INDIANAPOLIS – If the Green Bay Packers don’t plan on bringing tight end Jermichael Finley back, someone probably needs to tell coach Mike McCarthy.
Listening to McCarthy speak Friday afternoon at the NFL Scouting Combine, it’s almost impossible to imagine the Packers releasing Finley in an effort to save themselves from the $8.25 million they owe him in 2013. Finley is due a $3 million roster bonus next month, and while general manager Ted Thompson was typically coy – “I expect all of our guys to be on the team,” the GM said when asked about Finley – McCarthy spoke as if it’s a no-brainer that Finley will return.
“I thought Jermichael had probably the tale of two seasons,” McCarthy said, echoing his comments from immediately after the season ended. “I thought in the first half, he was kind of up and down, fought through the shoulder injury -- particularly played in the Houston game, which I didn’t think he had any chance to play in that game. Really in the second half, I thought things started clicking and he looked like his old self. I was very pleased with the way he finished the year.”
Finley caught a franchise tight end-record 61 passes and didn’t drop a single pass over the final six games (including playoffs) after dropping nine passes in his first 12. After missing three games in 2009 and seeing his 2010 season end in Week 5, Finley also played in every game for the second straight year.
With wide receiver Greg Jennings expected to depart in free agency, McCarthy spoke as if the attention Finley draws from opposing defenses is too valuable to lose. Finley signed a two-year, $14 million deal last February and thus is also in a prove-it contract year with another bite at the free-agency apple on the horizon.
“When you look at Jermichael and you go on the other side of the ball or you talk to any of the defensive guys that played against him, he’s a matchup challenge for defenses,” McCarthy said. “I think his best routes are when we’re attacking the middle of the field with him. I think he’s unique that way. Big target, excellent in the red zone.
“I thought he played much better with the ball in his hand after the catch. I think it was clearly his best year, particularly on the 2-yard drag routes and things like that. I was very pleased with the way Jermichael played there in the second half and he improved a number of different areas of his game.”
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