So the tea leaves are now saying that Jermichael Finley is going to stick with the Packers for the 2013 season despite the inflated nature of his contract. It’s easy to underestimate Finley’s impact on the offense due to the high number of drops and heavy criticism he has received in recent years. Finley has always been a player with tons of potential and a disappointing amount of actual. Despite this, there is still plenty to be excited about with Finley’s return and what he can bring to the offense in 2013.
The biggest thing that Finley can bring to the table is the age old "matchup problems." Finley is still one of those guys who is too fast for most linebackers to cover and too big and strong for most safeties to cover. If Finley can put things together then he should be one of the key players for breaking up the Cover 2 looks that has troubled the Packers the last few years. Finley is a sizable target for Aaron Rodgers to hit over the middle and challenge a defense. This is something we got to see late in the year during 2012, when Finley settled down and started to spend more time with Rodgers in preparation.
The other nice thing about keeping Finley is that it gives the Packers one more chance to see a young talented player succeed. The need for youth cannot be overstated for the Packers on offense. Last year’s draft was very good for the defense, but the offense was left wanting for young and promising players. As a result Rodgers is hitting his prime with some question marks for playmakers on the outside. Jordy Nelson and James Jones both appear to be quite capable, but both are also in the prime of their careers and may become quite expensive to keep. Randall Cobb appears to be the real deal but needs help in order to truly exploit defenses. After these three and Finley there are plenty of good, hardworking players who appear to be role players with low talent ceilings (D.J. Williams, any of the running backs, Jarrett Boykin, etc.). Holding on to Finley for one more year gives the offense an established and legitimate threat who knows the offense, but also a player that may still be a long range contributor for Rodgers for years to come. If Finley flames out for another year it’s also a contract that will be off the books when the real cap problems begin for the Packers.
Ultimately the Packers are left hoping that the second half of Finley’s 2012 is a better indicator of who he is right now than the first half of his season. When Finley can catch the ball he is a player who can get open and be a dynamic target for Rodgers. He is a player who can stress a defense and challenge the cover 2 looks the Packers see week after week. When his head is not right and he can’t catch the ball then he can quickly become a liability. Here’s hoping the former is more the case this year.