It's been a somewhat eventful off-season for Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, with his status on the roster very much in doubt. Earlier this year, he called his chances of staying in Green Bay "50/50." This comes after many comments to the media during the 2012 season about his chemistry with Aaron Rodgers and battling inconsistency. Finley spoke out on his contract with ESPN on Wednesday, and on the surface his comments make him seem frustrated.
Finley told ESPN's Josina Anderson the following:
The Packers are barely talking to me right now ... I know they're just doing it the Packer way and playing it close to the vest ... I haven't got a call. I haven't got a text asking me to take a pay cut or to restructure my deal at this point -- not at all.
I have to say, this isn't much of a surprise - Ted Thompson doesn't tend to discuss terms of contracts with players unless he has an active interest in giving them a new deal. What's interesting is his phrase "the Packer way", which probably describes just that: Thompson prefers to keep his plans quiet, presumably to maintain a bargaining advantage.
Then the subject of Finley's current deal came up, a deal which is scheduled to pay the tight end $8.25 million with a $3 million roster bonus at the end of March. Nobody is claiming that he is producing like the top-paid tight end in the NFL, so the idea that he may take a pay cut to stay in Green Bay is a popular one among fans, but certainly not with Finley:
I'd have to walk for sure, meaning I couldn't take a pay cut. Maybe I'd restructure if it's a deal that I like and it makes sense ... Other than that, taking a pay cut or restructuring doesn't sound good to me at this time. I like my deal.
So much for that. Since Finley has one year left on his deal, the only way his contract could be restructured would be to extend him beyond the 2013 season. That is something that Ted Thompson apparently wanted to avoid when he signed him to this two-year deal before the 2012 season - the idea seemed to be to make Finley show some consistency over two seasons and truly earn another deal after this coming year. He certainly didn't have that breakout year he was looking for in 2012, and with the escalation of his contract this season, it seems ripe for elimination.
I think it's relatively safe to say that Thompson doesn't have much interest in extending Finley past 2013 at this time. Therefore, the question becomes whether the Packers are better off keeping Finley on the roster or releasing him to free up over $8 million in cap room, with no middle ground. I'm still torn on this, because a shrewd talent evaluator like Thompson can get a lot of production with that amount of money in free agency, at least in the short term.
I know the instant reaction may be to vilify Finley for these comments, to suggest that by not taking a pay cut he's greedy or unreasonable or not a team player. I urge you to think about this: who was the last NFL player who hasn't been declining due to age who truly took a pay cut? Sure, players restructure their deals to be more cap-friendly all the time, but they still get paid the same amount of total money (or more) in the years where they're already under contract. Don't vilify the man because he wants to get paid the money that he's still owed on his current contract.