GREEN BAY (AP) — Jermichael Finley is ready for the increased expectations that are sure to come with his increased salary.
The Green Bay Packers opted to pay their mercurial tight end a $3 million roster bonus rather than cut him by 3 p.m. Monday. Though Finley swears he wasn’t watching the clock, he took to Twitter shortly after the deadline passed, saying, “Ecstatic 2 b back w (at)packers. Best place on earth.”
“It’s a great opportunity to stay with a great organization and a great quarterback to move forward and win more championships,” Finley told the (Milwaukee) Journal Sentinel. “I’m ready to take my game to another level. Every player wants to achieve as much as possible. In my case, I want to get back to what I know and that’s playing great football.”
The Packers have long been enamored with Finley’s size — he’s 6-foot-5 and 247 pounds — speed and strength. Not only is he a big target for Aaron Rodgers, but he draws multiple defenders and can block just about anyone. He set a Packers record for receptions by a tight end last season, finishing with 61 catches for 676 yards and two touchdowns.
But there were some who wondered if his inconsistency early in the season made him expendable. Finley dropped numerous balls and complained about his role in the offense.
“I really felt Jermichael Finley was a different man, a different player from the bye week on,” coach Mike McCarthy said after the Packers lost to San Francisco in the playoffs. “I feel very good about the way he finished the year. ... But we obviously have to look at the first half, too, and make sure that’s part of the evaluation because we’re all judged on 17 games.”
Despite his increased price tag — his salary this season will be $8.25 million — Finley’s youth and potential convinced the Packers he was worth keeping. Green Bay also couldn’t afford to let another big piece of their offense go, having already lost top receiver Greg Jennings to rival Minnesota and tight end Tom Crabtree to Tampa Bay.
“I love the expectations that I have to meet this year,” Finley said. “I have to make it happen.”
Finley, who turned 26 on Tuesday, told the Journal Sentinel he learned from last year’s up-and-down season. The approach he had in the second half of the season is the one he knows he’ll need to have in the future.
“It’s all about letting my play speak,” he said. “It’s all about letting my ability do its job. That’s what I’m going to do this year and I guarantee I’ll be relaxed and be the player I know I can be.”