Jermichael Finley (left) has lined up for five seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Will be be brought back for another?
Raymond T. Rivard photograph
The more I think about it, the more I look at their salaries and upside, the more I watch the young kids breaking their butts at the NFL Combine, the more I feel it’s time the Green Bay Packers cut ties with A.J. Hawk and Jermichael Finley.
A.J. Hawk has been a solid contributor for the Packers since being the number one draft pick for the team in 2006.
Raymond T. Rivard photograph
Don’t get me wrong, I am huge a fan of both Hawk and Finley. Both have produced for years with the Packers. Both probably have quite a bit left in their tanks.
But this is professional football. Number one, it’s a young man’s game and I think that of all his attributes, General Manager Ted Thompson gets it. That’s why he has perfected the draft and develop scheme that has produced three division championships and a Super Bowl championship since 2005.
Hawk, who has spent seven years with the Packers after having been selected as the team’s first round pick (number 5 overall) in 2006, has been a battler. Remember back in 2010 when he didn’t play a single down in the team’s opener at Philadelphia and then was thrown onto the field when injuries hit the team? Not only did he rise to the occasion, but he became an integral part in the team’s Super Bowl run that year. In that season, he made 71 tackles and had 39 assists, his third best season up to that point in his career. He also had three interceptions. In his first season he had 84 tackles and 37 assists and in 2007 he had 78 tackles and 27 assists.
Raymond T. Rivard photograph
However, Hawk had a significant downslide in 2011 (57 tackles, 29 assists) before rebounding with a solid year in 2012 (81 tackles, 39 assists). Those look like good numbers on the surface, but if you look at where those tackles were made, more of them than not were well beyond the line of scrimmage. Hawk is around the ball much of the time, but many times after 3, 4, 5 or even more yards have been gained. And we won’t go anywhere near his drop back and pass coverage skills.
Yes, Hawk has contributed, but for most, he’s just one of the guys. He’s not a standout player who slices into the backfield to break up running plays, he rarely gets to the quarterback and doesn’t strike fear into the eyes of an offense.
With D.J. Smith and Desmond Bishop expected back from injuries suffered in 2012, the odd man out, at least in my eyes, is Hawk. And if we consider the dollars that a player of his age (29) is due, more than $5 million, it’s time to consider moving on.
Here are Hawk’s career statistics:
Jermichael Finley is a tight end who attracts a great deal of attention from opposing defenses.
Raymond T. Rivard
I feel much the same about Jermichael Finley. He’s a huge talent. He has contributed to a prolific offense that has, for the most part, been the standard of the industry. He had one of his best seasons in 2012 – most of which came in the second half of the campaign – and he’s toned down his comments in the media.
In his five-year career, Finley has had 198 catches for 2,485 yards (12.6 yard average), and 17 touchdowns. That includes 2010 when he played in only five games.
Those are impressive statistics, and yes, he is a talent. But he is also heading into the final year of a two-year contract which has an upside and a downside. Should the Packers keep him, he will have huge incentive to have a big year and will most likely leave it all on the field. On the flip side, if he does have that big year he will most likely walk in free agency and the Packers would lose him anyway.
So, what to do with the mercurial player? Do the Packers try to trade him? Do they keep him? Or do they cut him, cut their losses and look to the draft for someone who could be an heir apparent? The team does have tight ends who would be serviceable (Tom Crabtree, if they re-sign him; Andrew Quarless, who is coming off a missed season due to a horrendous knee injury; D.J. Williams, who is an unknown; and Ryan Taylor, who has been a special teams contributor), but they need the type of player who can stretch the field and attract attention over the middle. Finley has provided that threat.
So, why shouldn’t the Packers keep him? Well, let’s start with the head games and the drops. He has spouted off in the media about a lack of chemistry with his quarterback, his agent has joined in the discussion. He has been a disruption in the locker room and his dropped passes have caused consternation across the franchise and especially among the fan base.
Here are Jermichael Finley’s career statistics:
Where to go?
The bottom line is that should the Packers cut ties with Finley and Hawk, they will save several million against the salary cap – money that could be freed up to be apportioned across new contracts that will come due in the coming year for Aaron Rodgers, B.J. Raji, and Clay Matthews.
The Packers got the ball rolling early in adding to their available funds this offseason when Donald Driver and Jeff Saturday retired. Then they cut the $10 million that would have been due Charles Woodson, and with the impending loss of Greg Jennings to free agency, the Packers are in very good financial shape as they head into thick of the offseason. They should have plenty to sign their draft choices and to begin negotiations with Matthews and Raji. More than likely, they will wait until 2014 to sign Rodgers – his contract will be a whole different animal as he is likely to get at least an eight-year deal worth at least $20 million per year.
I say the Packers move on by cutting ties with Finley and Hawk. They go with the players they have in-house and use their draft and develop philosophy in adding new talent to the mix.
What do you think?