Tight end Jermichael Finley is still trying to find an NFL team for the 2014 season, despite his ability to collect on a $10 million insurance policy if he simply walks away from the game of football. That's awesome to see, because it means he has drive for the game (though it's worth noting he could always earn more than $10 million if he gets a big contract), but basically nobody knows if he'll be able to play again, or if a team will take a chance on him.
That's because Finley had his C-3 and C-4 vertebrae fused a month after suffering a spinal contusion back on Oct. 20 in a game against the Cleveland Browns. Finley can run, Finley can catch and Finley can out-perform most tight ends that have come into the league of late. But whether or not he can be hit without being in significant danger of re-injury to his spine. When you're talking spine, the discussion is incredibly serious, especially when it related to a high-impact game like football.
But Finley, who has 2,785 yards and 20 touchdowns in six seasons in the NFL, is still drawing interest. Every team in the league that could be interested in a tight end will do their due diligence and take a look Finley's way. You can now count the San Francisco 49ers among those teams.
Adam Schefter of ESPN said that the 49ers have had discussions with Finley, though I'm not sure on which program. Chris Biderman of Scout.com relayed the news, and followed up with the obvious note that the 49ers are doing due diligence more than anything.
But it's still worth discussing what this could mean. Obviously, Vernon Davis is presently holding out for a better contract, despite the fact that he's already getting paid among the top tight ends in the NFL. The 49ers have more important players to take care of at this point, and after Davis, there's not a whole lot behind him. San Francisco gave Vance McDonald a huge vote of confidence when they elected not to address the tight end position in free agency or the draft.
McDonald will get his opportunities to shine, but with Davis holding out, the thought of McDonald starting is a bit more worrying. Finley (again, we're proceeding as though he's fit to play football) is an instant upgrade over McDonald and even has a leg-up on Davis in some respects. It's possible this is just leverage, but really, even without considering Davis' holdout, I think looking into Finley makes a lot of sense.
In other words, it's possible the 49ers always intended to look into Finley to some extent and this has nothing to do with Davis' holdout. Maybe the lack of pursuing options in free agency to this point was just a dislike of the market at the time. I think there's a place on this roster for a happy Davis, a healthy Finley and McDonald. Of course, any potential signing is far, far away as Finley is still navigating medical clearance and things of that nature. Not to mention all we've heard thus far is that the 49ers have spoke to him.