Fast start key for Finley's contract status

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers don’t have to make decisions on any of their free agents for months, but general manager Ted Thompson likely has begun prioritizing the players he plans to re-sign.

That’s why in tight end Jermichael Finley’s mind, he knows he needs a fast start.

In the final year of the two-year, $14 million deal that will pay him $8.25 million this season -- the fourth-highest 2013 cash total on the team -- Finley probably can’t afford the kind of start to a season he had last year if he wants a contract extension before he hits free agency.

It wasn’t until the second half of last season that Finley even convinced the Packers to pay his $3 million roster bonus this past March and bring him back for the final year of his deal. After sputtering through the first nine games of 2012, Finley caught 32 passes for 396 yards over the final seven games of the regular season to set a franchise record for tight ends with 61 receptions.

The 26-year-old, sixth-year veteran is off to a much better start this year with five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown in the season opener at San Francisco last Sunday. However, it was his dropped pass that led to Aaron Rodgers’ lone interception in the 34-28 loss to the 49ers.

“A good start is important,” Finley said. “It’s a business, and it’s strictly business at that. Ted takes no prisoners, and I’m going to go out and earn every bit of my money, and that’s what I want to do now. I don’t want anything given.”

The Packers almost always do a couple of contract extensions during the season. They didn’t do any during training camp, and their last one was the four-year, $24.75 million contract signed by safety Morgan Burnett in mid-July.

Finley said on Friday that the Packers have not initiated any contract talks with him.

“You’ve been here long enough, you know they try not to let you finish off the last season [of your contract],” Finley said. “But other than that, I’m not worried about it. If that foundation is set early in the year, and I start building on top of that, everything else will take care of itself.”

The Packers have a long list of players who will be free agents after the season. Among those in the final year of their contract include the following starters: receiver James Jones, center Evan Dietrich-Smith, fullback John Kuhn, cornerback Sam Shields and their entire starting defensive line in Week 1 -- B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly.