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Jermichael Finley's Cloudy Future After 2013

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Jermichael Finley's Cloudy Future After 2013

Barring some unforeseen and unpredictable event before now and the start of September, the Green Bay Packers will have tight end Jermichael Finley on their 53-man roster for the 2013 season.

Beyond that is anyone's best guess.

Finley, 26, is entering the final year of a two-year, $14 million deal he signed in late February of 2012. All told, Finley will possess a $8.75 million cap number in 2013—a ridiculously high figure this season, and a potentially handcuffing total in 2014.

The "handcuffing" phrase is used here because his high cap number now will make it almost impossible for the Packers to franchise tag Finley after the 2013 season, which strips the Packers of a very valuable retention tool.

According to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and confirmed to CheeseheadTV by former NFL agent Joel Corry, a player who receives the franchise tag during a given year must make the higher of the following two figures: One; the NFL's designated price tag, which is calculated in part by averaging out the five highest contracts at the position during that year, or two; 120 percent of his prior year's cap number.

In 2013, the franchise tag for tight ends will cost just $6.066 million—the second lowest amount among the various positions. Only kickers and punters will make less on the tag next season. The value of the tag should not increase drastically after 2013, with a tentative estimate ranging in the $6.2-$6.5 million range.

The easy math for option No. 2 reveals an ugly truth for the Packers. With an $8.75 million cap number in 2013 (minus his $300,000 workout bonus, which, according to Corry, doesn't count in determining tag value), Finley would ultimately cost Green Bay $10.14 million to franchise tag after next season.

Given the monster contracts coming for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews, and the down-the-road deal needed for defensive lineman B.J. Raji, Russ Ball and the Packers can't reasonably expect to have the ability of placing a $10-million franchise tag on any one player in 2014.

An otherwise cheap alternative to immediately deciding on Finley's future in Green Bay after 2013 is all but eliminated from Ted Thompson's arsenal.

This reality was just one in a long list of reasons why a re-negotiated deal for Finley was never close—or probably even heavily discussed—this offseason.

In almost all cases, contract renegotiations are an exercise in leverage. Whoever has more slanted their direction is going to get the better end of a deal. In this case, all the leverage stood firmly in Finley's corner.

Where was the need for Finley?

The deal he signed in February of 2012—which the Packers also agreed upon, mind you—will pay him almost $9 million next season. While he hasn't earned such a salary, that should have been a moot point for Finley's camp.

If Green Bay kept him in 2013, he'd make the $8.75 million loot for one year and then almost certainly hit unrestricted free agency (given the tag restrictions) after next season. If released, he could turn his attention to Jared Cook's monster deal with the St. Louis Rams this offseason—valued at $35.11 million over five years, with a whopping $19 million in guarantees—and still see dollar signs in 2013 and beyond.

Finley's circumstances were always win-win. And it would have took some kind of sweet deal from Ted Thompson, Ball and the Packers for agent Blake Baratz to budge from his point of leverage before Green Bay had to act on his $3 million roster bonus.

In the end, the Packers paid Finley his $3 million in late March, all but guaranteeing he'll get another season in Green Bay.

With that one season, Finley will likely decide his football future.

If he finally starts scratching his all-world potential, one NFL insider thinks Finley will make himself too valuable for the Packers to let walk.

ESPN's Adam Schefter, when asked by Alex Petakas of ESPN Milwaukee about Finley's future last Saturday, said it's up to the tight end to determine his course of action.

“I think that’s up to Jermichael Finley. Talent is not the issue for him. It’s never been the issue with him,” Schefter said. “It’s whether he’s going dedicate himself and commit himself to becoming this player he has the potential to be. And if he does that, he’ll make himself so valuable that Green Bay will either want to re-sign him or put the tag on him.”

We've already dismissed the tag route as a viable option for Finley in 2014.

However, a strong start to next season from Finley could force Thompson into jumpstarting extension talks. The idea of Thompson letting a productive player (remember, in this scenario, we're assuming a "strong start" to 2013) he drafted walk before he turns 27 years old is almost unfathomable. If Ted Thompson is anything, he's a general manager able and willing to pay money to keep his young, productive guys in Green Bay. See Brad Jones and his three-year, $11.75 million deal this offseason. There's no reason to expect anything different with Finley, given a productive start to next season.

That said, Thompson would have to make a mid-season deal attractive enough that Finley would bypass another chance at trying his hand in unrestricted free agency, which—given the money handed to Cook—seems rather unlikely. A big season in 2013 will only increase his value for next spring.

In this "productive" scenario, the safe money remains on Finley playing out 2013 and then hitting the open market as a wanted man capable of coming close to Gronkowskian ($7 million per year) bucks.

