The transaction period is all but complete by this point of the NFL offseason, so with the exception of a few signings to fill for injuries that may occur during camps or OTA’s, there won’t be much happening on the league’s transaction wire. The usual crop of available free agents around this time of year consists of players with plenty of injury history and veterans trying to cash their last paychecks. These players usually come cheap or with team-friendly one-year “show me” deals.
Jermichael Finley definitely falls under the injury history category but if the Oakland Raiders can land him on a cheap contract, it would be a low-risk, moderate-to-high reward situation that could work out very well for both parties.
Taking a look at Oakland’s pass-catching options, it’s a safe bet that Rod Streater, James Jones and Denarius Moore will be the top 3 options. Some will say that Andre Holmes or Brice Butler might sneak their way into one of those top 3 spots but Moore would provide more balance to the starting lineup than either of those two. Either way, the Raiders will have options at wide receiver. It’s more just a matter of who is going to separate themselves from the pack.
At the tight end position however, there is more room for improvement. 2013 sixth round pick TE Mychal Rivera had a surprisingly productive season for the Silver and Black, hauling in 38 passes for for 407 yards and 4 touchdowns. 2011 seventh round pick David Ausberry is the second option at the position and while he offers the tremendous size and speed conditioning that the late Al Davis famously covets, he only has nine career receptions to show for. If healthy, Jermichael Finley would be a considerable upgrade over both Rivera and Ausberry.
The Raiders were one of the worst teams in the entire league last year in red zone touchdowns, averaging only 1.6 per game. While the quarterbacks take much of the blame here, no one emerged as a reliable red zone target either. This is where Jermichael Finley’s impact would be felt the most.
Amidst his struggles last season, Matt Schaub did excel in the red zone, throwing nine touchdowns compared to just one interception (he threw one TD and 13 INT’s elsewhere). Adding 6’5” 250lb. Finley with Schaub now at the helm, new addition James Jones and an improved offensive line, Oakland might yet have a decent red zone offense.
For Finley, he could show any potential future employer that he’s fully recovered and able to contribute at a high-level still and for Oakland, Finley could either provide the Raiders with a viable stopgap option while Rivera gets more experience under his belt, or Finley could end up being the long-term answer himself.
The big question mark here is health. Finley just completed his sixth season and out of 96 possible games he has missed 26 games total, or 27 percent of them. 21 of those missed games have come from his 2010 knee injury and last season’s scary neck injury. Even after the 2010 knee injury, Finley returned for two full seasons in which he averaged about 60 catches, 700 yards and five touchdowns so he proved that the knee injury is behind him.
Neck and head injuries are much more worrisome for athletes though, considering the long-term effects these types of injuries can have. It is worth noting that Finley has received full medical clearance from the doctor who operated on him, Dr. Joseph Maroon, the neurosurgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Few teams have shown even the slightest interest in Finley thus far and while he has expressed his interest in playing football again, Finley also has a $10 million insurance policy he is thinking about cashing out. In order for Finley to make that much money in the NFL again, he’ll need to have his earnings from this point forward reach nearly $20 million before taxes kick in. It’s a big decision to make but at just 27 years of age, Finley has more than enough time to turn out a respectable career.