The Green Bay Packers’ chances of re-signing cornerback Sam Shields before the start of free agency don’t look good.
An NFL source confirmed reports Saturday by ProFootballTalk.com and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com that Shields plans to test the free-agent market when the early negotiating period starts March 8. The Packers and Shields’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, had been negotiating for the past week in anticipation of Monday’s deadline for teams to use their franchise tag.
With negotiations apparently stalled for now, the Packers could in essence assure retaining Shields by designating him their franchise player by Monday’s 3 p.m. (CST) deadline. That would come at the steep price of the franchise tender for cornerbacks, which is $11.834 million.
The Packers have more than enough salary-cap to room to absorb the tag — they’re about
$35 million under the 2014 cap — but will have to determine whether that’s too steep a price for the 26-year-old Shields..
The franchise tag would all but guarantee Shield’s return this season, because although he’d be allowed to negotiate with other teams, the Packers would have the right to match the contract offer or receive two first-round picks from Shields’ new team as compensation. The chances are virtually nil that any team would give up two first-rounders to sign him.
The source gave no indication of whether the Packers were seriously considering using the tag.
The Packers also could place their transition tag on Shields, though that would be almost as costly as the franchise tag. The transition tag for cornerbacks is $10.081 million and carries the right of first refusal but without compensation if the offer isn’t matched.
The source said Shields still will be considering re-signing with the Packers when he hits the open market, though history suggests those chances diminish significantly with a player such as Shields, who likely will attract significant interest from other teams.
However, there’s also a week before the free-agent negotiating period opens, so there’s always the chance the sides re-engage in talks.