It’s said that in the NFL, a quarterback can’t have too many weapons at his disposal. And it’s true. The more players a quarterback can utilize, the more multi-dimensional and dangerous that team becomes. While QB Matt Schaub and the Oakland Raiders have a number of incredibly dangerous weapons on their roster — players like Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, Rod Streater, Denarius Moore, and Andre Holmes among others — one area that is still woefully lacking is the tight end position. And with David Ausberry out for an indefinite amount of time following surgery, perhaps it’s time GM Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders take a look at former Green Bay Packers standout Jermichael Finley.
Given his track record with the Houston Texans, Schaub isn’t shy about throwing to his tight ends. He helped turn Owen Daniels into a two-time Pro Bowler, a weapon the defense had to account for, and one of the leading receivers on the team. So it’s worth noting that in their preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland’s tight ends Nick Kasa, Brian Leonhardt, and Mychal Rivera were targeted just five times — in 41 pass attempts — and accounted for a total of two receptions for 15 yards. Backup fullback Jamize Olawale accounted for more than that on his own (four targets, two receptions for 18 yards). It’s imperative for the offense that Schaub have a tight end he can trust and is comfortable throwing to — something he clearly doesn’t have that as of yet.
Though Rivera has had some terrific moments in camp and has stood out to the coaches, he’s still young, inexperienced and isn’t the team’s best blocking tight end. Finley would give Schaub and the Raiders a dynamic tight end who can block as well as catch. Over the course of his six-season career, Finley has amassed 223 receptions for 2,785 yards and 20 touchdowns. His threat as a receiver has opened up other areas of Green Bay’s offensive attack and has provided QB Aaron Rodgers a solid, reliable target when he’s needed one. Finley would be an incredible upgrade to the TE unit, as well as provide a solid mentor to the younger TEs on the roster — just the sort of player McKenzie has sought out for the team this offseason.
The sticking points of course are the questions surrounding Finley’s health. After a scary scene when he was carted off of Lambeau Field in October, 2013 after suffering an injury that required fusion surgery on his C3-C4 vertebrae, Finley’s career was left very much in doubt. But in May 2014, he was cleared to resume football activities by the doctor who performed the surgery, Dr. Joseph Maroon. Despite the medical clearance and a number of workouts by various teams, Finley remains without a contract.
Why not give him a shot in Oakland?
McKenzie would be wise to explore the opportunity to bring Finley in for a workout. Given their history in Green Bay together, if anybody can persuade the big tight end to take a short term, “show me” type of contract — the type that he’s already convinced a number of veterans to take — it would be McKenzie. And the benefits would be twofold. Finley would vastly upgrade the TE position and give the offense an added dimension by having a legitimate threat. And it would enhance Finley’s own chances of securing a lucrative deal with another team after this deal expires.
While Finley would undoubtedly prefer to remain in Green Bay, the only place he’s known since he was drafted in 2008, the Packers have made no move toward securing his services for the season. The Raiders have a need at the position, and Finley is just the type of player McKenzie has been building the team around.
It’s a win-win situation and an idea that McKenzie and the Raiders can and should explore.