INDIANAPOLIS – To understand just how thrilled Jermichael Finley was Thursday with his new two-year, $15 million deal, this said it all: The Green Bay Packers talented and talkative tight end was rendered speechless.
“The words can’t even describe it,” Finley said in a hallway at Lucas Oil Stadium during the NFL Scouting Combine. “Seriously.”
For Finley, who after speaking with reporters was on his way to meet Packers general manager Ted Thompson and vice president of player finance Russ Ball to sign the deal, the shorter deal made sense on a number of fronts. Not only did it allow him to avoid the dreaded franchise tag, but he’ll be a free agent again after the 2013 season, when he’ll still only be 26 years old and the salary cap will be considerably higher because the league’s new TV deals will be in effect. This year’s cap is projected to be flat, hovering around $120 million again.
By then, Finley pointed out, New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham and New England tight end Rob Gronkowski will have driven up the market. Graham and Gronkowski finished in the top 10 in the NFL in receiving yards and are in line for monster deals when their contracts expire.
“(When) they (agent Blake Baratz and his staff) told me about the skyrocket TV deal, it was a no-brainer to sign a two-year deal and come back to the table at 26 when Jimmy Graham’s done hit it, Gronkowski’s done hit it and raised the market,” Finley said. “I’m going to be back then, knocking on the door.”
In addition, it’s unlikely Finley will have to deal with the franchise tag threat again after the 2013 season, given the way his deal is structured. His two-year deal will pay him roughly $10 million in 2013, including a $4 million roster bonus in spring, meaning his cap number will be about $10.5 million.
The franchise tag rules call for the player to receive either the average of the five highest salary-cap figures at the player's position over the past five years or a figure equal to 120 percent of the player’s cap number the previous year. Finley would then be eligible for the 120 percent figure, which would be about $12.5 million.
Assuming he stays healthy and plays to his potential, Finley, who caught 55 passes for 767 yards and eight touchdowns last season, could cash in big-time.
“This year, I’m healthy, full offseason, big season ahead. Hands down. I need it,” Finley said. “I just need to come out and play my type of ball. Everything else will take care of itself, I promise you that.”
Finley said it was also a no-brainer to return to a team with NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, even though with a bevy of weapons the offense spreads the ball around in the passing game.
“We got that high-powered offense, it was a no-brainer. I didn’t want to leave that,” Finley said. “It’s just one of those things where you don’t want to leave a team like that, you’ve got Aaron Rodgers back there throwing the ball. You don’t want to mess that up.”
Finley said he wasn’t worried about leaving any money on the table in the short term – “I’m 24 years old, came in this game with nothing, leaving with a lot right now,” he said – and that he was surprised at how quickly the deal came together after very little progress before Wednesday.
“It was all of a sudden. It was one phone call,” Finley said. “We got that phone call Wednesday morning and it was like night and day – it switched. I was like, ‘What? Ted?’ It was a no-brainer that I was going to sign the deal they threw on the table. Two-year deal, right at the $15 (million)? It’s a great deal for me.
“I appreciate Blake and the Packers organization for meeting in the middle because I really didn’t want to test the market – that’s my honest-to-God opinion.
“I’m glad everybody meshed together and met in the middle. It’s the best of both worlds. Green Bay got the deal they wanted; I got the deal I wanted. I’m just happy, man.”
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