Jermichael Finley

We have to wonder if Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley is one of those guys.

He has all the talent in the world. He has the tools to be great. We’ve watched him mature and we all know his head and heart are in the right place. Looking at it objectively, he’s one of the best tight ends in football, but…

Don’t you feel gyped a little bit? Putting aside all his bluster about YOTTO and so forth, shouldn’t this dude be doing more than he is? He’s a matchup nightmare. He’s too fast for all but maybe one or two linebackers in the league to cover and he’s too big for any safety or corner to trifle with.

He should be putting up No. 1 wide receiver numbers. Drops have been a problem — he has a team-leading 11 and that’s a Packers’ number, which we can say is, uh… conservative. Greg Jennings emergence as Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target hasn’t helped Finley’s numbers. Neither has the fact that Jordy Nelson had turned into a badass.

To his credit, other than one early-season incident, Finley hasn’t complained about not getting the ball. Of course, he really has no right to — he’s second on the team in targets with 79, trailing only Jennings.

On the season, Finley has 45 catches for 683 yards and six touchdowns. The latter two numbers are career highs. He’s also averaging a career-high 15.2 yards per reception. Those are great numbers for any tight end. The kid has also made himself into a pretty good blocker. He’s not one of those guys who will throw a hand on a guy and then try to get into his route as soon as possible so he has a better chance of getting the ball. He does his job.

Word is, Finley wants to be among the highest-paid tight ends in the league when his rookie contract expires after the season. That would put him in the $7 million per year range. The Packers probably want to pay him around $5 million a season, which is why a deal hasn’t been finished already.

If the team meets his price, they’re paying for potential, to a certain degree. There are currently seven tight ends in the league with more yards than Finley — Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten, Fred Davis, Tony Gonzalez, Aaron Hernandez and Dustin Keller.

Could Finley outperform any or all of those guys? Sure, if he puts it all together. The thing is, he should be outperforming those guys right now. For whatever reason, it hasn’t happened.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that they’ve stockpiled tight ends like they used to stockpile fullbacks, the Packers don’t have an obvious replacement for Finley’s production on the roster. Further, if he goes on the open market as a free agent, some team will certainly jump at the chance to make Finley one of the richest tight ends in the game.

The organization’s one trump card is the franchise tag, which will lock Finley up for one year at around $5 million. What happens after that is anyone’s guess, but if he isn’t putting up better numbers than Dustin Keller and Fred Davis, does it really matter?