Of course, Finley could  also have another average season—which is all you can really describe his last two years as—and the Packers might feel more comfortable letting him hit the open market. Would another NFL team be willing to pay premium tight end money ($5.5-7 million) for a three-year underachiever? By then, and depending how the 2013 NFL draft plays out, the Packers might be ready to move on from Finley anyway.

Regardless of how his 2013 season plays out, Finley's future in Green Bay past next year remains cloudy, at best. There are far more scenarios in which Finley is playing elsewhere in 2014 than the contrary.

Finley's two-year deal, once universally viewed in a favorable light, is now a major handcuff—both on the team's cap in 2013, and the Packers' ability to keep their polarizing tight end in town past next season. Lacking the convenient ability to franchise tag Finley after 2013, Thompson might be forced to watch him play elsewhere in 2014.

Zach Kruse is a 24-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at zachkruse2@gmail.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (49) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Evan's picture

While not ideal, why would an added $1.4 million in salary be prohibitive for the Packers(from $8.75 mil to $10.14)?

Cutting Hawk next season would more than make up for that, no? Or maybe Tramon. Jones is in his final year. There are options.

Zach Kruse's picture

The Packers were reluctant to pay that money this year. I can't imagine they'd ok another one-year pay raise, especially with Rodgers, Matthews and Raji's deals likely on the books. Options, yes—but I don't think using the tag is one of them next year.

Evan's picture

Reluctant, definitely. But if he has a huge year and they can't come to terms on a long-term deal, I don't think the franchise tag is as dire a situation as you make it out to be. As you said, "The idea of Thompson letting a productive player he drafted walk before he turns 27 years old is almost unfathomable."

The tag might be a last option, but I think it certainly is one. Another line of thinking that you didn't touch on, though, is how Finley would react to getting tagged. I can't imagine he'd be happy. And I don't think he'd be shy about expressing that.

Stroh's picture

No I doubt Finley would be shy about expressing displeasure about getting tagged. WHen has Finley been shy about expressing himself in general? But then again NO player is ever shy about expressing displeasure about getting tagged, so why should he be different?

IMO, Finley does have a strong start to the year (as I've mentioned before) and gets extended mid-season. Also like I've mentioned before, Thompson would consider it unfathomable to let a productive player in his prime leave GB. He simply doesn't let it happen, and I doubt that would change w/ Finley either. The tag is an option if not extended, as might be the tag and trade scenario. But in the end, I think a deal will be struck.

After seeing the contract given to Cook, I'm more convinced than ever that Finley will get an extension of 7M per, hell it might be more if Finley gets off to a big start. This is Finley's contract year, so like all players in a contract year, he realized how important it is that he plays well. Lets not be naïve and think that Finley (and all players in a contract year) won't put forth just that little extra to secure his future.

The 2 year deal was always more of a way to determine Finley's long term value. If he has only a decent start/season, they Packers then would move on w/o him and at that point then be looking for a TE w/ similar receiving ability. The Packers know that a receiving threat at TE really opens up the field for other receivers.

CobbsReptileEyesss's picture

And let's not forget about him trying to argue for WR tag if it comes down to that

Evan's picture

I think that whole WR tender thing is much ado about nothing.

Stroh's picture

Reptile... and you wouldn't if it might get you paid more?! Riiiiight?

Stroh's picture

The Packers realized Finley was getting paid a lot, and they tried to renegotiate/extend him, that doesn't mean they were reluctant to pay him this season. In the end, they DID pay him this season!

Be careful, your using words that aren't true. Someone might think your trying to convince us Finley shouldn't be in GB at all.

Zach Kruse's picture

I believe the word that was reported was "uncomfortable" with Finley's deal. Splitting hairs.

And might I point you to this:

http://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/packers-should-give-jermichael-finley-anoth...

I'm one of the few still in Finley's corner.

Stroh's picture

Glad to hear it. I've always been in Finley's corner. He does have a lot on the line this year and a little something to prove too. Looking forward to a big year from him.

Aaron Nagler's picture

Stroh - you need to take a deep breath before you comment. Seriously.

Franklin Hillside's picture

Assuming they could find a willing partner, is a tag-and-trade scenario possible? I know the trade partner would have to agree to new contract terms with Finley prior to a trade occuring.

In the end, I say he has a monster year in 2013 and Ted Thompson signs him to a new deal moving forward. Case closed. YOTTO Part Trois!

MarkinMadison's picture

I've been talking about trading Finley for a while, although I don't think it's likely to happen at this stage. I just don't see this situation ending well for the Packers, unless you view a 2015 compensatory pick as a good ending. I just don't see how the Pack affords to keep Finley.

Rodgers and Matthews will suck major cap room. Then you've got a number of other important deals that need to get done in the next year including James Jones, Raji, Shields, EDS (if he pans out this year), and Newhouse (if he pans out). There are some other core guys whose contracts expire after 2014 too, including Bulaga, Cobb, and Davon House.

Money will roll on and off the books, so I don't mean to be too alarmist here. Guys like Tramon and Pickett are likely to take major salary hits in the next year or two. But when you add it all up I suspect that paying a premium for Finley will not make sense. TT pays the young talent, true, but he can't pay guys unless he trusts them to produce.

Tarynfor12's picture

This guy is a 'dark cloud' for the team,even if he shows some 'rays of sunshine' with his play this season.

Evan's picture

What do you mean by "dark cloud"?

Tarynfor12's picture

He's an overpaid player..cloud

He doesn't perform to the level...cloud

A great year has him unaffordable..cloud

A bad year has him leaving..cloud

A great year has fans moaning about TT when we can't pay to keep...cloud

Those alone make the clouds dark.

Even the sunbeams he may give us this season will be outlined in a dark cloud.

Evan's picture

You still didn't explain what you mean by "cloud." But I suspect you're exaggerating the effect Finley has on team chemistry/morale/whatever.

Aaron Nagler's picture

That's exactly what he's doing Evan.

Evan's picture

Zach - sort of on topic, but I'm curious about Raji and his potential contract extension. In 2013, he has a base of $4.5 million with a cap number of $6.6 million.

How much of a raise can he realistically expect to get? Wilfork's base in 2013 is $6.5. Kevin Williams is $7 mil. Gerald McCoy is the highest (non-franchised) at $8 mil. Raji would seem to be in a tier below that, no?

Stroh's picture

I agree. Raji will likely get a raise and it won't be a large one. Raji is a core player and Thompson will find the money to pay him. Pickett will get a 2 year deal worth 3M or so. Tramon and Hawk are probably playing their last season in GB. Tramon's injury has hampered him and doesn't seem to be getting much better after 1 1/2 years. That's probably going to save 8M. Hawk would save another 4M. We've gotten the best years from them already, they aren't going to get better at 30 yrs old.

In the end, money will simply change hands. Out w/ the old(er) and in w/ the younger, cheaper and higher ceiling players. Its been Thompson's M.O. since he arrived. That isn't going to change either!

Ma Linger's picture

They better hope Findley is in the I gotta catch that ball mode this year to get the big bucks next year. He could have a rock your socks season or just another ho hum why is he hear season. One thing for sure, without Jennings he will be covered more. good luck with that.

Stroh's picture

More from the viqueens fan in the gallery! Feel free to make yourself scarce again. Oh and try to spell the name correctly... It FINLEY and he's gonna light up the queens like he did on that 65 yd TD a couple years ago!

redlights's picture

While its always an option, I can't recall the last time that GB used the tag. I think they try to get negotiations done; and if it doesn't work out, they let him walk (Jennings). Tagging is taken as a personal insult; an artificial contract that players hate.

Cpheph1's picture

Cory Williams?

PackerPete's picture

Corey Williams was tagged and then traded. Same will happen with Finley. He is one of the most talented players on the roster, no doubt about that, but his production never matched his mouth. The past few seasons, he consistently ranked in the top 3 for dropped passes in the whole NFL, not something one wants to see. I also think that his constant bickering is a distraction. There were reports that some teammates openly asked when media was in the locker room why that dude is still on the roster, so I don't think he has many friends. But, with his contract expiring, he will have a huge season. Therefore, trading him after that seems the most logical thing to do.

Zach Kruse's picture

Have a source for when teammates "openly" questioned why Finley was still on the roster?

Evan's picture

Beat me to it. I think I'm gonna call BS on that.

redlights's picture

I can't reference it; but how would you think an Olineman would think with drop, drop, then a six yard gain and the "phin thing"?

His talent is quite valuable, but his brain is 3 yards behind him. I foresee him playing well this year and walking next. Nothing personal; just business.

Zach Kruse's picture

At least you are admitting your own blind speculation.

redlights's picture

You don't think some teammates tire of his antics?

Tebow would be less of a distraction; less ceiling? yes.

Evan's picture

"Tebow would be less of a distraction"

Utter nonsense.

Stroh's picture

No. Tebows the ultimate distraction. He talks from the bench! At least Finley is on the field. And he doesn't bicker, he speaks his mind when asked questions then lets it end. Maybe you should too...

His drops went down last 1/2 if season and he seemed to moderate what he says bettertoo.

Aaron Nagler's picture

"Tebow would be less of a distraction"

Patently absurd.

Ken's picture

Because of this situation with Finley, I believe the Packers will draft a tight end within the first 3 rounds, get him some experience this season and then have him start next year.

