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Franchise tag fight could be coming between Finley, Packers

Green Bay Packers' tight end Jermichael Finley celebrates his touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the third quarter of their NFL football game in Chicago

Green Bay Packers’ tight end Jermichael Finley celebrates his touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the third quarter of their NFL football game in Chicago, September 25, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

REUTERS

One of the biggest challenges to maintaining a championship-caliber team comes from the desire of the team’s players to get paid. In a salary-cap environment, there’s only so much money to go around -- and only so many ways to keep a guy from getting elsewhere a contract offer worth more than his skills would merit, based on his ability to flash a Super Bowl ring around the locker room.

For the Packers, the biggest name poised to hit the market in 2012 belongs to tight end Jermichael Finley. Though Finley isn’t having gigantic numbers, due in part to the fact that the Packers have way too many weapons on offense, the Packers surely want to keep him. Because Finley plays tight end, the Packers can keep him at a relatively inexpensive franchise tender in the projected range of $5.5 million.

But is Finley a tight end? Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Finley could be planning to argue that he’s a wide receiver. The argument would be based on the number of plays in which Finley is lined up wide or in the slot at the snap, either via the initial alignment or after going in motion.

It would be a huge difference. With the projected franchise number for receivers expected to be in the range of $9.5 million, that’s a $4 million gap.

If Finley advances that argument, it won’t be the first time a player and a team have been at odds regarding the position he plays. In 2008, Terrell Suggs argued that he played more snaps at defensive end, not linebacker. The Ravens argued he was nevertheless a linebacker. The situation was resolved with the two sides agreeing to a hybrid label, and a franchise number.

The Packers could try to engineer the situation by keeping Finley tight against the line -- thus the name “tight end.” By continuing to split him out wide, the Packers are inviting an argument that he’s actually a wide receiver.