The Green Bay Packers may not slap tight end Jermichael Finley with the franchise tag by Monday, according to multiple sources. While the talent is clearly there, the drops are always going to be in the back of the minds of the Packers’ personnel decision makers.
If the Packers were to franchise Finley, he would be paid $5.5 million for the 2012 NFL season, which is a bargain considering it would make him just the 11th highest paid player at his position. Considering players including Zach Miller, Mercedes Lewis, Heath Miller, Kellen Winslow, Greg Olsen and Owen Daniels all earn more than that, tagging Finley seems like an obvious decision for Green Bay.
But Tom Silvertstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said that tagging Finley could cause problems for everyone involved.
“Whatever you think of Finley, there’s no question he’s worth more than $5.5 million per year, especially when you consider salaries will skyrocket in 2013 when the new television contracts kick in. Any multi-year deal that averaged $5.5 million per year would leave the 24-year-old Finley embarrassingly below his worth in years to come. Finley’s drop numbers (13 in 17 games) were way too high and his blocking could always be better, but if you want to know how valuable he is, turn him loose in free agency and see what kind of deal he gets.”
In all likelihood, Silverstein makes a valid point when it comes to Finley’s talent. Yes, he does drop way too many passes, and he is also just the third or fourth option at times on his own team. But if a team were to feature him more in their offense, say the same way the New Orleans Saints do with Jimmy Graham or the New England Patriots do with Rob Gronkowski, Finley is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
With Finley on the field, the Packers’ offense is flat out better. It doesn’t even matter if he is catching passes. Just his presence takes away from the opposing defense.
Green Bay would ultimately like to work out a long term deal with Finley and use their franchise tag on another player. It would make Finley happy and guarantee his presence in training camp, which could help get him enough time in camp to work on his drops.
But if they cannot work out a deal, would they really risk losing him in free agency?
Never say never.
Then again, tagging him would ensure that he would have to take the field for Green Bay at some point in 2012. It may be their only option going forward.