t expect to see Finley playing anywhere else next season. He’ll remain with the Packers.

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Follow @MJEversoll

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.

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  • SchenySchen

    I agree. He will be back. I for one am happy about that. Yes his mouth is problematic but I suspect he will put it together this year more so than in years past. I won’t go so far as say he has matured but he has been very young his entire time in green bay and hitting 25 seems to be a little bit of a watershed moment for many young players. GoPack!

  • Cheezwhiz

    If he is back next year, please just catch the dang ball….

  • Bubbaloo

    Mixed thoughts on Finley! Sure he opens up the field for the other receivers, but a solid, just solid, running game could do that too, maybe even better. I’m not saying the Pack should dump Finley, but they must keep their eye on the real problem, their inability to run the football. Whether that problem lies with the RB’s or the OL, it’s gotta be fixed!

  • Savage57

    It’s just this easy folks.

    Finley’s career average numbers don’t come anywhere close to rationalzing the compensation.

    Games per season – 12
    Rec per season – 35
    Yds per season – 455
    TD’s per season – 4

    The numbers don’t lie. This chump is maybe a $3-4MM per year guy, and the trouble you have is Jordy, JJ and Randall are going to look at what Finley’s making and because of the disparity between production and compensation, ask the question, where’s mine?

    In a time when austerity is as important as athleticism, paying $8.25MM for potential and promise is a luxury the Packers can no longer afford.

    Teams don’t have to game plan for him because they know he’ll drop any meaningful pass that comes his way. C’mon man, the guy has turned one good game against the Cards in 2009 into a career payday.

    Please everyone, wake up.

    • Bart

      Well said. Fully agreed.

    • Stroh

      “Finley’s career average numbers don’t come anywhere close to rationalzing the compensation.”

      Apparently the Packer don’t just base his value on numbers alone. They look at the whole picture of what he brings to the offense. The article explained all that. You don’t want to hear it cuz your living in your fantasy football world. The football field is a completely different animal than your fantasy football world!

      • Savage57

        Never went anywhere near fantasy football in my life. Finley is weak, soft and a product of the modern day sports media hype machine. In another era, he’d have struggled to stay on the roster.

        Again, he had ONE good game – check the record, that’s it!

        • Oppy

          Let’s drop the one good game thing, okay?

          Finley came out in 2010 and was on pace to catch a bazillion balls for well over 1,000 yards. (You can look it up.. A BAZILLION.)

          Don’t get me wrong, he hasn’t been the same since he blew his knee out early that season. Damn shame, too. But he’s shown more than just that Cards game, okay?

          • Savage57

            Oppy, I really try to consider and respect other people’s point of view, but when fact indicts the hype, I try to bring that to light.

            Here’s the further breakdown, and you are right, it’s not one good game – that’s me being ungenerous. It’s six. If you count all of his 100 yard receiving games and multiple TD games as good games (we really don’t need to bring up blocking do we), it’s six – that’s it.

            Out of a possbile 80+ games, he has 6 good ones, or less than 5% of the total time he might have been available. And that warrants a contract in excess of $8MM per year because of…?

            Here’s the cold hard facts.

            100 Yard Games
            2008 – None
            2009 – Vikings 6/7 128 yds 1 TD
            Cards 6/9 159 yds 0 TD
            2010 – Bills 4/6 103 yds 0 TD
            Bears 9/9 115 yds 0 TD
            2011 – None
            2012 – None

            Multiple TD Games
            2008 – None
            2009 – Ravens 7/8 79 yds 2 TD
            2010 – None
            2011 – Bears 7/8 85 yds 3 TD
            2012 – None

            And just as an FYI, his pace in 2010, the first “YOTTO” when he got injured was 67 recs of 83 targets, 963 yards, and 3 TD’s. A decent year no doubt, had it happened – but it didn’t and I don’t think players get paid for “might have been’s”.

            So there’s the unvarnished facts.

            Truth is, the guy is decidedly average but thinks he deserves exceptional pay. I leave it up to y’all to reach your conclusions.

            • ThomasMagnumPI

              The box score numbers rarely tell the entire story with any player.

              I won’t give examples, or go into details, but just going by box-score stats is not a good way to assign player values.

            • Oppy

              Savage, see, now this is a post I can get behind.

              That being said, I think Thomas’ point is valid as well.

              When you watch what Finley was doing in those few games in 2010, (and in other games) it was more than what the box score indicates.

              For the record, I think Finley is overpaid and I am nowhere near confident he’s going to become the player he (at least at one time) had the talent to be.

              Guess he’s probably going to get this season to prove me wrong, and I hope he does.

              • Stroh

                Exactly what I think will be the case. If Finley play a large role in the Packers being a top NFL offense again, he will get an extension similar to the contract he’s finishing. If he is only a decent TE, he’ll be walking next year. I like the guy, but he has to have a BIG year next year, not just stats but total impact on the offense. He’s not a great blocker by any means but he’s adequate blocking and actually graded a better run blocker than Crabtree who’s only real offensive role is supposed to be blocking. So if its not a strength its also not the negative some fans make it out to be. And in the end, he isn’t being paid to be a blocker, but a reciever.

