Packers Annual Checkup: TE Jermichael Finley

Today is the 13th day of FOX Sports Wisconsin Packers writer Paul Imig’s offseason evaluations of every player on Green Bay’s roster. Click here for all of Paul’s previous evaluations and come back every day through mid-March for Paul’s in-depth film and statistical analysis. Coming up soon:

Sunday, Feb. 10: LB Robert Francois
Monday, Feb. 11: RB Ryan Grant
Tuesday, Feb. 12: RB Alex Green
Wednesday, Feb. 13:
QB Graham Harrell
Thursday, Feb. 14: RB DuJuan Harris
Friday, Feb. 15: ILB A.J. Hawk

JERMICHAEL FINLEY, TIGHT END 
Season stats: 18 games (16 regular season, two postseason); 93 targets, 66 catches, nine dropped passes, 712 yards, two touchdowns, one fumble lost; zero sacks allowed, two QB hurries allowed in 38 pass-blocking snaps; four penalties committed

Best game: Week 16 win over Tennessee (five catches, 70 yards, 30 yards after catch, zero dropped passes; season-best 2.5 PFF rating)

Worst game: Week 6 win at Houston (two catches, 12 yards, three yards after catch, one dropped pass; minus-2.0 PFF rating)

ProFootballFocus.com season rating: minus-1.5 (No. 15 out of 24 on Packers offense; No. 42 out of 62 among NFL tight ends)

Expectations at the start of the season: Medium

Expectations were … Met

Looking live: Finley signed a two-year, $15 million contract last offseason to stay in Green Bay. It was a very good annual salary for a tight end, but the short-term deal also offered protection for the Packers in case Finley had hit his ceiling of potential. Finley ended up performing at a fairly average level this season by NFL tight end standards. However, it was a tale of two mini-seasons for him. In the first eight games of the season, Finley was very inconsistent and dropped seven passes. The one positive to the first half of Finley’s season was his determination to play through a right shoulder injury that sidelines most NFL players for at least one game. That was a credit to his toughness, but Finley had his five worst performances of the season while playing through it. Once Finley recovered, he became a different player. From Week 11 through the remainder of the season, Finley played at the high level he was at in 2009 before a knee injury cost him the final 11 games in 2010. He dropped only two passes over the last nine games this season and was picking up yards after catch he hadn’t in a couple years.

Upon further review: Finley, 25, has a ton of talent. That has been apparent for years. At 6-foot-5 and 247 pounds, he has great size to be a tremendous down-the-middle receiving threat. Watching Finley in training camp as he goes through JUGS machine drills day after day, he also has great hands. That’s why it was so unexpected when Finley continually dropped passes in 2011 and at the start of the 2012 season. He did not have that problem in his breakout 2009 season (only four drops compared to 61 receptions) and didn’t drop a single pass in his four games played in 2010. Finley had admitted to being somewhat concerned when players would dive to tackle him near his surgically repaired knee. By late this season, whether it was because that hesitation was gone or his confidence just happened to return, Finley was very good in the second half of the season. He was no longer talking about chemistry issues with Aaron Rodgers and was performing well in every aspect of the game. He also had an average season as a blocker, both in the run and in the passing game.

Overall 2012 grade: B-

Status for 2013: 75 percent chance of being with the Packers next season. This decision hinges mostly on Finley’s contract. He is due a $3.5 million roster bonus in March and then has a base salary in 2013 of $4.5 million. After the first half of the 2012 season, there seemed to be no chance whatsoever Finley would be back. But, based on the second half of the season, Finley seemed to be worth the amount that he’s owed in 2013. If Andrew Quarless were healthy, he’d be the tight end currently on the roster who’s most capable of filling Finley’s shoes. However, Quarless has yet to play after undergoing significant knee surgery more than a year ago. Tom Crabtree and Ryan Taylor are not every-down players, and D.J. Williams lacks the size Finley and Quarless have. Therefore, unless the Packers draft a tight end in the first couple rounds of the draft or believe Quarless is healthy enough to step in seamlessly, Finley will likely be back to play out the final year of his contract.

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