Many have speculated that the Packers would be forced to use the franchise tag on Finley, who at 24 years old looked ready to command a top tight end salary on the open market if he remained unsigned by March 13. It was also widely assumed that Finley would argue for the receiver franchise tag tender, which is about $4 million more than what a tight end would receive from the tag in 2012.
This deal avoids any mess that a franchise tag battle could have created between the two sides.
With a two-year deal at around $7.5 million a year, the Packers might have gotten the best of both worlds.
While the money splits the franchise tag numbers for tight ends and receivers almost down the middle, a two-year deal allows Finley to show the Packers brass that he is worth a longer-term deal down the road. Finley will be just 26 years old when he re-enters free agency again in 2014.
An agreement between the Packers and Finley seemed far apart as recently as late last month, and some opined that no deal would come about between the two sides, especially after an inconsistent and sometimes frustrating 2011 season.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy made it very clear after the season how big a cog Finley was in the Packers offense.
“He wants to be a great player and thinks he’s going to be a great player. With his talent level, that’s half the battle,” McCarthy said in his final press conference of the season. “I look for him to continuing to develop and establishing himself definitely as one of the (great) tight ends, Pro Bowl tight ends, in this league.”
Finley caught 55 passes for 767 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011 after missing 11 of the Packers 16 regular season games in 2010 with a knee injury.——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.