It was just a simple slant route. Finley lined up wide left and as the ball was hiked, made a quick move at the line of scrimmage and darted across the field. Once he made the reception from Aaron Rodgers, he trotted on for a few yards and lowered his head. He was then taken down by what seemed to be a perfectly normal tackle from Browns defender Tashaun Gipson. At first glance, the hit appeared to be a routine tackle, put Jermichael Finley's career in serious jeopardy. Temporarily paralyzed, Finley laid motionless in what turned out to be a spinal contusion, which would bring on the eventual fusion of his C3 and C4 vertebrae.
After the surgery, which went as planned, Finley has high hopes of resuming his NFL career. The 26-year-old has worked hard this off-season, and has recently been cleared to play football by the same doctor that performed his spinal fusion. Finley was offered a $10 million insurance reimbursement to not play in the league again, but felt confident enough in his health to attempt the comeback. But, regardless of Finley's confidence, teams have still been leery of his health (with good reason).
Of the handful teams that have shown interest in the tight end, the Seahawks have dropped out of contention, after a league source has told reporters the team has no interest in signing Finley, per profootballtalk.com. Three teams have been tied to Finley recently, since his agent stirred the pot last week, stating to the media that his client had met with a "mystery team" earlier in the week. When it was reported that the mystery team was the New England Patriots, the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers quickly brought Finley in for a visit.
Finley, a quality tight end would work well on any team, but displays great value to these three franchises in particular. It was only two years ago that the Patriots had the most explosive tight end duo the league had ever seen. Due to the triple homicide charges against Aaron Hernandez, and the ongoing health issues of Rob Gronkowski, tight end had moved from a position of great strength to one of weakness.
In Pittsburgh, 31 year old tight end Heath Miller, once an athletic pass catcher who could stretch the field, is now limited to a more traditional in line blocker and red-zone target. On top of Miller's age and limitations, Ben Roethlisberger lost wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Jericho Cotchery, to free agency, leaving a void in the receiving corps.
And finally, the Raiders. Oakland are a mess in general, so taking a flyer on a once dominant tight end won't hurt, especially since they have plenty of money to do it.
Ultimately, we see Finley signing a cheap, one-year "show me" contract with a team that has a good quarterback to help get his career back on track, with the ultimate goal of testing the market again next summer and cashing in.
The verdict: Finley will strike a one-year, $3 million deal with the New England Patriots.
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