INDIANAPOLIS -- If you just saw the blur of a blue parka sprinting down the streets of downtown Indianapolis, well, don't worry. That was just me hustling back to my laptop, slobbering and panting all the way, in an effort to start blogging the surprising news of the Green Bay Packers' two-year contract agreement with tight end Jermichael Finley.
Finley's status as a pending free agent had drawn widespread debate on this blog. Some of you were nervous about making a huge commitment, both in cash and cap space, to a player who could politely be called a young 24. Others were worried how he might react to receiving a relatively cheap franchise tag assignment of $5.5 million, and many of you were concerned about a key part of the Packers' offensive success in recent seasons bolting to another team.
My educated guess is that you could find members of the Packers organization with similarly split viewpoints. So in the end, it made sense to offer Finley a deal that averages about $7.5 million per year -- the annual market rate for top-flight tight ends -- but falls way short of the long-term commitment that the highest-paid tight ends in the NFL have received. (It's worth noting that $7.5 million is about the midpoint of the franchise figures for tight ends and receivers. We discussed earlier Wednesday the possibility of the sides compromising on the issue of what position Finley truly plays.)
Why would Finley take this deal rather than seek one that paid him the way the Seattle Seahawks paid Zach Miller (five years, $34 million with $17 million guaranteed) or the San Francisco 49ers paid Vernon Davis (five years, $37 million with $23 million guaranteed) in the past year? Finley might not have gotten that kind of money elsewhere, but Finley didn't give himself a chance to find out. In the end, his decision represents a calculated bet. Finley is thinking that two more years of putting up big numbers for the Packers will put him in that position. After the 2013 season, remember, Finley will still only be 26 years old.
I don't blame the Packers for stopping short of the kind of deals Miller and Davis got. A player's second contract is typically his most lucrative payday, but Finley has not had a typical career. If all goes well, the Packers -- or someone else -- will pay him his market-adjusted Miller/Davis deal in the spring of 2014.
I'll be back in a bit with a discussion of what the Packers might do, if anything, with their franchise tag.