By Jordan Huenink
NFL Free Agency 2014 is upon us, and unfortunately that means we have to come to grips with the possibility that the Packers won’t be able to keep all of their 17 remaining free agents. And as the week progresses, it seems that one of the players on their way out is tight end Jermichael Finley.
Despite saying that he wanted to be a Packer for life, Finley has seemingly accepted the fact that the Packers may not share the sentiment. As a result, the big tight end has flown to Seattle to meet with the Super Bowl champs. Given the organization’s wariness in committing to players with neck injuries, this may not be a bad career move on Finley’s part since he’s fresh off his spinal fusion surgery and has yet to be cleared. I would say it’s about a 10% chance that Finley stays in Green Bay. Tight end is a weak position in Seattle, and bringing on Finley would really help their air game – especially if wide receiver Golden Tate signs with another team.
If Finley departs, what does this mean for the Packers and the tight end position moving forward?
Unfortunately, Andrew Quarless is also an unrestricted free agent this year. The Packers have been in talks with Quarless recently, but reports say the Giants are currently showing interest in signing him since Ben McAdoo, the former Green Bay tight ends coach, is now their offensive coordinator, and tight end Brandon Myers recently signed with Tampa Bay. Quarless filled in nicely during the 2013 campaign after Finley got injured, and had some key plays in the Packers’ playoff run. If Finley signs elsewhere, the Packers need to make re-signing Quarless a priority given the lack of experience behind him.
If both players leave Green Bay, the team will be left with Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor, Jake Stoneburner and newly-signed Raymond Webber on the depth chart. Of those players, it seems like only Bostick and Taylor would be candidates to be on the opening day roster in 2014. Bostick showed flashes of play-making ability in training camp in 2013 which landed him a spot on the 53-man roster, and his best game came against the Eagles in Week 10 when he caught three passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. He is still developing, but he seems like the most promising one on the list. Taylor will be used mostly for his special teams play as he was in 2013.
However, it is also a very good possibility that the Packers look to the draft to find a tight end if both Finley and Quarless leave town. While a play-making, pass-catching tight end such as Eric Ebron (North Carolina) would be a welcome replacement, a player who can both catch the ball from Aaron Rodgers and block for Eddie Lacy might be the best fit. That description probably best fits C.J. Fiedorowicz out of Iowa.
As free agency moves forward and the draft approaches, we should get a better idea of what the Packers aim to do with the tight end position for 2014.