Jermichael Finley's recent $15 million contract with the Green Bay Packers may not seem like much on the surface. But his $7.5 million salary per season should be a cause for concern for the reigning AFC champion New England Patriots.
Finley, who caught 55 receptions for 767 yards in 2011, is setting the bar pretty high to keep quality tight ends. The Patriots have two dynamic tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and both had more catches and more yards than Finely last season.
If Finley is worth $7.5 million per season, how much are New England's tight ends worth?
Is Hernandez (79 receptions, 910 yards) worth $8 million per year? Is Gronkowski (90 receptions, 1,327 yards) worth $9 or $10 million per year? There is very little chance the Patriots can pay two players that kind of money at the same position. They wouldn't have enough cap room to be strong in other areas.
The good news is New England doesn't have to worry about this problem for at least two more years. Gronkowski and Hernandez were drafted together in 2010 and have two seasons remaining on their rookie contracts.
But at some point, the Patriots have to pay up. New England will need to choose between their two great tight ends -- and both will be deserving of at least the annual salary Finley just received.