Finley Set To Get Free Agent Payday

A top-heavy group of free-agent tight ends has been watered down with Jimmy Graham and Dennis Pitta off the market.

Assuming Jermichael Finley gets the green light from his neurosurgeon and team physicians around the league after spinal-fusion surgery, he's likely going to land a lucrative contract in free agency.

The top tight end on the market — and arguably the top player in free agency — is Jimmy Graham. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Saints are going to use the franchise tag on Graham if they're unable to lock him up to a long-term deal.

The deadline to use the franchise tag is 3 p.m. (Central) on Monday. The amount of the franchise tag for a tight end has not been finalized. It was $6.066 million last year and might be somewhere around $7.05 million this year, according to a source.

Another top tight end is off the market, as well, with Baltimore signing Dennis Pitta to a five-year deal worth $32 million, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun and

Pitta was a fourth-round pick in 2010. He has 122 receptions for 1,244 yards (10.2 average) and 11 touchdowns in his four seasons. While it's an apples-to-oranges comparison, Finley caught 141 passes for 1,734 yards (12.3 average) and 13 touchdowns in 2011, 2012 and his abbreviated 2013.

Graham and Pitta are the top-ranked tight ends in's soon-to-be-released free agent rankings. Finley, because of concerns over his health, was ranked behind Pitta and checked in at No. 3. It's a huge drop-off after Finley and Detroit's Brandon Pettigrew, with Carolina's Ben Hartsock, Houston's Garrett Graham, the Giants' duo of Bear Pascoe and Brandon Myers.

Free agency begins on March 11, though negotiations are allowed to begin on March 8.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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