The Rundown: Will Finley be cleared for takeoff?

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

Free agency is by definition fraught with players with all kinds of questions.  Is a player worth the money they are about to get from teams vying the same talent? Will the free agent be a fit to a new team culture?  Does the player have the right work ethic now that they got their big money deal?  Can the new acquisition be durable enough to play out their contract?

Generally, the best players never reach free agency.  “The best players are [already] signed,” ESPN’s Bill Polian told reporters on a conference call this week.  “These [free agents] are essentially ‘B’ players whose agents are looking for ‘A’ money. That, in itself, is not the best of buys. You recognize that as a general manager.”

There’s always reason for pause when a player is allowed to walk out the door but in the case of Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, the normal reasons might not apply. Finley has been considered a top ten tight end for a few years and is one of the most intriguing prospects in this free agent class.  While he hasn’t played football since October he has been the subject of some speculation around a number of interested NFL teams, including the Jets.

Durability concerns will come up as he starts to talk with teams, but there’s also the question of whether or teams can in good conscience sign him after suffering a serious spinal injury less five months ago which left him unable to leave the field under his own power in a game against a game against the Browns back in October 2013.  

Finley told, in his own words, the harrowing tale of his injury for SI’s MMQB just a few weeks after his seasn ended.

After I got hit, in the fourth quarter of our win against the Browns last week, my eyes were wide open. I was very conscious, but I could not move. I looked my teammate Andrew Quarless directly in the eye and whispered, “Help me, Q. I can’t move; I can’t breathe.” The scariest moment was seeing the fear in Q’s eyes. I knew something was wrong, but his reaction verified it. That really shook me up.

I actually had feeling in my legs, but I couldn’t feel much else. On the field, the doctors were going through regular procedures, testing me on sense and touch, and asking me a multitude of questions. But because I was a little panicked, I couldn’t breathe, which made it very difficult to answer. I remember one of the doctors telling me to “close my legs,” and I simply could not. They ended up unscrewing my facemask before lifting me up on the stretcher. When I was exiting the field at Lambeau, I tried to raise my hand to give the fans a thumbs-up, but I got about halfway and couldn’t raise my arm any further. I kept asking the neurosurgeon, “Will I walk again?” His answer was a definitive, “Yes, you are moving your legs right now.” Then I asked, “Will I use my arms again? Will I play football again?” To those questions, I simply got, “I cannot answer that yet.” 

Clearly there was a problem, and I was terrified.

Amazing then that in such a short time period, Finley is almost fully recovered.  While there were some real concerns about his injury, he has been hard at work and his agent has told reporters in recent weeks that the pending free agent is very close to getting his medical clearance.  In fact, it might come as soon as today.  According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, Finley’s neurosurgeon will examine his scans Saturday to whether the tight end will be fully cleared for team activities.

How did he come so far so fast?  SI writer (and former Jets beat reporter) Jenny Vrentas did a long-form piece on Finley two weeks ago and was impressed by his workout regimen and what she’s heard from doctors.

It doesn’t really sound believable until you watch him work. He’s dead-lifting 429 pounds, in reps of threes … [h]e has quick answers to all the questions a doctor might ask: Balance? Restored six weeks ago. Pain? None for the past month, in any part of his range of motion. He loves football, and he expects to embark on a seventh professional season at no greater risk than any other player.

The neurosurgeon who performed Finley’s surgery, Joseph Maroon, has told him there’s a 99.9 percent chance the fusion will fully heal. After his latest X-rays, taken late last week, Finley says he was told that point could be reached within four weeks—and then Maroon would be prepared to clear him for football activity.

But the 26-year-old Finley may face other hurdles in signing his next NFL contract. Clearance from Maroon, the team neurosurgeon for the Steelers, would be a strong vote of confidence. But it’s possible some teams, despite Finley’s powerful frame and basketball-player athleticism, may not want to take on the risk of putting him on the field. The fusion was considered a proactive measure to fortify his neck and guard against another similar episode, but for some clubs the fact that it has healed may not be the sole determining factor for clearance.

