When you see Jermichael Finley on the football field, the words gifted, athletic and standout instantly come to mind. But so do the words cocky, showboat and selfish.
Finley, in his three-and-a-half seasons with the Packers, has fulfilled all of these labels.
He is currently in his contract year, and the Packers have yet to lock him up in a multi-year contract extension like they have done with the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Desmond Bishop and, most recently, Josh Sitton and Jordy Nelson. Ted Thompson and company have done their due diligence in recognizing talent and also realizing the cost of these players will be less now than when they reach the free-agent status.
With Finley, this has not happened. The reasons for this may be those characteristics described above or the fact that Finley has been somewhat injury prone in his short career.
When Finley burst on the scene as a rookie in 2008, he immediately showed why he was a third-round pick after entering the draft following his sophomore season. He was an imposing figure at 6'5" and 250 lbs with the ability to run like a wide receiver and jumping exploits that came from his basketball playing days.
He also came to be known as somewhat immature, but he was only 21 at the time. This immaturity may also have been the reason why he was the seventh tight end picked in the draft that year.
Furthermore, only two of the tight ends picked ahead of him, Dustin Keller of the New York Jets and Fred Davis of the Washington Redskins, are productive starters in the NFL this year. Even Martellus Bennett, from nearby Texas A&M, was picked by the Dallas Cowboys before Finley. Bennett continues to be a disappointment as a backup tight end to Jason Witten.
Attempting to determine if Finley has indeed matured can be somewhat challenging. In his rookie year, he came out against Rodgers by complaining that the Packers new franchise quarterback was not utilizing his special talents enough. Never mind that he (Finley) didn't know the playbook. And early in the '09 season against Cincinnati, his false start penalty erased any chances of a huge Packers' comeback victory.
After losing much of his season last year to a knee injury, Finley came into this year with high expectations. He was living up to those lofty expectations, especially in a three-touchdown performance against the Bears in Chicago. The problem came in the very next game when Finley, in spite of getting double-teamed throughout the game, complained he didn't get the ball enough. This observation came in a game in which the Packers blew out Denver by scoring 49 points.
In an article today by Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press Gazette, Finley seems to have turned a corner.
“I want to stay here, no doubt,” Finley said. “This is a town, this is a team, (an) organization, you couldn’t ask for more. If they came to a conclusion (on a contract), I would look into it. I want to be a Packer for life, for sure. Hands down, I think this is the best organization for me."
He went on to add: “You can’t ask for a better city just because there’s nothing to do, for one thing. I’m going to be real with you, there’s less trouble you can get into. It’s first class in everything they do—contracts, around the building—everything’s first class. I love it..."
Jermichael Finley is, without a doubt, a special talent that doesn't come along often. He has had some standout games, but he has also been injury prone and has appeared selfish at times. The Packers also have an unheard of number of tight ends on their current roster with five. No other NFL team has four.
The question remains: Has Finley matured and proven he will be worth the money and cap hit of a multi-year contract, or does the Packers' depth at his position make him all but expendable at the end of this season? The answer remains to be seen.