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2 posts from February 25, 2013

February 25, 2013

The back and forth on Jennings, Finley in Green Bay

Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. No.

Enough!

As free agency inches closer by the day, as the NFL combine winds down this week, as a negotiating window between free agents and teams opens March 9, the back and forth on what previously seemed certain gets more convoluted.

This applies specifically to the situation in Green Bay surrounding wide receiver Greg Jennings and tight end Jermichael Finley.

Let me address Finley first:

Remember that the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal reported in mid December the Packers had decided to part ways with Finley after the season. The reason for this divorce was said to be Finley's dropped passes, inconsistent production and a little bit of an attitude toward his work and place on the team.

Well, over the weekend the same newspaper, indeed the same reporter, reported  the certainty of December has become muddled in February. Yes. No. Yes. No.

Apparently, the team is "torn" whether or not to get rid of Finley -- most likely by simply cutting him.

So that, by definition means he might stay. So that, by definition means we will have wasted many minutes, words and brain cells on this topic. For nothing.

Bottom line here is Finley might remain with his team even as many Dolphins fans considered him a possibility for their team.

(You remember the post I put up a few days ago about how fans and media often react faster than the teams relative to rumors of players becoming available? Now you see why teams take a more systematic approach.)

So Finley might not be available.

The Packers, meanwhile, are not denying the rumor that Greg Jennings, a couple of weeks from hitting free agency and an almost certain target of the Dolphins, might be franchised.

That rumor was floated over the weekend by The NFL Network.

And Green Bay GM Ted Thompson, who once interviewed to be Miami's GM although he didn't get the gig, didn't dispel the rumor in any way.

"We think it’s a good way to manage the NFL if you’re able to retain your own players," Thompson said at the NFL combine, "We’d very much like to do that, and that includes Greg."

So the player who was certain to hit free agency now might be franchised. Yes. No. Yes. No.

Of course, this begs the question: Why?

The Packers clearly are not in a cap position to invest the approximate $10.4 million cap hit on Jennings it would cost. They have talent at wide receiver. Jennings is coming off an injury-filled season. And he's going to be 30 years old.

So he's the franchise tag target?

Well, there's this theory from yours truly:

Perhaps the Packers are fully aware there will be interest in Jennings, including from the Dolphins and want to somehow work in a way to get something in return for the player. The only way to do that is to tag him and then let another team work out a trade for the player and sign him to a new deal.

Why is this possible?

Well, the Packers might want to get, say, a fifth-round pick out of the deal. And a team that knows it will be chasing Jennings might not mind giving up such a pick in exchange for the certainty of getting the player in trade rather than fishing for him in unrestricted free agency.

That alone might convince the Packers to tag Jennings, if only temporarily.

There's also the possibility the Packers simply don't want to lose a good player but also don't want to commit to him long-term because of his age and recent injury history. So a one-year franchise tag keeps him in Green Bay but doesn't commit the team to the major guaranteed money Jennings is seeking.

Both are possible.

By the way, the same newspaper and again the same reporter that reported the back and forth on Finley today tweeted that Joe Philbin isn't a huge fan of Jennings. I buy that. But that's because I don't think Philbin is a "huge fan" of many players. He's frankly a cup of coffee short of a coma. The guy doesn't get too high about anyone. And he doesn't get too low about anyone.

He simply is ... steady.

He's not jumping on tables for anybody.

The Dolphins plan to talk to Jennings at this point. That has not changed.

Now, you want my opinion on this Jennings matter? If not, you are finished. Go to the comments section. If so, read on.

Opinion:

I don't think the Packers are going to tag Jennings because 1. They can't spare that kind of cap space. 2. They don't usually play games like that. 3. Having Jennings at over $10 million in 2013 would mean he's making more than quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is scheduled to make $9.25 million, and that is not good for your cap structure.

Remember we had this very discussion last year with Matt Flynn. Would the Packers tag Flynn to get something, anything for him before he hit free agency? Ultimately, the team didn't tag Flynn.

Jennings may obviously be a different case. But I don't see Thompson as being a different person. Just a guess.

I suppose the point of all this is we don't have certainty on Jennings or Finley. Two months ago Finley was off the Packers. Now, he's possibly on the Packers. A month ago, Jennings was done in Green Bay. Now, he might get tagged.

Yes. No. Yes. No. 

Tavon Austin a combine star but not a fit at No. 12

Me and some of my followers on twitter [Yeah, terrible grammar] got into a bit of a spat Sunday afternoon because I believe NFL teams are best served drafting football players and they apparently are enthralled with the idea of drafting 40-yard dash times.

And so we have a minor disagreement on Tavon Austin, the West Virginia speedster.

Austin is a sprite. He ran a 4.34 official time at the combine Sunday and, I admit, he was a fine playmaker at West Virginia last year.

Austin also came to the combine with his confidence at full throat as he told the media in a press conference "“Pound for pound I am the best all-around player in the NFL Draft."

Well, I don't see the best pound for pound player in the draft as a value as a Top 10 pick, as some fans are suggesting and not even a No. 12 pick where the Dolphins will select in the first round of next April's draft.

Yes, Austin has the stats. (I love guys with the production). Yes, he has the speed. (I love speed). But he's tiny at 5-9 and 178 pounds. (I don't love guys that size at No. 12).

Yes, I would love Austin on my team. Yes, I would take him in the second round.

But in the first? At No. 12?

No thanks.

I don't take guys shorter than some girls I once dated at No. 12. 

Again, I really love Austin as a player but I simply don't see the value in him that high.

Why?

Well, when you measure a player's critical factors one thing you must measure is durability. And I'm not sure a player that smallish who will be asked to go into the teeth of a defense as a slot player will be durable enough to answer the call every Sunday.

And you hence must add that worry to the usual ones about whether he can adjust to your system, and whether he's got the instincts, and can deal with the speed of the game and can handle his business off the field.

Again, that doesn't mean I don't respect Austin's talents. He can be electric on the field. What he did to Oklahoma last year was jaw-dropping.

But there have been other grand talents come into the NFL in small packages and struggle because of their size -- Bob Sanders comes to mind. He was amazing for a couple of years and then the fact he was crashing into men who were bigger and outweighed him by 40 to 100 pounds caught up with him.

You have to find a great balance with talents such as Austin's to make a thoughtful decision on where he should be drafted. Maybe he's going to be a fine player like Darren Sproles. Well, Sproles was drafted in the fourth round.

Maybe he's going to a "matchup nightmare," as NFL Network's Mike Mayock said, playing the slot receiver position. Maybe he's going to be like Wes Welker. Well, Welker went undrafted.

Maybe he'll play forever like another smallish but freakishly fast player -- cornerback Darrell Green -- did for the Washington Redskins years ago. Well, maybe, but Green was drafted at the bottom of the first round, not near the top.

Do you see the point?

If the Dolphins fall in love with Austin I would expect them to show that love after a major trade-down from No. 12. Or maybe with a second round pick.

But even this comes with a warning:

Miami GM Jeff Ireland comes from the general manager school of prototypical players. He was taught by his mentor Bill Parcells to pick prototype players that have the height, weight and look the part of bigtime NFL players. That school of thought leaves little room for dumplings like Austin.

For Ireland to consider Austin in any round would be a departure from what he's been taught.

And even if the Miami GM can loose himself from the bonds of his mentor, in my humble opinion, for Ireland to consider Austin at No. 12 would be a mistake.