15. What if Jermichael Finley never suffered a career-ending injury?
Jermichael Finley suffered a career-ending injury in 2013 against the Cleveland Browns and the Packers haven’t really been the same at the tight end position since.
The Packers have lacked stability at the tight end position since Finley’s injury and have struggled to find a stable replacement for Rodgers since the injury, whether it’s Andrew Quarless, Richard Rodgers, Martellus Bennett or Lance Kendricks.
The only good tight end that they have had since Finley’s injury was Jared Cook but the Packers let him walk in the 2017 offseason and instead decided to bring in Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks which was a fiasco.
The Finley injury certainly changed the gameplan that the Packers had for the future of their offense as Finley was only 26 when he suffered his career-ending injury and could have been a key difference maker for the Packers in the last few years.
What if Finley never suffered his career-ending injury?
They would have most likely given him a third contract and brought him back in 2014 on a three- or four-year deal.
I think his 2014 year would have been fairly similar to the track he was on in 2013 before his injury but there would have been some further breakout potential.
I think they still would have drafted Richard Rodgers in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft as Andrew Quarless was not the answer at the tight end position, even if they had a healthy Jermichael Finley.
The “What’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers?” chorus in 2015 might not have been as high. Even if Jordy Nelson was still injured in the 2015 preseason, Rodgers would have had a reliable tight end to throw to which he didn’t have in our real timeline. A healthy Finley would have also taken pressure off of Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and James Jones that year.
The Jared Cook signing probably wouldn’t have happened as Ted Thompson seemed reluctant to sign him in the first place even though he only had Richard Rodgers as a starter and he may not have brought in Cook if he had a solid tight end like Jermichael Finley.
Green Bay may have began looking for a replacement for Finley in the 2016 offseason as he is 30 today, and if they had signed him to a four-year deal in 2014 his contract would be expiring this offseason.
They also wouldn’t have had a third tight end going into the 2016 draft as Andrew Quarless walked that offseason. As a result I think Green Bay would have picked Nick Vannett in the third round of that year’s draft.
I don’t think the 2016 season would have been that different, or it may have been slightly worse for the Packers, as Jared Cook played like a madman down the stretch that year.
The 2017 offseason could have played out very differently though as they would not have brought in Martellus Bennett even if Finley had one year left on his deal. The Lance Kendricks signing could have still happened as the Packers seemed more willing to sign free agents that year and Kendricks didn’t come at the price tag that Bennett did.
Not signing Bennett would have made it easier to bring back someone that originally left in that offseason such as Micah Hyde or Julius Peppers.
The 2017 season would have most likely played out the same even though Finley would have made life easier for Brett Hundley, but I don’t think it would have been enough.
The Packers would likely be in the same spot with Finley this offseason as they are with Morgan Burnett right now. Both would have been solid players, but would be at or near the wrong side of 30. The tight end position would still have been a need this offseason.
I think Finley could have had a good career in Green Bay if he stayed healthy and he may have made a Pro Bowl by now.