When Green Bay placed the franchise tag on Finley earlier this year, he wanted to be classified as a wide receiver for the purposes of determining his compensation. Finley’s argument was centered on the amount of time the Packers used him off the line in a two-point stance, but it never played out because Finley signed a new two-year deal with the team. The contract will pay him around $15 million, which just about splits the difference between the tags for receivers ($9.515 million) and tight ends ($5.446 million).
In an interview with Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe, Blake Baratz, Finley’s agent, suggests Hernandez could make a similar argument if the Patriots franchise him after the 2013 season. That’s been suggested many times since the Patriots signed Rob Gronkowski to an extension, but Hernandez rarely lines up with his hand in the dirt and Baratz thinks that should matter when defining his position for a franchise tag.
“The team is going to argue it doesn’t matter where the guy lines up and what he does, he’s a tight end. Our argument was, when you make an argument on where they are lining up, what kind of stance they’re in, whether they’re running routes and the percentages that Jermichael was doing that. To me, that’s no different than if Wes Welker is in the slot or James Jones is in the slot,” Baratz said. “The team’s going to say he was a tight end in college, he sits in the tight end meeting room, and he’s a tight end in the media guide, and on websites he’s a tight end. That’s all great, but our argument was what’s the definition of a tight end? To us, [that] says he plays tight to the end, which is the traditional definition.”
Baratz said he doesn’t think Finley’s argument would have swayed an arbitrator because of the precedent it would have set, but thinks the soundness of it helped get a contract done quickly with the Packers. While we’re a long way from the end of the 2013 season, the issue will likely play a role if there are any contract discussions over the next two years.
Given the evolving nature of tight ends, this isn’t likely to be the last time the traditional definition of the position comes into question.