As the 2011 NFL season begins to draw to a close, teams are starting to look ahead to who they should re-sign. I have already written an article about why I think the Green Bay Packers should franchise tag Scott Wells if they cannot reach an agreement. The article can be found here.
However, that by no means indicates that I think the Packers should let Jermichael Finley go. There are three key reasons as to why Finley should be retained, all of which the Packers should contemplate when they begin offseason preparations.
Whenever you hear players, coaches, analysts or even fans talk about Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, they always mention one thing: pure physical ability.
Whether it’s his enormous, freakish size, his vertical speed or basketball-esque jumping ability, Finley always has the ability to make a play, regardless of where he is on the field.
These attributes are most evident during a game at the most important part of the field: the end-zone. Whether it’s Finley cutting behind the linebackers in order to make a play or simply out-jumping a cornerback or safety, Finley will always have an advantage over the defense within the red-zone.
However, what people don’t often talk about are the mental aspects that he brings to the Packers and the opposing defenses.
Over the course of the week while preparing for the Green Bay Packers’ offense, defensive coordinators always have to pay additional attention to Jermichael Finley because of the mismatch he presents over any of the players on the defensive side of the ball. Typically, this results in the coordinator being required to assign more than one player to cover Finley.
The additional coverage used on Finley opens up opportunities to the vicarious Packers receiving corps. During the course of any of the past few seasons, games in which Finley is shut out in terms of catches (not due to dropped passes), one will notice the rise in big plays for the receivers and in turn, an increase in points.
The opposite can happen as well. If a defense doesn’t pay enough attention to Finley, they will get regularly burned. This is due to Rodgers' ability to instantly identify when he has a mismatch. One of the most popular cases of this happening is the first matchup of the 2011 season, between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. During the game, a lack of proper coverage on Finley resulted in the gigantic tight end scoring three touchdowns on the vaunted Bears defense.
In spite of all of this, people will claim that Jermichael Finley’s immaturity can be a cancer to the Packers' locker room. However, this will not always be the case.
First off, Finley is only 24 years old. Let that sink in for a bit. The tight end is finishing up his rookie contract and will only be 24 years old when he signs his next one. This is one of the biggest factors in my eyes for wanting to re-sign Finley. People who don’t prefer Finley are constantly calling out his lack of maturity.
However, with Finley’s kids growing up along with him growing up as a player, the immaturity will gradually turn into a veteran leadership that the Packers locker room will need following the inevitable retirement of future Hall-of-Famer Charles Woodson.
Even in the present, Finley’s passion brings a sort of edginess to the Packers. He is never afraid to talk about his coaches (in both good and bad terms), and is always wanting to make an impact. His vocal presence brings attention to a team shrouded by the lack of a big city, attention that a team on the verge of history deserves.
Clearly, Finley is still a bit raw, but that should only be thought of in a positive sense. His current attributes and future potential should be more than enough to convince the Packers' brass to re-sign him, but the intangibles should only further Finley’s cause.
He has said that he wants to be a Green Bay Packer for life, and I see no reason as to why the Packers should have it any other way.