Franchise tag unlikely for Finley in 2014

INDIANAPOLIS -- We're scheduled to start speaking with NFL coaches and general mangers later Thursday morning. So while we have a few minutes, let's consider a secondary consequence of the two-year contract agreement the Green Bay Packers struck with tight end Jermichael Finley.

In all likelihood, Finley won't be a realistic candidate for the franchise tag when the deal expires after the 2013 season -- for reasons similar to why the Detroit Lions almost certainly can't franchise receiver Calvin Johnson after the 2012 season. And it means the Packers will be motivated to pursue a long-term deal at a time when the NFL's new television contract will kick in and presumably raise every team's salary-cap surplus.

As we discussed last month, franchise tags numbers are determined by the higher of these two values:

  • The average of the five highest salary-cap figures at the player's position over the past five years.

  • A figure equal to 120 percent of his prior year's cap number.

Finley and agent Blake Baratz structured this deal so that about $10 million of the $15 million in this deal will come in the second league year of the deal. That will give Finley a high cap figure for 2013, around $10.5 million, and 120 percent of it would be about $12.5 million. (Likewise, Johnson's 2012 cap number of $22 million means his 2013 franchise number would be about $26 million.)

The franchise tag for other tight ends won't be anywhere close to $12.5 million in 2014. So would the Packers franchise Finley at $12.5 million in 2014 or pursue a long-term contract? I'm guessing the latter. So while Finley has taken a calculated risk with his 2012 compensation, this deal has set him up to have more flexibility moving forward.