Packers Contracts, the Salary Cap, and More – Part 3: Jermichael Finley and the Two-Year Deal All Green Bay Packers All the Time

packers_piggy_bankOne of the hardest things for the average fan to comprehend is how NFL contracts work and how they apply to a team’s salary cap. There are many complicated elements, rules, and exceptions that can be hard to sort out. In this series, my goal is to help you better understand how this whole system works, plus what it means to the Green Bay Packers’ current salary cap and contract concerns.

Before reading, make sure to check out the previous article(s) in the series:

Our third article focuses on Jermichael Finley’s current contract and what its purpose served last offseason when each party agreed to it. Namely, why was it only a two-year deal, and why were the monetary details set as they were? We’ll use this as an example of how teams and players approach contracts in general to give both sides what they want.

Last offseason, Jermichael Finley was set to become a free agent and could have commanded a lot of interest from outside teams. He was about a month away from turning 25 when the Packers struck a deal to keep him under contract for another two years. They weren’t ready to let their potential playmaker slip away, and they certainly didn’t want to enter into a bidding war with other teams.

The option of using the franchise tag on Finley was discussed among the media, but it would have left the Packers in the same situation after only a year. (There was also talk of using the tag on Matt Flynn or Scott Wells.) So after the season ended and before free agency began, a deal was struck between both parties. It was a contract that broke down like this:

 Jermichael Finley NFL Contract, 2012-2013


When news broke of Finley’s new contract, it was originally announced as a two-year, $15 million deal. Though the numbers make it look like a $14 million package, there are $1 million in incentives that could push the total money up to $15 million. Either way, people were mostly concerned with the fact that it averaged out to about $7 million per year.

This is where the “average per year” amount falls a little flat on its face. If the player does indeed play out the entire contract, then it has some merit; however, since most players don’t see every penny in their deal, the average can misconstrue things.

Such is the case with Jermichael Finley, whose first year “take home” earnings were about $5.75 million (base salary plus bonuses). While it’s not far off from the average, there’s a significant jump from his first year to his second year total salary. And that really was the whole point of the deal.

Finley’s future value to the team was uncertain. As has been the broken record about him, the coaches and (some) fans saw a lot of potential in Finley, but his injury seemed to have affected his production. That’s why the deal was only two years. The Packers didn’t have to commit any long-term money with a big signing bonus (since players don’t like to take long-term contracts without that added insurance), but they avoided the pressure of free agency negotiations by making it longer than just a one-year deal.

It gave the Packers another year to evaluate Finley, pushing any serious commitment decisions into the future.

The signing bonus being only $1 million meant that the only financial burden of cutting Finley would be a mere $500,000 in dead money. However, Finley and his agent made sure that if the Packers did decide to hold onto him, then his payday would come.

Also tied into this is the fact that Jermichael Finley’s $3 million roster bonus is due on the fifteenth day of the league year. (The other $500,000 in roster bonus money is handed out on a per-game basis.) Since the 2013 league year started on March 12th, his bonus will be paid next week on March 26th. The date is significant, since it forces the Packers to make an early decision about Finley or suffer a $3 million cap hit that makes a weighty dent. It would also allow Finley to jump into free agency at the time of highest bidding when teams should theoretically have the most cap space to work with.

In hindsight, Finley seems to have gotten the best of the deal. Had he continued his performance level from the first half of the year, it’s likely the Packers would have looked to rid themselves of Finley, or at least renegotiate the deal. Yet his performance surge over the final half of the season put the Packers in a tough position. How do they gauge the tight end’s value in 2013 based on what he did in 2012?

From what we can surmise, the Packers feel he’s worth keeping, since they haven’t made a move despite his looming roster bonus. But his value probably isn’t quite worth the $8.75 million cap hit.

There’s a good chance the Packers extend Finley’s contract this year, especially if he starts the season hot. Unless he flops, they won’t want to take the negotiations to free agency again, and they’ll probably look to lock him into a three or four-year deal.

Only time will tell, though the Packers afforded themselves this extra time with some shrewd foresight.


Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski


22 thoughts on “Packers Contracts, the Salary Cap, and More – Part 3: Jermichael Finley and the Two-Year Deal

  1. Not being a Finley believer,I’ll simply wear a blindfold with crossed fingers and hope he pans out for the money being paid.

  2. “In hindsight, Finley seems to have gotten the best of the deal. Had he continued his performance level from the first half of the year…”

    Like most people, I bought the ‘potential’ aspect of Finley and have gritted my teeth as he has fallen short. Your reference to the latter half of the season is the reality of an inconsistent player. We have paid dearly for mixed results. Finley has cashed in on this under performance and keeps the ‘potential’ sword hanging over our head.

    With the departure of Jennings, I doubt that we will get rid of the situation this season BUT Finley will have next season to deliver. If he is again inconsistent, I don’t see us continuing on with Finley. It is time to sh1t or get off the pot.

  3. On a different tangent, I will add this about Finley. Some of this falls on MM. He has to start evolving this offense to include other aspects other than over the top/downfield passes. If you want to get more from your TE or RB then you need to design, practice and call the plays that will utilize these weapons. I don’t see the Packers using their TE’s with any regularity or creativity. Perhaps MM should have sent his offensive coaching staff to NE for a TE seminar.

