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Packers by Position Offseason Preview: Tight Ends

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Packers by Position Offseason Preview: Tight Ends

Over the course of the next several days Cheesehead TV will have a brief position-by-position offseason preview, taking a look at what's in store for the Green Bay Packers in free agency and the NFL Draft..

Overview

Jermichael Finley may not have been in the same category as Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, but when healthy, he was easily in that second-tier of tight ends that could stretch the field.

Unfortunately for Finley, a spinal injury has clouded his future and must be treated with sensitivity. Further complicating matters is that he's scheduled to be a free agent in March, and it's not likely the Packers will have determined by then whether it's safe for him to return to play football or not.

After Finley went down, the Packers increased the role of Andrew Quarless, whose production increased as the season wore on. He's the classic in-line tight end capable of both receiving and blocking, but Quarless was just "middle of the road" in both facets of the game.

Perhaps being yet one more season removed from a gruesome knee injury originally suffered in 2011 will help Quarless regain some of the athleticism he lost.

Minus Finley, Brandon Bostick emerged as the team's best receiving threat at tight end, the type that could be split outside and create match-up problems for those covering him.

In limited playing time, Bostick showed promise, averaging 17.1 yards per catch, before his season was likewise ended by a foot injury.

Ryan Taylor provides depth but his calling card is special teams. And rookie Jake Stoneburner must show more than he did in his rookie campaign to stick around for another season.

 

Long-Range Free Agency Outlook

Jermichael Finley––It might be in bad taste to poke fun at at a player who suffered such a serious injury, but Finley saying he won't return to Green Bay at a discount is downright laughable.

For a player in his situation, there isn't a team in the NFL that's going to pay him in the range of $7 million per season he got from the Packers the past two seasons, at least with the next contract he signs.

The Packers erred on the side of caution with safety Nick Collins and could easily do the same with Finley.

And even if the free agent tight end does find a team willing to take the risk, it's perhaps likely Finley signs a short-term, prove-it contract before any team will be willing to make any significant investment in terms of both dollars and years.

The Packers might welcome Finley back for the right price if the doctors clear him to return, but they also aren't going to be rushed into such a decision.

Finley has the fallback option of receiving a $10 million in disability from an insurance policy if he can't play football again.

Andrew Quarless––Even though they're different types of tight ends, Quarless' value to the Packers might be tied to Finley.

If Finley signs elsewhere, the Packers might be more inclined to re-sign Quarless so they don't have to start from scratch at the tight end position.

Still, Quarless isn't above replacement value. If the Packers were to lose both Finley and Quarless, they'll likely be forced to look for a high-round replacement in the draft.

 

Long-Range NFL Draft Outlook

The Packers probably can't afford to assume Finley will play again, and even if he does, he may not be the same player he was before injury.

Taking that into account, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Packers spend a high-round draft choice on the new breed of tall, athletic tight ends to give Aaron Rodgers another toy to play with.

Eric Ebron of North Carolina, Jace Amaro of Texas Tech and Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington are almost unanimously considered the top three tight ends in this year's draft class and all figure to be off the board before the end of the second round.

There would appear to be a dropoff after the top three tight ends, and if the Packers don't get one, they'll probably have to decide how Quarless, Bostick and Stoneburner fit into their future plans in comparison to any rookies they may add.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: on Comments (40) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Buster's picture

Finley won't be back, maybe no where in the NFL. Sure hope the Pack can do better than Quarless as a starter in 2014. Need to use a high draft pick, 1-3, on a TE no matter what. Ebron or Amaro would work for me.

Evan's picture

I've said many times, but I think IF Finley plays, it'll be with the Packers on a small, 1-year deal.

That said, I agree with Buster - they need to draft a TE within the first 3 rounds. I don't love the idea of drafting one in the 1st round, but it seems that's where the talent is (whereas safety, for example, is deep in 2nd round talent).

Buster's picture

...small, 1-year deal.

That's true. It also might be the only offer he receives from anyone. But only if the doctors say he can play. That's the hurdle.

Evan's picture

Of course. That's why I put "IF" in all caps...to signify the scale of it.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Yeah, we have talked about this before to Evan. That if Finley can play, his odds of playing will be higher for the Packers then other teams.
I just have a hard time seeing him playing again.

If the Packers are going to draft a TE high, they will have to go with one of the top 3, because there is a big drop off. And they will likely have to draft one in the 1st round.
I think they can find ILB, and S in the 2nd-3rd rounds that can play, more then they will find a TE that could play right away.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I personally feel that TE is one of the Packers top needs.
I am assuming Finley will be gone whether he plays again or not. And if he were to come back will he be the same player? Its a valid question.
Quarless really improved as the season went on and another year removed from his injury should help. I am expecting them to resign Quarless.

