Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley says he's not playing for a new contract, insisting "I’m all about (Super Bowl) rings." / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
Last year by this time, the Green Bay Packers already had worked out a contract extension for Donald Driver and were on the verge of doing the same with Charles Woodson.
This summer, the late start to the league year has delayed deals for veterans in line for extension, but those signings will begin soon. In fact, Packers are expected to begin preliminary talks with several agents this week. Among the priorities are right guard Josh Sitton, tight end Jermichael Finley and perhaps receiver Jordy Nelson, although re-signing receiver James Jones to a three-year deal could impact Nelson.
Sitton is a sure thing to get a new deal and now that Finley has shown he’s recovered from the knee injury that knocked him out for the season last year in Week 5, he’s in line for a blockbuster contract, too.
In April, when the Packers drafted two tight ends – D.J. Williams of Arkansas in the fifth round and Ryan Taylor of North Carolina in the seventh round – it raised questions about whether general manager Ted Thompson wanted to spend the money it’s going to take to retain Finley. But no one in Finley’s camp believes his future will be anywhere other than with the Green Bay Packers.
“I think everyone understands how valuable he is,” Blake Baratz, Finley’s agent, said. “He’s 24 years old; he’s just coming into his own. The people who know football understand there’s not a lot of guys in the league like him. I don’t envision a scenario in which you let a guy like that walk out the door.”
Teams couldn’t start extending veteran contracts this year until Aug. 4, which is why there has been little activity for players with contracts seeking extensions. The Indianapolis Colts did quarterback Peyton Manning’s contract, and the Kansas City Chiefs worked out a new deal for linebacker Tamba Hali, but both had the franchise tag placed on them.
Finley, Sitton and Nelson all are in the final year of their original rookie contracts. Sitton is likely in the market for a deal even greater than the five-year, $27.5 million contract former Packers guard Daryn Colledge got from the Arizona Cardinals in free agency. Though Nelson has yet to win a starting job, neither did Jones (who got a three-year, $9.5 million contract to re-sign with the Packers).
Negotiations with Finley may be tough. The longer the Packers wait, the higher the price tag could climb. Though he missed all but five games last season, he had been the focal point of their offense before he went down. He had a big finish to the 2009 season with 159 receiving yards in the playoff loss at Arizona and was off to a strong start in 2010 with 21 catches, 301 yards and a touchdown in the first four games before going down for the season on the second play from scrimmage at Washington on Oct. 10.
This will be Finley’s first chance for a big day. As a third-round pick in 2008, his signing bonus was just $653,000. He did hit escalators that bumped his base salary for this season to $1.2 million from $550,000. Sitton, a fourth-round pick in 2008, also hit the same escalator to $1.2 million for this season.
Baratz wouldn’t say what he and Finley are looking for in contract terms and when camp started, Finley insisted he wasn’t “playing for a contract.”
“I’m all about (Super Bowl) rings,” Finley said.
Finley has yet to play a full 16-game schedule. He reported to camp at 240 pounds, about 10 pounds lighter than he was last year and after sitting out team drills for the first three practices, he was turned loose and looked like his old self.
“I just need a 16-game season to be healthy and to show my full potential,” Finley said.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.