Evan's picture

It's possible. And it certainly fits with TT's philosophy. But, personally, I'd wait till next year's draft.

I'd use 2013 to see not only how Finley performs (and is agreeable to a reasonable long-term deal if he does), but also see if Quarless is healthy and regains form and if Williams or Taylor or Bostick show something.

I just think they'll have a much better idea of what they have at TE next off-season and then can go into the draft better equipped.

Stroh's picture

I agree. They'll let this year play out and IF they don't bring Finley back they'll also know more about Quarless and Williams or Bostic.

Point Packer's picture

I would be VERY surprised if J-Mike was on the Packers next year. Even if he has a sub-par or bad year, he's going to be looking for a long-term deal for more money than the Packers will want to pay him. Unless the market is very poor, someone will give him something more than what TT would be willing.

Stroh's picture

IF he gets to FA he'll probably leave. I think it's highly likely he'll get an extension before FA starts.

cow42's picture

i have always liked finley.
it just looked like he was going to be so good.
everyone in the know saying how talented he was.
i just figured it was a matter of time.
i don't even mind his mouth... don't really feel he's ever actually said anything that wasn't true.

the thing is... i kinda think he is what he is. we may have already seen his best. it's a classic case of a guy who just always seems to be teetering on the edge of greatness but never quite gets there... there's always one thing or another in the way... an injury... a contract... a mental block... an untimely quote... always something.

the Packers have painted themselves in a corner a little bit here... but they knew what they were doing . this isn't a surprise to them.

the money will be there if finley blows up.
tramon, pickett, and hawk are like CD's that are just sitting and growing. the Packers'll be able to cash them in after next season... that'll open up a boatload of cash.

if eifert's there - draft him. those 2 TE sets would be sweeeeeeeeet. eifert can be the #2 TE for a year, quarless can have another year to heal... then finley can go play for the Cowboys (or Vikings - probably) and the Pack can roll with eifert and quarless.

I can dig that.

Point Packer's picture

Cow - I actually agree with you. Mark your calendars.

markinmadison's picture

+1

Point Packer's picture

A la Greg Jennings, I an see J-Mike wanting a bigger stage. I think Jennings was looking for that, and no one wanted to give it to him. And in the end, he ended up with a team in a similar, if slightly larger, market and a much smaller fan base. Surely he would have preferred NY, Dallas, hell - even Miami.

I can see J-Mike wishing for the stars, the dollars and the media glory, but in the end - going to MN because no one else wants him and TT won't pay him.

We will see. I think it really depends on production, Quarless and where the Pack goes with the upcoming draft.

Jake's picture

You're okay with drafting a TE in the first round despite our other needs? I'd love Eifert on our team as well, but I think the first pick is going to have to be either a D-lineman, O-lineman, or safety.

O-line might just be the biggest need. Maybe not on paper... but our franchise who is about to be getting paid 25 million a year, doesn't need to be taking 50 sacks every season.

cow42's picture

i'm a true believer of taking the best player.
the trailblazers passed on michael jordan because they already had a 2 guard and they needed a center... how'd that turn out?

to pick an OL or DL player in the first simply because you need one is silly.

pick the best player!

now if you have an OL player and a TE rated the same - then "yes" go OL but at #26 I think it's more likely that eifert will be rated higher than any OL or DL player available.

i guess it comes down to this for me...

in my opinion the Pack could use a playmaker at every position other than quarterback. there is no other position where they can say "yup - we're all set there".

when pick 26 pops up, if the highest rated player on their board is a CB... pick him... if it's a WR... pick him... if it's a ILB... pick him... if it's a S... pick him... if it's an OLB... pick him... and so on.

a position of perceived strength becomes a position of need with just one injury... always pick the best player.

the only position this doesn't hold true for is QB because...
1 - we already have a super star there
2 - you can only play 1 QB... this is not the case with any other position (other than P & K, of course)

So - to answer your question... "yes" i would be ok with the Pack picking a TE in R1 if he was the best available player on their board regardless of the fact that they seem to have greater needs elsewhere.

cow42's picture

oh - and if you go into a draft thinking that you're going to fill NEXT YEAR'S needs with a kid fresh out of college... you're going to end up being disappointed.

Most rookies - even first rounders - are unable to step in and be quality starters from the get go.

cow42's picture

*in to

Jake's picture

BPA available, excellent point.

Pack didn't get to be the talented team they were when they won the Super Bowl by drafting for need.

jmac34's picture

Not a huge fan of TE in the first

Cole's picture

I could see Eifert or even Justin Hunter in the first if the D-Lineman they want isn't there. I would trade up for Jarvis Jones if he slides but something tells me he'll go top 10.

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