Dec 30, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley (88) against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome. The Vikings defeated the Packers 37-34. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
The Green Bay Packers neared what was a massive decision that would affect their cap space dramatically for next season. Ted Thompson knew this decision would impact what they do in this year’s NFL Draft and how they approach the rest of the offseason. Thompson also knew that the decision to keep or cut Jermichael Finley was huge and has been talked about a lot.
However, there is one obvious right decision that the Packers should have made – and they made it today …
The Packers kept Jermichael Finley.
There is no tight end on the free agent market right now better than Jermichael Finley. Tyler Eifert would be an upgrade but he will not fall to the Packers while Zack Ertz will probably not be an immediate upgrade.
Jermichael Finley played better near the end of the season and even though he struggled in the playoffs, Finley showed that he deserves a second chance for the Packers this upcoming season. The Packers also have plenty of cap room to improve the roster right now and Finley will be a free agent next offseason anyway.
Dec 30, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw (44) runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second half at MetLife Stadium. New York Giants defeat the Philadelphia Eagles 42-7. Mandatory Credit: Jim O
The Packers will still have the cap space to make some moves which should include cutting Cedric Benson and replacing him with Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw is still not that old at age 27 while Benson is a risk to be injured again and no longer needed, especially if Bradshaw becomes a Packer. Brian Urlacher could be a possibility to provide some depth at inside linebacker. His leadership would also be a big boost to the locker room but it seems unlikely that Urlacher would come to Green Bay.
The Packers can now focus on a tight end later in the draft instead of the first round. So just what are the Packers draft options at tight end?
Dec 20, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego State Aztecs tight end Gavin Escobar (88) runs for a first down after making a catch during the second quarter as Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Jordan Johnson (6) defends at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
In the second round, the Packers could look at drafting San Diego State TE Gavin Escobar. Escobar isn’t too far behind Zack Ertz on a lot of people’s draft boards and his ceiling is extremely high. Escobar has good speed and jumping ability for a tight end but I’m still not completely sold on Escobar.
Florida’s Jordan Reed is another potential fit in the second or third round and would be a good pick for Green Bay. Reed is fast for a tight end but he isn’t really much a blocker. If there is one player he reminds me of, it would be former Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark. Clark and Reed are both not as big as an average tight end but have great speed and can work out of the slot. The Packers do already have D.J. Williams so Reed might not be much of a fit.
December 27, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins tight end Joseph Fauria (8) celebrates after scoring during the second quarter against the Baylor Bears in the Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
A late round possibility is UCLA tight end Joseph Fauria who has the best ceiling of any in this draft. Fauria is 6-7′ and has so much room to grow and become an elite tight end. Fauria isn’t the fastest tight end but he can get up and get the ball due to his impressive ball skills and great arm length. Fauria might not be the fastest, but his speed makes him a big play threat.
Fauria also has one of the highest ceilings of any player in the draft and could be a big time tight end by 2014. Remember, Jimmy Graham was not a starter from day 1 in New Orleans. Instead, Graham developed behind veteran Jeremy Shockey before starting in New Orleans and becoming arguably the best tight end in the NFL.
Jermichael Finley could play the Jeremy Shockey with Fauria being the next Jimmy Graham.