By working out a new two-year contract with tight end Jermichael Finley, the Packers have avoided what could have been a nasty and protracted dispute with Finley as to the question of whether he actually is a tight end under the rules of the franchise tag.
The Packers also have realized another benefit: They can use the franchise tag on someone else.
The most obvious, and perhaps only, candidate is quarterback Matt Flynn. Despite reports that the Packers won’t take a $14.4 million risk in the hopes of getting compensation for the 2008 seventh-rounder, Packers fans continue to clamor for a Matt Cassel-style move that would give the team something in exchange for his future services.
Beyond Flynn, there aren’t many viable candidates. Center Scott Wells is due to hit the market, but with no separate category for interior offensive linemen, the Packers would have to be willing to give Wells $9.4 million for one season. At one point, running back Ryan Grant was on track to have the kind of career that would have merited the franchise tag. But after a pair of 1,200-yard seasons, Grant has become ordinary, rushing for only 559 yards in 2011 despite earning 14 starts.
So the franchise tag likely will be used on Flynn or no one. But if the Packers tag Flynn and no one strikes a deal for his services, he’ll make nearly $6 million more in 2012 than the defending NFL MVP.
There are two factors that nevertheless could nudge the Packers toward doing it. First, with former Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin now the head coach in Miami, the Packers know (or at least should know) whether Philbin truly wants Flynn. If he does, the two teams should be able to work out a trade. (The Dolphins, after all, love to devote second-round picks on quarterbacks.) Second, tagging him and trading him to the Dolphins would keep him away from one of the NFC teams, like the Seahawks or the Redskins.