The fourth of a 10-part position-by-position analysis of the Packers’ roster and how they should proceed during the offseason.
UNDER CONTRACT: Ryan Taylor, Jake Stoneburner, Brandon Bostick, Raymond Webber
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless
Where they stand
Finley was lost for the season in Week 7 with a serious neck injury, and his return to the NFL is uncertain. Finley tweeted earlier this week that he has bulked up to 260 pounds and appears bound and determined to get himself into tip-top shape. His agent also sounds convinced Finley’s doctors will clear him to play again after undergoing neck fusion surgery. Then on Friday Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he was optimistic Finley would play again based on what he knows about the injury. If Packers team physician Pat McKenzie or general manager Ted Thompson were hesitant to clear Finley, McCarthy wouldn’t have sounded so favorable about him playing again. Apparently Finley’s neck injury isn’t as serious as the one suffered in 2011 by safety Nick Collins, who the Packers declined to bring back.
Quarless returned after missing the 2012 season with a knee injury and played adequately in spots. He caught 32 passes for 312 yards. Quarless doesn’t possess Finley’s physical skills but is capable of serving as a stopgap. The other tight ends on the roster all have question marks. Ryan Taylor and Brandon Bostick aren’t starting caliber tight ends – they combined to catch 13 passes for 150 yards last season. Taylor is a special teams ace while Bostick is loaded with potential but needs a lot of seasoning.
Based on McCarthy’s sunny disposition about Finley, the Packers should do what it takes to sign the talented tight end to an incentive-laden contract. His presence would open things up on offense for everyone else. Finley’s six-year career with the Packers has had its shining moments, but injuries and inconsistency have prevented him from rising to superstar status. Maybe Finley would be willing to sign a one-year deal to show everyone in the NFL he is back. A breakout season could set him up for a lucrative long-term deal on the open market next year. If Finley returns, that would likely mean the end of Quarless’ career in Green Bay, unless he agrees to a relatively modest deal. The Packers should also look to the future and draft a tight end fairly high.