Why the Green Bay Packers Shouldn't Trade Jermichael Finley

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Why the Green Bay Packers Shouldn't Trade Jermichael Finley
USA TODAY Sports

A number of factors should distance the Green Bay Packers from the idea of trading tight end Jermichael Finley

A hefty roster bonus paid out earlier this offseason, combined with short-term uncertainty at tight end, the later possibility of a compensatory pick and the need for playmakers without Greg Jennings each figure to preclude the Packers from seriously considering such a move. 

Of course, it's worth noting that no published report including any interest from the Packers in moving Finley exists. Such a trade is pure speculation, based loosely on a tweet from a former Packers star, the apparent hole at tight end for the New England Patriots and Finley's current contract status. 

Following the arrest and release of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, LeRoy Butler—a safety for Green Bay from 1990-2001 and a member of the Packers Hall of Fame—suggested that general manager Ted Thompson should swing a deal that would send Finley to New England. The Packers tight end is entering the final season of a two-year deal signed in 2011, and, in theory, the Patriots might be desperate to fill a new hole on their roster. 

Butler went as far as to suggest that the Packers might be able to gain a second-round pick in such a deal. 

Even for a Patriots team without Hernandez and possibly Rob Gronkowski (back surgery), it's unlikely Finley is currently worth such a return. But even if he were, the Packers have plenty of reason to hold on to their enigmatic tight end. 

For starters, Thompson paid Finley a $3 million roster bonus in March—as good a sign as any that the Packers are fully invested in their 26-year-old tight end for the 2013 season. It would be an uncharacteristic change of face for Thompson to take the bonus hit and then turn around and deal Finley before the season even starts. 

One look at the Packers depth chart at tight end provides evidence for why Thompson was eventually willing to pay the $3 million bonus. 

Behind Finley, the Packers have a bunch of question marks. 

Andrew Quarless, a starter during Green Bay's Super Bowl run in 2010-11, is still on the comeback trail after a devastating knee injury cost him the better part of the last season and a half. While developing into a capable blocking tight end before the injury, Quarless has just 24 career receptions. 

D.J. Williams won the John Mackey Award as college football's best tight end in 2011, but he's been mostly a disappointment as a receiver in Green Bay. Always a helmet-and-shorts All-Pro during OTAs and training camp, Williams has struggled to put it all together once the pads come on. He has just nine career catches in 26 games and doesn't have a go-to skill. 

Former seventh-round pick Ryan Taylor is still mostly a special-teams player, while free-agent addition Matthew Mulligan was signed to fill the void left by Tom Crabtree as a blocking tight end. 

Undrafted free agents Brandon Bostick and Jake Stoneburner are both intriguing options, but each is young and lacking experience. Neither can be counted on to be an immediate impact player. 

These realities at tight end would make it very difficult for the Packers to deal Finley and still feel confident in the position, especially in 2013. A team with Super Bowl aspirations would be hard to justify creating such an unnecessary hole on the roster less than a month before training camp. 

The compensation—even at a second-round level—simply doesn't make up for the creation of such a hole.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Finley is entering a contract season in Green Bay.

A second-round pick from the Patriots would likely end up in the later portion of the round. A top-60 pick is hardly enough to miss out on Finley in a contract year, especially given the NFL's compensatory-pick system. 

If Finley walks following the 2013 season and signs a lucrative deal in free agency, the Packers could receive up to a third-round pick in return. Very few losses actually fetch a third-rounder, but Green Bay could be confident in receiving decent compensation for Finley if he leaves in free agency.

The Packers would then have somewhat simple math: A full year of a motivated Finley plus a potential mid-round compensatory pick or a late second-rounder and the loss of the offense's third-leading receiver? 

For as accomplished and talented as quarterback Aaron Rodgers is, the loss of both Finley and Jennings in one offseason would be a tough pill to swallow. 

Jennings, who caught 425 passes for 6,537 yards and 53 touchdowns over seven seasons in Green Bay, bolted for more money with the Minnesota Vikings in free agency. The Packers are still mostly set at receiver, but Jennings leaves Green Bay as one of the game's top route-runners and a versatile, explosive weapon. 

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The Packers could count on Jennings to be effective in the slot, outside and as a vertical receiver. He was a difference-maker, and offenses don't get better by losing those types of players. 

Finley may not be on the same level as Jennings in terms of consistency and production, but he's still expected to be a playmaker—especially after losing Jennings. There now figures to be more opportunities in the Packers offense, and it wouldn't be crazy to think Finley will pick up at least a portion of the slack. 

Listening to the coaching staff this offseason, you'd at least expect Finley to get the chance. 

Dating back to the end of last season, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has been highly complimentary of his tight end. 

"I really think the bye week he had an opportunity to step away and change some things," McCarthy told Ty Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He was a different guy. He was focused and productive in the second half of the season."

After Green Bay's bye, Finley caught 37 of his 49 targets for 441 yards and a score. His drops declined, and his role in the offense increased.

McCarthy continued his praise following minicamps and OTAs, per Kevin Seifert of ESPN:

I think Jermichael looks excellent. He has put weight back on. He's back where I like to see him, the playing weight that he's playing with. He's stronger. He's playing with more confidence…I really like the offseason that Jermichael has put together so far.

McCarthy obviously doesn't make personnel decisions, but one could confidently say he would back Finley in any conversation with Thompson about dealing the tight end.

The Packers don't even have to worry about Finley's above-market salary in 2013 ($8.25 million), as the team still sits over $16 million under the cap. Saving the $4.45 million by dealing Finley isn't a pressing need.

But in the end, any discussion of a deal is unlikely to be had this offseason. 

The Packers have invested in Finley for 2013, and factors such as positional depth, future compensatory picks and other offensive losses make it very unlikely that Green Bay will entertain the idea of dealing Finley before next season. Nor should they.

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