He's probably one of the toughest free agent decisions the Green Bay Packers have had to make in a while.
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Mike McCarthy noted recently that one of Finley's goals in 2011 was just to stay healthy. He missed a few games in 2009, and missed nearly the entire 2010 season. The potential has always been there, but the inconsistency was on display last season too. He's still very young (he'll turn 25 next month) and he's still got room for improvement.
He's not a Pro Bowl caliber player yet, but he's someone the opposing defense always has to account for because he can be a match-up nightmare. Defenses that attacked him (i.e. knocked him down as often as they could get away with) had some success, but as a tight end, he's often going to get sucked in on blocking assignments that could take away the threat of him down field.
I think they have to re-sign him. But for how much? 49ers TE Vernon Davis comes to mind, and he received a six-year, $42 million contract in 2010. But Davis had caught 13 touchdowns the season before while Finley has only caught 15 for his entire four-year career. Former Packer TE Evan Moore recently signed for two-years and almost $6 million, but that seems too low. Finley might be somewhere in the middle, $5 to $6 million per year, and he might end up with a contract similar to C Scott Wells (five-years, $25 to $30 million).
Sometimes a player reaches free agency because the Packers have no intention of re-signing them, which is what they did in recent years with Daryn Colledge, Cullen Jenkins, and Aaron Kampman. But Finley doesn't seem to be in that group. Coming into the 2011 season, it wasn't clear whether Finley could stay healthy for a full season. He's proven he can be durable, but he can become an even better blocker and receiver. If the Packers really believe in him, they might have caught a break because he could be more expensive in a year or two.
What will the Packers do with Jermichael Finley next season?
Re-sign him (866 votes)
Let him go (252 votes)
1118 total votes