    1. I love the diversity NE shows in their 2 TE sets. They line up Gronk/Hernandez all over, they run effectively, they throw effectively. The diversification of that offense has made Stevan Ridley a threat to run the ball…but I think in that offense it doesn’t matter WHO would be lined up back there. Is that a function of Tom Brady? Of Gronk? Of Welker (now gone)? We’ll see.

      I think we’ll see Patriot copycats over the next several years (if teams can find the horses), but I see this as the kind of set that could benefit the Packers and help bolster the running game. There needs to be a second TE along with Finley (who I see more as the Hernandez and not the Gronk), and whether that’s someone you draft or someone already on the roster is hard to say (Quarless, if healthy?). The WR/TE position needs to be addressed early in the upcoming draft (I know you disagree, Stroh), and this is one of the benefits.

      Bottom line: yes, I believe the Packers could do much more with the TE position and NE is just one example of how to do it.

      1. I recall a couple of TE’s named Chmura and Jackson that helped the Packers win a Super Bowl playing out of a 2 TE set.

      2. Finley is not a true TE so the Packers should get creative and move him to a receiver position. I do believe a two TE formation is valuable but Finley does not block well and Crabtree was allowed to leave in FA and Quarles is returning from a major injury. That leaves the young guys drafted from North Carolina and Arkansas a couple years ago. To be effective the Packers need a stud that can block, fight through coverage and catch the ball. TE by committee doesn’t work well.

    2. Razer, I agree with your observation. I would like to see them use Finley as a safety valve more often. Instead of always trying to have him get past the safety or LB covering him, just have him find a soft spot. Using him this way will take the pressure off of him trying to always make the big play. It also has the effect of having Rodgers not take so many hits. He’ll be able to dump the ball off more. The Packers have enough WR’s that can get deep, using Finley in the short zones will help both the offense and Finley!

  4. Lightning Rod Alert – Finley Article.

    TT’s between a rock and a hard place on this one. Need to keep Finley around at a number that based upon past performance makes no sense, and just hope he plays his way into his contract and cap hit.

    Bad part is, if he does that he’s gone next year to someone that’ll throw the bank at him.

  5. As a Finley fan (hopeful) this analysis details exactly why Finley is playing his last year with GB, regardless what happens on the field.

    If he plays well/great his price next year will eliminate him. If he fails, MM cuts him, trades him or whatever. With Murphy’s statement about signing AR to an extension sooner rather than later it appears the cap will be the determining factor in all contract negotiations from now on.

    This is now at the time when TT’s philosophy will be tested. The other teams appear to be satisfied with dealing in the present and ignoring the future, TT remains constant. I have confidence that this should be the long-term answer, but 2013 could be dificult when it comes to playing the aggressive nasties of the NFL.

  6. Keeping finley this year will allow the packers to draft a TE and develop him for a year. Like ron said, it is hard to foresee a situation in which finley will be back next year unless it is under the franchise tag. if he does not play well he will probably be gone, if he does play well he will be one of the most sought after players in FA and the Packers will not have the space to sign him long term.

    1. I think we see a WR and TE picked on days 1 and 2 of the upcoming draft. The passing game is the bread and butter of this team (which allows them to overcome those muddling defensive weeks). To not have developing players in the pipeline with the potential departures of Finley, Jones and Nelson over the next couple of years is dangerous, and banking on the development of Boykin and Ross into #2-type receivers is just as risky.

  7. Any chance that the contract that Brad Jones just signed could be reviewed as part of this series?

    Just under $4/year seems like a lot, but I would like to see how it breaks down.

    1. Absolutely. I’m patiently waiting for the details to come out to see what the numbers are. Reportedly there’s a $3M signing bonus, so that’s pretty significant.

      1. $4 million signing bonus! 3 years for 11.75 million, for freaking Brad Jones! Go ahead TT, keep signing all your lousy LB’s for way to much. They all must remind him of himself, 3rd stringers!

  8. Lets just be honest… the Packer organization is going to take it in the rear in regards to ole fumblefingers Finley… He is barely worth the league minimum. Say he improves and only drops 10 balls this upcoming season. Guess what the one ball he drops could keep us out of the superbowl. The only area he excells at is showboating. Never ever have I seen someone celebrate like he just won the heavy weight belt and in reality only gained 7 yards.

    1. Finley will play as a Packer this year and, regardless how he plays, will leave as an unrestricted FA next year. Some team will sign him to a big contract and we will get a 3rd round pick as compensation.

  9. Finley has been a disappointment, don’t get me wrong. But he definitely showed improvement last season (especially towards the end) and I have to think that money is a big motivator for him. He knew a big payday was comin if he showed up, and he did. Now this season is even more important for his future paychecks, so I expect him to be on top of his game.

  10. What a headache Finley has been. Also a head case. He finally started coming around about the middle of the season,but he has to prove himself more before most fans will believe in him. He’s making much more than he’s produced at this point.

Comments are closed.