2014 free-agent countdown
20. Chris Banjo, safety
19. Seneca Wallace, quarterback
18. Kahlil Bell, running back
17. Robert Francois, inside linebacker
16. Marshall Newhouse, offensive lineman
15. C.J. Wilson, defensive lineman
14. M.D. Jennings, safety
13. Jamari Lattimore, inside linebacker
12. Johnny Jolly, defensive line
11. Matt Flynn, quarterback
10. Andrew Quarless, tight end
9. James Starks, running back
8. Ryan Pickett, defensive lineman
7. Jermichael Finley, tight end
Itís that time of the year when questions about Jermichael Finleyís future with the Green Bay Packers begin bubbling back to the surface.
This year, however, itís a tad more complicated.
The Packers wonít be able to white-knuckle their way through this decision, either. Unlike last year, the 6-foot-5, 247-pound tight end is an unrestricted free agent. In less than a month, heíll be free to sign with any NFL team.
General manager Ted Thompson and his staff went to the 11th hour last March before deciding to hold onto Finley for an $8.25 million salary.
In return, Finley toned down his comments and was on track for a career season before suffering a spinal contusion against Cleveland on Oct. 20 that landed him on injured reserve and required a cervical fusion of the C-3 and C-4 vertebrae.
Finley is still only 26 and plans to play again, but it remains to be seen whether itíll be in Green Bay.
History says the organization and its doctors will be conservative. Two years ago, the Packers didnít feel clearing three-time Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins, who underwent the same surgery as Finley and hasnít played since.
The difference is defensive backs tend to be at more of a risk for re-injury because of the hits they administer.
If Finley doesnít return, the Packers likely will need to either draft a tight end or sign one in free agency. The three returning players under contract for next season Ė Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor and Jake Stoneburner Ė are all situational players at this point.
When asked whether the Packers need a dynamic tight end for their offense, tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot replied in the affirmative. Without Finley, the production from the position fell even with Andrew Quarless responding with a career season.
Finley has been a polarizing figure during his time in Green Bay because of his outspokenness off the field and struggles with dropped passes on it. Known for his work ethic, heís hoping a rigorous offseason training regime translate into another contract.
Itís up to the Packers and Thompson to decide whether that will come in Green Bay.
Editor's note: Prior to the start of the new league year in March, Press-Gazette Media is counting down the top 20 unrestricted, restricted and exclusive right free agents the Green Bay Packers will have to decide on this offseason.
No. 7 Jermichael Finley, sixth-year tight end
The skinny: Unrestricted free agent.
The snaps: 252 total (252 offense).
The stats: 25 catches for 300 yards and two touchdowns (six games).
The 2013 salary: $8.25 million.