The tenure of one of the most polarizing players in the recent history of the Green Bay Packers may be coming to an end after the 2012 season.
Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Saturday that “barring a shocking turn of events,” tight end Jermichael Finley will not be returning to Green Bay next season.
Sources familiar with the Packers’ thinking say the club not only wants to get rid of Finley but has decided to do exactly that in the off-season.
It means that if the Packers cannot find a trade partner, they are prepared to release Finley because of financial, competitive and behavioral reasons.
McGinn’s report is a eulogy of sorts for Finley’s time in Green Bay. And taken at face value, any looming decision to part ways appears to come down to money, performance and attitude.
Finley, who has 43 catches for 464 yards and three touchdowns this season, is due $4.45 million in base salary in 2013, plus a $3.5 million roster bonus and $300,000 workout bonus. The roster bonus is owed on Mar. 15, giving the Packers a definitive timeline for any trade or potential release.
According to McGinn, Finley will earn $500,000—or his prorated portion of his original signing bonus—regardless of the Packers’ decision. But Green Bay can clear millions in cap room from their books by releasing or trading Finley, money they could then use to in new deals for Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji or even upcoming free agent Greg Jennings.
A trade seems unlikely given Finley’s contract situation for 2013, but there are tight end-needy teams in the NFL landscape right now, including Reggie McKenzie and the Oakland Raiders.
If Finley was released, the Packers would still have four veterans at the tight end position. D.J. Williams, Tom Crabtree, Ryan Taylor and Andrew Quarless have all played meaningful snaps over the last three seasons.
According to NFL personnel scouts McGinn spoke to, Finley’s loss wouldn’t be significant. Ranked by one as the 22nd best tight end in the NFL, Finley was also bashed for his attitude, effort, blocking, route running and, of course, ability to catch the football. The 6-5, 245-pound tight end leads the position in drops over the last two seasons.
For better or worse, Finley has also been one of the most candid and free-talking members of the Packers locker room. For many, it appears, that act has grown tired.
Since being drafted in the third round (91st overall) in the 2008 NFL draft, Finley has 180 catches for 2,282 yards and 17 touchdowns.