Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 1/23/12

With Ryan Grant, Donald Driver, Jermichael Finley, Scott Wells, and Matt Flynn all free agents and the Green Bay Packers needing some drastic upgrades on the defensive side of the football, Pack general manager Ted Thompson has some major decisions to make this off-season.

Of the aforementioned names, Finley’s is the most intriguing.  He is one of the most dynamic tight ends in the game (ya know, when he isn’t dropping passes), but should the Packers be willing to give him a long-term extension and for how much?

The M.O. of Thompson has been and likely always will be building through the draft and then signing his own players to extensions rather than scouring the free agent market for already established names.  Our friends at WalterFootball.com rank Finley as the top free agent tight end in the 2012 class.  With play-makers at that position hard to come by, Finley should have plenty of suitors in free agency.

This past season, he finished 11th among tight ends with 767 receiving yards and third with eight touchdowns.  However, his 14 drops were the most among tight ends and became a prolonged problem as the season progressed.  Finley is also one of the more outspoken players in the Packers’ locker room, never afraid to actually say what is on his mind which could be viewed as disruptive to the team.

Since he only turns 25 years old in March, there is still plenty of room for improvement and while the Packers have quality, young depth at the position with guys like Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams, and Ryan Taylor; none of those guys posses Finley’s ability to stretch the field.

The Green Bay Press Gazette reported that the Packers are interested in signing Finley to a long-term extension and head coach Mike McCarthy spoke very highly of Finley’s work ethic at his end of the year press conference.  If Finley’s price tag is too high, Packers could use their franchise tag which would mean he would likely make around $5.4 million next season.  However, the green and gold could also use their franchise tag on Flynn in hopes of dealing him and getting some draft picks in return.

We know Thompson will be aggressive in trying to bring Finley back to Title Town since he is still a vital part of the Packers’ offense and causes match-up nightmares for opposing defenses.  We also know that Thompson will not overpay a player and put the team’s salary cap situation in limbo especially with the multiple decisions that need to be made this off-season.

When it is all said and done, I think Finley is still sporting the green and gold next season.  There is just no way in hell that Thompson will open up his wallet and give Finley a Vernon Davis-type (6-years, more than $42 million which he signed at the beginning of the 2010 season.)  I would guess it will be somewhere around the three or four year variety at around five-million dollars per season which would still give Finley a chance to become a free agent when he is 28 and cash in on one more big deal.

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