Thursday February 23rd, 2012

Will the Packers use the franchise tag on Matt Flynn? Now that they've re-signed Jermichael Finley, it's more of a possibility. (Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire)

The Packers, somewhat surprisingly and out of the blue, locked up tight end Jermichael Finley with a two-year, $15 million contract extension. And now it's time for Green Bay to decide if it wants to roll the dice on Matt Flynn.

Finley's signing means Green Bay still has possession of its all-important franchise tag for 2012, which could help the NFC North champs hold on to their highly-coveted backup quarterback, who would drum up plenty of interest as a free agent. Using that tag on Flynn, however, would run the Packers $14.4 million for next season.

That would not be a problem if Green Bay tagged Flynn and then traded him for a high draft pick, thereby allowing Flynn's new team to rework his contract. But there is some inherent risk in going down that road.

The doomsday scenario for the Packers is that they tag Flynn, then cannot find a trade partner for him -- in which case, they'd be stuck with a $14 million backup quarterback and a host of salary cap problems. There are enough teams desperate to find a starting QB that Green Bay might feel that risk is minimal. It's a risk nonetheless.

Teams don't part with first- or second-round picks easily, and that would probably be close to the going rate for Flynn. Let's not forget that, despite his Week 17 outburst against Detroit's miserable secondary, Flynn has started just two games in his four-year NFL career.

Any team trading for him, because of the financial risk involved, would not only have to cough up a high pick, it would have to be 100 percent confident Flynn could step in and succeed as a starter in 2012.

There's also the reality for Green Bay that using the franchise tag on Flynn may cost them starting center Scott Wells. Thus far, Green Bay has been unable to come to terms with Wells, who has started every game the past two seasons and made the Pro Bowl in 2011. Right now, the Packers at least have the franchise tag in their back pocket as a fail-safe for the Wells negotiations (even if using it would cost them $8 million-plus, barring a reworked long-term deal postmortem).

These were all scenarios on the table prior to Wednesday's re-signing of Finley, of course, but before that occurred, the smart money was on Green Bay using the tag on its talented (if sometimes drop-prone) tight end.

Now, it's a completely new ballgame.

Green Bay, it's worth pointing out, could opt to just stash the franchise tag completely and not use it on anyone. The danger in that decision would be that it could cost the Packers both Flynn and Wells -- definitely the former, who's not going to re-sign to be Aaron Rodgers' backup. On the flip side, however, it would prevent the Packers from making any massive commitment to either player, guaranteeing them a healthy salary cap situation.

No matter how you slice it, it is decision time for the Packers. Do they lock up Wells for at least one more year? Do they take a shot on tagging Flynn in the belief that they can turn around and deal him? Or do they keep the franchise tag on ice, let Flynn depart via free agency and try to re-sign Wells? Getting Finley back in tow helped the Packers' outlook, but they're still a long way from an easy, stress-free offseason.

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