There’s no way around the fact that Finley has underachieved. He was meant to be in the same class as Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, and he looked set to join that echelon in 2009, but the next level never materialized for him.
I almost doubt the veracity of the report that the Packers will either trade or release Finley in the offseason simply because it seems so very out of character for the Green Bay front office. Though he is overpaid as the sixth-highest salaried tight end in the NFL, Finley only has one more year on the deal he signed last season.
It looked like Finley was headed for the dreaded franchise tag at the end of the 2011 season before he and the Packers surprisingly agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal. I could have done without Finley, but I thought this was a great compromise for both sides. Finley wanted a huge payday but didn’t have the numbers; the two years would give him an opportunity to become the player he’s always claimed to be before going for the jackpot in free agency in 2013. The Packers would get two good years out of a financially-motivated Finley before letting another team pay him what they couldn’t afford to.
Despite his tendency to drop balls and his poor blocking, Packers fans should not underestimate the impact Finley has on the offense. His very presence as a 6’5”, 247-pound tight end almost always demands safety help from the defense, which leaves fewer people to guard Randall Cobb, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones. Next season could be a lot tougher for Cobb, Nelson, and Jones if they don’t have either Jennings or Finley to take pressure off of them.
Finley, for his part, only responded to the report by saying he wanted to be “a Packer for life” and that there haven’t been “any signs” from the organization that he would not be with the team next season.
As irritating as Finley is to me, I wonder if he’s not worth putting up with for one more season. I’d be seriously opposed to the Packers giving him any new money, but it’s just one season and he has had strong performances in the last five or six games for the Packers.
Financially speaking, I don’t know how much the roughly $8.25 million Finley is set to receive next season would really benefit the Packers if they release him. I don’t think $8 million will be enough to convince Jennings to stay or will change the monster deals coming up for Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, or B.J. Raji.
At worst, Finley would cost the Packers some money and probably some media drama next year. At best, he could finally emerge as a dominant tight end. More realistically and likely, he could continue to cause matchup problems for defenses and provide a receiving threat in a limited role. Personal feelings aside, I don’t see too much risk in Green Bay hanging onto Finley for one more season.