20

February

Green Bay Packers Franchise Tag Primer

TE Jermichael Finley

Tagging Jermichael Finley is one option for the Green Bay Packers this offseason.

Starting today, all 32 NFL teams will have the ability to place the franchise tag on one player of their choosing. The deadline for applying said tag is Monday, April 5, eight days before free agency begins.

The underlying purpose of the franchise tag is for teams to have the option of retaining a player with an expiring contract if a long-term agreement can’t be had before free agency begins.  Unlike previous seasons, in which a franchised player would receive the average salary of the five highest paid players at his position, the NFL’s new CBA introduces a complicated formula that now controls what the number for each position will be.

For 2012, the numbers figure out as such:

QB: $14.4 million in 2012; down from $16.1 million in 2011

RB: $7.7 million in 2012; down from $9.6 million in 2011

WR: $9.4 million in 2012; down from 11.4 million in 2011

TE: $5.4 million in 2012; down from $7.3 million in 2011

OL: $9.4 million in 2012; down from $10.1 million in 2011

DE: $10.6 million in 2012; down from $13 million in 2011

DT: $7.9 million in 2012; down from $12.5 million in 2011

LB: $8.8 million in 2012; down from $10.1 million in 2011

CB: $10.6 million in 2012; down from $13.5 million in 2011

S: $6.2 million in 2012; down from $8.8 million in 2011

Since Ted Thompson took over as GM in 2005, the Packers have used the franchise tag just twice.

DT Corey Williams received the tag in 2006 and then was traded to the Cleveland Browns for a second-round pick, and DL Ryan Pickett got the tag in 2010 but worked out a four-year, $25 million deal shortly thereafter.

In 2012, it’s widely assumed that the Packers will be using their tag on one of three players: quarterback Matt Flynn, tight end Jermichael Finley or center Scott Wells.

Let’s quickly run down each of those options:

TE JERMICHAEL FINLEY
6-5, 247 lbs
2011: 55 catches, 767 yards, 8 touchdowns

12

August

Who to Sign? Packers in the Final Years of their Contracts (2012 Free Agents)

The 2011 free agency period is finally winding down, but it’s never too early to look ahead to next season’s potential Packers free agents. Scanning through the list below, it’s clear that GM Ted Thompson and the Packers have some difficult decisions ahead of them next offseason.

Thompson has been active in locking up key players before they hit the free agent market, and I’d expect that trend to continue as this year unfolds. Remember, this free agency period could have been considerably more tricky if the Packers wouldn’t have re-signed guys like Desmond Bishop and Tramon Williams before their contracts ended. So, while this list looks daunting right now, that will likely change before next season’s free agency.

 

PACKERS 2012 FREE AGENT LIST (Type, 2011 salary)

LB Diryal Briggs (RFA, $480,000)

Briggs, 25, was an adequate fill-in on special teams after a barrage of injuries hit the linebacking corps. He totaled two special teams tackles in five games during the regular season and two more in four playoffs. However, Briggs is a long shot to make the 2011 roster with so many players returning from IR and the drafting of Ricky Elmore and D.J. Smith.

CB Jarrett Bush (UFA, $1.4 million)

There was backlash when the Packers matched the Titans offer sheet to Bush back in 2009, but he’s shed most of his negative labels with strong play on special teams and a surprising interception in the Super Bowl. After next season, Bush’s contract will once again be up, and there will be several factors that determine if he’s retained.

Does he continue to show his leadership on special teams? If that’s the case, Bush is more than worth bringing back. But if he slips in that area, or any of the other backups in the secondary show signs of life, Bush’s roster spot might not be as penciled in after 2011 as it is heading into it.

TE Jermichael Finley (UFA, $1.2 million)

It’s going to be the elephant in the room in 2011. And really, the Packers are in a tough spot. Finley is one of those rare, unmistakeable talents that the Packers would be crazy to let go to another franchise without any compensation in return. But on the other hand, Finley has been hurt in each of the last two seasons, and that has to give management pause when thinking about the kind of money they’ll likely have to throw his way.

15

July

2011 Season Will Determine Jermichael Finley’s Future in Green Bay

Whether he’d admit it or not, Packers tight end Jermichael Finley is likely about to face the most important season in his NFL career. And don’t get me wrong—every season is an important one when you are a professional playing in the “Not For Long” league. But 2011 stands to be a make-or-break year for the Packers talented but oft-injured tight end.

In fact, Finley’s entire future with the Packers might come down to how his 2011 season works out.

Finley has come a long ways since the Packers drafted him in April of 2008. Taken in the third round and 91st overall, Finley came into the league as a physically superior athlete but mentally raw football player. Remember, Finley left Texas after just two seasons and arrived in Green Bay as a starry-eyed 21-year-old.

But the talent Finley possessed was evident from the second he stepped onto the practice field. You could just tell by looking at him. He’s an imposing figure and he had the athleticism to take advantage of his size from the get-go.

Still, that combination didn’t guarantee Finley anything at this level. In fact, Finley was inactive for the first two weeks of his rookie season and didn’t catch a pass in the five games that followed. Then came his showing in Tennessee.

He caught his first NFL pass—good for six yards—but it’s the passes he didn’t catch and his reaction to it that gave us our first real glimpse at the young tight end. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked to Finley in two separate situations—including one near the goal line on fourth down—and the passes fell incomplete.

After the game, in which the Packers lost in overtime, Finley frustratingly threw both his coaches and Rodgers under the bus when he told the media that he needed to be used better and that the quarterback needed to throw better balls.

Those comments obvious didn’t sit well with many inside the Packers organization, and they shouldn’t have. Finley got the privilege of a nice chat in Mike McCarthy’s office the following week, and all the apologies were made.

To be fair, all 21-year-olds need that one “duh” moment, even in the NFL. Finley had his in Tennessee. And to his credit, Finley has seemingly been a much different player since Week 8 of 2008.