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Packers ponder key issues facing receiving corps

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Dan Arkush

darkush@pfwmedia.com
Executive editor

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By Dan Arkush

With numerous areas needing to be addressed in the wake of the Packers' ugly one-and-done playoff performance vs. the Giants, none is more intriguing than the team's receiving corps.

Two questions stick out regarding the Packers' pass catchers:

  • Will longtime fan favorite Donald Driver, who turns 37 next month, be back with the team in 2012?
  • Will the team "franchise" free-agent TE Jermichael Finley, who would be the first to admit he could have played a lot better this season?

Sensing the handwriting that could be on the wall, Driver, who is due a roster bonus of $2.2 million in March, wasted no time after the Packers' playoff exit acknowledging the possiblity of splitting the scene.

Fueling the speculation that Driver may be history in Green Bay is the feeling that promising young WRs Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel, who offer contrasting styles, are ready to escape the practice squad and make their mark.

But the way we hear it, it would be a mistake to flat-out assume the end is in sight in Green Bay for Driver, who our sources believe has one skill that none of his fellow receivers possesses — the ability to do the dirty work and take shots in third-down situations and still make key catches.

As for Finley, our sources believe it would be a big surprise if he did not receive the franchise tag, which at $5.4 million for tight ends is considered relatively affordable.

But is Finley, who had 11 dropped passes in the regular season according to STATS LLC, truly worthy of landing an annual paycheck on a par with the five highest-paid players at his position?

"The best tight ends in the league are complete — Jason Witten, Heath Miller and Vernon Davis can block as well as they catch," one pro talent evaluator told PFW. "(Patriots TE Rob) Gronkowski belongs in the same class. Even Jimmy Graham has shown a lot of promise as a blocker. And as long as (Tony) Gonzalez and (Antonio) Gates are playing, they will still be near the top of the list as receiving tight ends. Others include Jermaine Gresham, Dustin Keller, Greg Olsen, Kellen Winslow, even Aaron Hernandez.

"Finley would fall more in that group in the 10-15 range."

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