We've discussed several times the possibility of a precedent-setting offseason fight between the Green Bay Packers and tight end Jermichael Finley. Namely: If the Packers make him their franchise player, could Finley justifiably argue he is a receiver rather than a tight end? The answer could be the difference between a $5.5 million tag and one around $9 million.
Neil Hornsby of Pro Football Focus has reconciled and further analyzed some numbers we introduced as part of last week's discussion. Finley is among a group of hybrid pass-catching tight ends who are used all over the field, according to Hornsby's film analysis, Finley could argue that he was aligned away from the tackle on 51 percent of his plays in 2011 and that he was in a 2-point stance on 60 percent of his plays.
Because Finley was lined up as a receiver on a mathematical majority of plays, Hornsby concludes: "In every measurable category Finley should be considered a wide receiver for the purposes of the tender."
That might be true from a technical sense. But from this vantage point, a more equitable challenge would be to request a new franchise classification that takes into account the way tight end play has evolved for some NFL teams. Finley, Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski are used differently than earlier generations. On the one hand, they are higher-profile and have more impact on the passing game than traditional in-line tight ends. But it's hard to consider them receivers when true receivers play nearly 100 percent of their snaps away from the line of scrimmage and in a 2-point stance.
In that scenario, the value of Finley's franchise tag could rise above that of tight ends but fall short of the one assigned to wide receivers.
I'm not sure if that will happen, but that possibility seems much more realistic than putting players like Finley in the same category as, say, Vincent Jackson of the San Diego Chargers or Dwayne Bowe of the Kansas City Chiefs. Stay tuned.