The tight end class of free agents for the 2013 offseason was deep even before the possibility of Jermichael Finley being released by the Green Bay Packers came up a few months ago. The class included talented pass catchers such as Jared Cook, Martellus Bennett, and Dustin Keller. Today Finley was due a $3 million roster bonus and the Packers let it pass without cutting the 5 year veteran, bringing his total 2013 salary to $8.25 million. For better or worse, Finley will be a Packer in 2013.
Retaining Finley became a more viable option once it was certain that wide receiver Greg Jennings was leaving for a new team; he joined the rival Minnesota Vikings to replace recently traded receiver Percy Harvin. While the Packers had the depth at receiver to let Jennings walk in free agency–the team still has Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and James Jones–replacing Finley and all his athleticism at the tight end position would have been more of a challenge now that the options listed above are already signed to new teams.
I agree whole-heartedly with the Packers’ decision to retain Finley. First off, he is a familiar target for quarterback Aaron Rodgers which is a big deal after the loss of Jennings. Second, he makes the middle of the field a danger area for opposing defenses should they become too focused on Nelson, Cobb, or Jones. Lastly, the case can be made that Finley has yet to reach his true potential. His first 3 years in the league were hampered by injuries as he missed 16 games over that span. In 2011, Finley had his best year grabbing 55 receptions for 767 yards and 8 touchdowns before taking a step backwards in 2012. The silver lining from the past 2 seasons is that he played in all 32 games, and with a favorite target in Jennings gone expect Finley’s targets to increase in 2013.
Overall, the Packers have remained mostly idle as free agency has passed by ever since March 12th, but the move to retain Finley keeps them somewhat level relative to years past.