One year ago, the Green Bay Packers signed tight end Jermichael Finley to a two-year, $15 million contract. There was a lot of speculation that the Packers were going to use the franchise tag on Finley, so this deal was a surprise, but I thought it worked out well for both sides: Green Bay got two more years out of Finley before he would want a superstar contract, and Finley got two years to try to make a name for himself in preparation for free agency.
So it was yet another surprise when a report came out two months ago that the Packers were set to release Finley in the offseason if they were unable to trade him away. The report claimed Green Bay was fed up with Finley’s underachieving on the field and getting attention for all the wrong reasons off the field. While I agree with and understand the annoyance Packer fans feel towards Finley, I just didn’t see the benefit to the Packers releasing him. Finley no doubt has been disappointing both this year and last, but he is still a weapon for Green Bay. His size and potential often demand an extra defender, allowing Green Bay wide receivers to benefit from less attention.
After this report hit the news, Finley stepped up his game. No, he was not the dominant force the Packers saw glimpses of two years ago, but he did make some key plays over the last few weeks of the season, he quieted down in the media, and – dare I say it? – actually appeared to be trying harder in run blocking.
In his season-ending press conference, Mike McCarthy gave a glowing review of Finley’s improvement and increased maturity. McCarthy’s words, combined with Finley’s strong final month of the season and my initial skepticism on the benefits of releasing Finley, made me conclude that Finley would be in the Green and Gold in 2013.
Now, however, Finley has said it’s “50-50” on whether he’s back next year:
If there’s a guy that’s overpaid or that they [the Packers] think is overpaid, they’ll ask for a pay cut. There’s no doubt that I want to be there for life. But it’s a business and the business will tell you otherwise. I would say on the business front, it’s 50/50. But if it was up to me or anybody in my circle, I would love to be back.
Hmmm, yet another turn. I’ve gone back and forth all year on trying to figure out exactly how Green Bay feels about Finley, but I’m giving up now.
We won’t have to wait too long to know. Finley is due a $3 million roster bonus in March and it’s safe to assume that the Packers will make their decision on the tight end by then.