Finley might not be the right player for the Jets for any number of reasons, but ruling him out because of his 2013 injury shouldn’t be the reason.  The Jets have to know that they’ve got to take some calculated chances to make their team better on offense as judiciously though effectively as possible.  Adding a talented player like Finley could have a major impact on the offense and due to the circumstances the contract might not be too onerous.

Rex Ryan is a coach known for his protection and care for veteran players … often letting them rest or putting them on “pitch counts” with the intent that they will be ready on Sundays.  In addition, the Jets have an excellent medical staff on-hand and available to Finley.  There’s always going to be a risk with any free agent and if it doesn’t work out with Finley everyone will understand, but the opportunity available seems worth exploring for the Jets.




36 comments
MarshRandy
MarshRandy

Raise your hand if you've been burned by drafting Finley in fantasy 

Disgruntled Jets Fan
Disgruntled Jets Fan

Crazy story.  Unfortunately for Finley it'd have to be a low risk contract, but I wouldn't be against it.

UncleJoesJetFarm
UncleJoesJetFarm

These next couple of weeks, we will see Johnny Zs FAcy approach. I cant wait for the first shots to be fired!

UncleJoesJetFarm
UncleJoesJetFarm

From what I am getting, many teams will be after Asa. At least Idzik has the resources. I never want to see the phins with Howard and Asa!

UncleJoesJetFarm
UncleJoesJetFarm

Man , I hope that Howard is not sitting across from the phins brass right now, OY!

Brendan
Brendan

God I hate Livefyre. 


I can't post a tweet because LF is idiotic, but the Jets are going to make an offer to Asamoah. Good news. 

Ignorant opinion if ever there was one.  Brandon Marshal was a "free agent" and with a B Level QB he is now part of the best 1/2 combo in all of football bar none!  And Cutler is a great example of a B level who "had" to be signed and got A money!  Ooops there goes your cheap shot opinion! Jets always sit on their hands during these times missing out on everything from pass rushers/linebackers/running backs/wide outs/ Darelle is gone and we have to listen to 8-8 being a great season? Gator aide baths? The salary cap is open (I hope Sanchez and Santonio have been released and if not why not?) Rebuild it and if Rex can't make the Playoff's this year adios and don't let the door hit ya where the Lord Split Ya! 

bklyndude
bklyndude

Finley is a great player.  I wouldn't mind taking a chance on a great player,  upside is great at only 26.   You can craft a contract that protects the team so it's not going to wind up killing the team.  Peyton Manning came back from a very bad neck injury and had one of his best seasons last year.

UncleJoesJetFarm
UncleJoesJetFarm

Welp, players can now talk to teams on salary, but just cant sign until the 11th. Howard was seen in Miami, not a good sign.

bob
bob

Turn on the jets .Holmes was cut.

bradysucks
bradysucks

My feeling is the Jets should gamble on Finley but still draft a TE. You gotta be in it to win it and this is a gamble with some nice upside. 

UncleJoesJetFarm
UncleJoesJetFarm

That was quite a story. Too deep for me to say if we should take a chance on Finley. I guess it all comes down to the medical evaluation. I said Peyton would not survive and he lit it up even at his age. Granted, the QB position is less of a risk than TE, but the point is clear; all players are at risk. The pertinent question is, does the previous injury make them more of a risk.

UncleJoesJetFarm
UncleJoesJetFarm

@Brendan  For some reason I also have trouble posting tweets on here. Good potential news on Asa!

williamg1
williamg1

 Speaking of ignorant opinions. 

UncleJoesJetFarm
UncleJoesJetFarm

 Holmes is history or very close. Sanchez they will wait it out to see how FAcy goes and buy time. They have until the 25th with him and want to see how the QB market goes with hopes of getting something for him. Some teams after the frenzy might be more desperate for an experienced vet like Mark.


Lets give Idzik a chance. He now has some dough to work with, unlike last season.. I dont expect him to go silly but I expect major holes filled with reasonable young mid level talent and the draft will do the rest. In Idzik we trust.

bradysucks
bradysucks

@jake100  


You are too in love with Howard just like you were with Sanchez and like you are now with Geno......It seems like your criteria for falling in love with a player is that they NOT be elite......


