Free agent tight end Jermichael Finley is playing the waiting game right now. The former Packers tight end had two vertebrae fused last fall after suffering a spinal contusion in a game against the Browns. Having been cleared to play by his doctor, he’s now waiting for training camp injuries to make his stock go up.
A couple months ago, the Steelers were rumored to be interested in Finley. The Steelers team neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Maroon performed Finley’s neck surgery, and gave him the all clear to play back in May. In an interview with USA Today, Finley revealed that the Steelers went as far as to make him a couple offers. “Pittsburgh have showed me a couple deals, but we all know the money ain’t what it’s supposed to be,” said Finley.
What Finley thinks the money is supposed to be is anyone’s guess. The Steelers certainly weren’t going to make a large offer to a player whose medical carries such a risk. The Seahawks and Patriots had Finley in for visits, and the Packers remain interested in the veteran tight end. In a follow up interview, Finley elaborated somewhat on his contractual expectations. When asked if he had a number in mind, he said: “Without a doubt. It’s going to be tough. I ain’t going to go back for mediocre (money). I ain’t going back for nothing less. I can get a ton of money tax-free with nobody taking nothing off the top, Uncle Sam. It’s going to be a tough situation. I’ve still got to work out, I’ve still got to prepare and I’ve still got to be ready to go. But at the end of the day, when a team calls, it’s going to be strictly business.”
The tax free money he’s referring to is an insurance payout that he could potentially receive if he doesn’t return to football. Here’s what Finley told Sports Illustrated about the policy shortly after his injury.
“My agent and financial advisers have always preached the importance of disability insurance to me. As athletes, we often feel invincible, which is why it is so important to have advisers who you can trust and who can also take the emotion out of any situation. I don’t feel the pressure that I see many athletes do because I’ve taken their advice. I currently have a $10 million insurance policy in place. If this injury prevents me from ever playing football again, I will be able to collect on $10 million tax-free. For me, this is the equivalent of making another $16 million or $17 million in pre-tax salary. While money has absolutely nothing to do with my decision to play, I can sleep at night knowing that regardless of what happens, my family is financially secure forever—maybe the biggest odds I’ll ever overcome. Disability insurance is never a fun conversation, and writing those annual checks to protect myself is tough. But now, more than ever, I understand the importance of protecting yourself, protecting your family, and protecting your future earnings.”
If he isn’t able to play in four games before October 20th of this year, Finley can file a claim to collect on the disability policy. Without seeing the policy it’s impossible to know, but having been cleared by his neurosurgeon and turning down contract offers would seem to complicate matters.