I really like Bostick. But he is a #2 TE. Not a #1. But he could be a hell of a #2 TE. He has very good hands and has a knack for making big plays.

I would love to see the Packers get Ebron, Amaro, or Seferian-Jenkins, but they would have to take one in the 1st round to do so. They could possibly trade back and still get one.
An area that all 3 could help out is in the Redzone. Adding a 6'5, 6'6 TE would provide a great option.

I would prefer one of the top 3 TE's, because there is a big drop off, but I would think if they could get a mid round TE, he should still be better then Taylor and Stoneburner.

Stroh's picture

I think the Packers sit tight at TE this year. They'll want to give Quarless a chance to develop into a starter and that gives them time to see if Finley can get cleared and possibly signed. I don't think Finley, w/ his injury status getting a big money contract. If he's cleared the Packers might be able to get him for a reasonable price. Hold off on TE this year, go Defensive in rd 1 and 2 and draft a WR to develop in rd 3. That's how I would approach it.

We've got enough playmakers on offense to give Quarless a chance to take the TE job and see if Finley can come back.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Honestly, that's what I'm thinking too.. I think they will sit with the TE's they have. Probably add a mid to late draft pick at the position.

I think the will resign Quarless and hope that Bostick develops more next year.

I don't think they will view TE as a high priority. Similar to how they didn't view RB and S as high priority's the last couple of years.

G-man's picture

Agree.......

Derek in CO's picture

Packers doctors won't clear Finley, no way, not after Nick Collins. We need to draft an impact TE, not another guy.

This site is a good one for rankings of positions and mock drafts. best I've found:

http://walterfootball.com/draft2014TE.php

RC Packer Fan's picture

That's a very good site Derek. I use that one a lot actually.

HUMP's picture

site is not even close to cbs draft scout.com

Stroh's picture

Agree CBS is much better. Best I've found... Walters in ok, but not nearly as good as CBS.

L's picture

I'd add that I think the Pack might also consider bringing in a Free Agent or maybe two depending on the results of the draft to bolster the competition at the position and when looking at the Free Agent TEs I think the team will be keying-in on TEs who can in-line block for the improved run game.

This doesn't mean they'll be considering any of the top free agents or be signing one in the first few days of free agency, but will be looking to bargain shop one or two.

RC Packer Fan's picture

http://walterfootball.com/freeagents2014TE.php

This is a list of free agent TE's.

I don't see the Packers going that route. But you never know I guess... They did try bringing in Mulligan last year.

Evan's picture

A guy like Scott Chandler kind of interests me...

6'7", 29 years old, decent production in an average Bills offense (53 recs, 655 yards, 2 tds in 2013 - 43/571/6 in 2012). Seems like a mid-level FA who shouldn't command a huge deal.

RC Packer Fan's picture

And that is with a mess of a QB situation. Not bad numbers really.

I haven't seen him play, so I couldn't tell you how good or bad he is...

But knowing their situation with the revolving door of QB's, I can understand if his numbers suffered from that.

Evan's picture

Maybe $2 mil last year and $1.8 the year before. That's TT type of money.

He's not a star, but he and Quarless could hold the fort down for a season while allowing the Pack to address defensive needs early.

Just spit balling, though.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Yeah, I agree with you there... I could see Thompson making a move like that.

He could potentially be a good player with the Packers. With him, Quarless and Bostick, they would have some good options there. Not great, but good.

Phatgzus's picture

Yeah, he interest me as well.

Point Packer's picture

I go back and forth on Quarless.

On one hand, like to seem him retained at a reasonable price and then get a shot to flourish as a starter. Take a risk and spare using a draft pick at the TE position. He showed flashes during our SB run....way back when.

On the other, the guy appears to have a ceiling and will be nothing more than an average blocker and receiver. A good #2 TE, but no one you want to lean on day in and day out.

I tend to lean toward the latter. He's as much a 50/50 FA signing as anybody on GB's lengthy FA list.

The TKstinator's picture

What is the timeline for Finley receiving medical clearance? Will it be before the draft? At this point It sure seems like he'll go the same route as Nick Collins. But heck, if he wants to make a miracle recovery AND sign a "reasonable" deal, I'm sure the Packers could somehow find a spot on the roster for him.