You covet Howard like he's Jonathan Ogden or Bruce Matthews......He ISN"T........Of course he is going to listen to other offers from other teams and if Miami overpays him then the Jets will just replace him.......We don't need Austin Howard to be a winning team and he isn't the only decent lineman out there and the Jets do have TONS of money to spend and plenty of draft picks....


RELAX 

bradysucks
bradysucks

@bob  


Can we cut Stephen Hill and Sanchez also?......Pretty please.......The Arena League awaits them both if they can make any of those teams


Bernard Mclaughlin
Bernard Mclaughlin

@jake100  I say if he's cleared give it a shot.   The question I have  is how do you structure the contract, so that if he gets a career ending injury we are not eating cap space forever. that being said, the threat of injury should keep his cost way below his real value if healthy.

he and Cumby as a combine could change things big time.

UncleJoesJetFarm
UncleJoesJetFarm

@bradysucks @jake100  

He was our most consistent lineman last season. With all the questions with our oline, wouldnt it be nice to have some semblance of continuity? I agree he is not a top lineman, but he is solid and fits into the system. If our line didnt have all these question marks, I would agree with you, but they do and we need Howard. Ranking #25 last season and the questions with Colon and Winters make signing him even more important. I do agree the price cant be crazy though, that always goes without saying.

UncleJoesJetFarm
UncleJoesJetFarm

@Bernard Mclaughlin @jake100  


Sounds like a plan. I agree 100% that there has to be an injury clause in the contract so the Jets don't get burned. He and Cumby could do some real damage. But I also would like to draft a TE with potential in the mid rounds if we acquire Finely.

UncleJoesJetFarm
UncleJoesJetFarm

@harold @jake100  

I agree. I also believe he is looking for North of 6m. We shall see. No doubt, it will hurt our line with all the other issues that the Jets face on the line, if they let him get away, but I agree, we cant go too far past 4m. I would be amenable to 4.5-5m, but not one cent over 5m. I think his position is key. Lets face it, our offense is the weakest link and the line is the bread and butter, especially for a developing young QB. That combined with the other question marks on the oline, make signing him high priority. Oy!

harold
harold

@jake100 @bradysucks


I was probably the first to ring the Howard alarm.  If he wanted 4 million he would be signed already.  He is likely looking for 6 million plus.  I have cautioned people on the blog that this year there are a lot of teams that need OT help.  That was why I always said it was not a done deal.  He may still resign but people need to be prepared in case he does not.

UncleJoesJetFarm
UncleJoesJetFarm

@bradysucks  I think around 4 big ones is reasonable. I agree that he is not a top lineman, but for years the jets have neglected solid mid level lineman, and now we have a chance to retain a very solid player who is still young and was the most consistent on the line last season and who is showing real growth, he will still get BETTER! I rate him better than average right now. He is a good solid and stable fit for the Jets but I would not go too far past 4m.

bradysucks
bradysucks

@jake100 @bradysucks  


How much money do you want to pay Austin Howard Joey? Give me a number? I said a while ago when people were saying he could be signed for 3-5 million that the price could go higher and people gave me a hard time....


If Miami offers him 6-8 million a season do you match this offer? Miami is desperate for o-lineman because of Martin and Incognito etc.....The Fins are going to have at least 3 new starters on their o-line in 2014


I like Howard - My point though is that he is not elite.....and Idzik has to determine what makes sense to pay for him......If  it takes 6 to 8 million a year to re-sign Howard then it may make better sense to sign another free agent or build through the draft......This is best for the team

harold
harold

@Bernard Mclaughlin @jake100

Not if you have the TE rated more highly.  Again an injury risk player is only a short term option.  I doubt he would  (or should) not affect long term planning which is the draft.

Bernard Mclaughlin
Bernard Mclaughlin

@jake100 @harold@Bernard Mclaughlin  I would think however it would  take any consideration of a 1st round TE out , using that pick then for a WR if Lee is left or at least best available. I would then go for a TE in the 3rd or 4th, maybe even pick up a cheap FA as insurance, but if you are going to take Finley it would have to be with 100% confidence that he is totally healthy and at no more risk than anyone else and draft accordingly which is they have him , Cumby and Sudfield.if not then maybe you pass on Finley if there is any doubt