  • Ron LC

    Agree that J Mike will be back. I’ve always been a hopeful fan of his and I haven’t given up yet. He’s got so much potential and he seems to have taken the steps necessary to build AR’s confidence in him. Plus MM has been signing his praises all off-season. He’ll be doing alot more WR stuff in this year’s version of the O scheme as well. It will be his time to shine as a key component of the O. It’s all up to you J Mike.

    The Pack now has roughly $22-$24 mil. in Cap space. I think they might be able to restucture J Mike and pick up another $2-$3 mil. That would put them in good position to start extending the contracts of the “big three,” AR, CM3 and Raji.

  • Stroh

    “Finley certainly has a unique way of wording things.”

    Well if you call telling the unadulterated truth and being candid being unique I guess. But maybe thats the problem with the world today. Truth is people today expect everyone to filter everything and not speak his mind and take it as some kinda insult if the tell the truth as he sees it.

    • http://allgbp.com/category/authors/jason-perone/ Jason Perone

      There’s a symphony of violins playing for that one!

      • Stroh

        Whatever… I don’t see you denying it either.

  • http://gogglechrome madtowne

    With the possibility of losing Jennings
    and his big contract, move Finley to WR
    and let him earn his pay outside. He’d
    be a tough matchup out there. Draft a good
    TE to take his place inside, especially
    if the Quarless injury needs more time.

  • http://www.aol.com mark

    Don’t expect Finley to be back with the Pack. They will place the franchise tag on Greg Jennings and release Finley. Finley is under productive for his salary and a whiner. Jennings is a producer and a bargain compared to Finley without all the baggage.

    • Stroh

      They don have players that can take Jennings place at WR, they have NO ONE who can take Finleys at TE. Finley will be a Packer in ’13.

      • Stroh

        They DO have players….

  • Oppy

    Mark Chmura stated once (on the Miller Lite football show on ESPN Radio sunday mornings where he co-hosts) that Finley is troubled by a lack of balance.

    At first I thought he was crazy, but after watching the last two seasons, Mark is spot on. Finley can’t keep his feet under his body, and it results in missing the athletic catches he used to make regularly and missing out on the YAC he was once more than capable of.

    Gotta say, I honestly think his knee has tarnished his ability. Whether that’s mental or structural, I don’t know, but it’s a real shame.

  • Lou

    At 25 years old if he takes a pay cut he should be given another opportunity. A tight end that does not block and leads his position in drops annually who was ranked #21 by Pro Football Focus at his position cannot be paid $8M plus in 2013 without a negative effect in the locker room (in addition to his and his agents unfounded and poorly timed complaints). The Packers won the Super Bowl when he only played the first 5 games of the season using one vet hanging on (Donald Lee) and young special team players to take his place, don’t tell me what he does for the offense by just being on the field, we have seen the evidence.

  • Scott 1956

    It might depend on TT’s going after someone in FA. He doesn’t go in often, but if he could find someone like a starting LT, he might pull the trigger on cutting Finley. Is Finley worth the money he makes? Probably not. But don’t blame him for getting what he could.
    There are a lot of variables. If TT signs either Rodgers or CMIII before the season. If he’s going to get rid of more money off the cap like Hawk. Does he go after Jackson from the Rams. It’s been mentioned on other sites. This is what TT does well, he doesn’t let people know what he’s going to do.

  • Scott 1956

    Even if they keep Finley, TT won’t resign him after next year. So they get him for one year. I would rather take my chances with Jennings. At least he has great hands.

  • http://lombardiave.com Raymond Rivard

    Hey Marques! Thanks for linking to my story about Finley. I still think the Packers part ways with both A.J. Hawk and Jermichael Finley. They are underproducing and overpaid. Finley is not a locker room guy and it comes out in his comments on the outside of the locker room. He is all about Jermichael Finley. If they bring him back he’s a rent-a-player for a single season and then he’s gone. That’s no way to run a football team and TT knows it. Finley is dispensable so it’s time to move on without him.

  • Turophile

    The question is about bang for your buck. At $4m a year, Finley is viable, maybe even viable for a little more money. At $8m+ he does not give bang for your buck. I don’t care if Finley stays or goes, but I do care if he is paid his original salary for the next year, he is not worth that.

    at the bottom line, that is what the NFL is about.

  • Ray Brettman

    He likely should be back. I really had to wonder whether people were even watching the games in the second half with their reflexive Finley sucks narrative, highly prevalent throughout Packerland.
    But I know my TT. And to the extent Finley will or will not remain in Green Bay, and figuring in that while he pays lip service to it, not dead certain that is the case, and I can respect that, God knows Green Bay is not a good fit for alot of guys.
    However, if he does want to remain here, he needs to keep to himself what he will or will not play for, even if that is in fact the case, you need to keep it quiet. TT does care about that stuff dating back to Brett wanting Randy Moss at all costs, whereas TT wanted him on his, TT’s terms. I for one am very grateful we have TT.