I would LOVE IT if GB could add talent at TE, S, and ILB in the first 3 rounds, in any order, as long as all 3 players can at least contribute in 2014.

ASSUMING there are no FA additions at any of those spots. And that is LIKELY a safe assumption.

The TKstinator's picture

Kiko Alonso 2nd rounder
Keenan Allen 3rd rounder

It can be done.

Black packer's picture

Get a fast outside lb barro ucla TE ebron then find some quality free agents we need a S that's why I secondary in soft .

The TKstinator's picture

I think ILB is weaker than OLB

But heck I'll take ANY LB that is above replacement.

Phatgzus's picture

Yup, Mosely's the only one projected in the 1st round (or anywhere near it for that matter), granted it's purdy darn early, but if that doesn't change, someone is likely going to reach for him.

Hank Scorpio's picture

It's a shame about Finley. He looked like a different player this year to me. The one everyone hoped he could be. He was running through DBs like only a guy with his rare combo of size and speed can. If he could have kept it up, he'd be staring at a HUGE deal from the Packers or someone else.

Albert Lingerfeld's picture

First, I hope Finley is doing fine and recovering. Second, I don't see how he can come back. This was a neck injury that required surgery. Based on his position and all the hits, I think he is done. Hate to say it but sounds like a Collins thing. If so wish him best of luck.
I agree if he is cleared to come back it will be on the cheap. Who would risk big money on him.

HUMP's picture

yes. expect typical thompson off season!!!! draft and develop is fine except...... you lose your best players to free agency and career ending injury and then try to replace the best players you've drafted and developed with md jennings and brad jones!!! mark my words!!! thompson will not let his ego grab any free agent like daryl smith or jon beason or antoine bethea for a reasonable deal,instead he will give us....'WE LIKE OUR OWN PLAYERS' story again and we will have the same horseshit defense that looks half the speed as seattle san fran or carolina. but this is the exact same post i put here last year, and im sure i will be sayin the same shit again next year,as another year of aaron rodgers career passes us by!!!

The TKstinator's picture

But I don't think it's because of ego.

Stroh's picture

I agree... I don't get where everyone thinks he's got this huge ego. If anything he's very understated and humble. He doesn't seek credit or self-aggrandize himself. Tries to stay out of the limelight and gives credit to others. Quietly goes about his job. I'm sure he's self-confident, but that doesn't equal a huge ego by any means.

Phatgzus's picture

I think a big part of it is the way he celebrates (or used to-not a jab at his injury, he actually lessened the frequency) after virtually every catch; that's generally viewed as showboating or grandstanding-a cocky behavior-even though it could just be genuine pride and exuberance.

Another part may be that he's not the greatest of intellectuals so his the way he verbally expresses himself may misrepresent his true nature.

Thirdly-this is the big one for me-he's so damn talented but has underwhelmed for so much of his career that, having been spoiled by watching players of Rodgers', Brett's, Sterling's, Jordy's, the Minister's, etc. caliber, it's so damn angry to be frustrated when he doesn't meet expectations.

That's my two bucks anyway.

Phatgzus's picture

Crap, thought you meant Finley not TT.

People don't like TT because be doesn't sign every big name FA every year, it's ridiculous.

Jamie's picture

Not to pick nits, but...

1. Didn't Finley say the 'no discount' comment prior to his injury? If so, it really becomes moot.
2. Considering #1, or even if you don't, the fact that there are at least a few different ways to reference the comment if deemed important...it does really come across in poor taste and unnecessary, because you're using it for effect when it's not funny in any way, and the desired effect is inconsequential to your point.

Just think you're better than that, Brian.

Brian Carriveau's picture

There's a date for the comment if you follow the link.

4thand1's picture

So Finley says he's 99.9% healthy and ready to play. He said that's what his DR. told him. We still have to wait for the good DR. to tell the rest of the world. Time will tell.

Stroh's picture

Finley's got no reason to lie about it. Its not like anyone is gonna sign him till he passes a physical anyway. If he says he's nearly healthy, have to believe its true.

RC Packer Fan's picture

That's interesting. I didn't hear that.

He said he was 99% healthy and ready to play?

So by that he is saying that he will be cleared to play again?

If true, I think there is a decent chance he comes back to Green Bay. Not many teams will be willing to shell out a lot of $ at him with the injury. I could see him coming back on a 1 or 2 year deal.

Phatgzus's picture

It only takes one...*cough, hack*-Vikings-*wheeze, gasp*.

redlights's picture

Quarless or Kuhn will be back, but not both. I can see either way, won't handicap it nor show preference. .... At this time.

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