2014 free-agent countdown
20. Chris Banjo, safety (Re-signed Feb. 26)
19. Seneca Wallace, quarterback
18. Kahlil Bell, running back
17. Robert Francois, inside linebacker
16. Marshall Newhouse, offensive lineman
15. C.J. Wilson, defensive lineman
14. M.D. Jennings, safety
13. Jamari Lattimore, inside linebacker
12. Johnny Jolly, defensive line
11. Matt Flynn, quarterback
10. Andrew Quarless, tight end
9. James Starks, running back
8. Ryan Pickett, defensive line
7. Jermichael Finley, tight end
6. Mike Neal, outside linebacker/defensive line
5. John Kuhn, fullback
4. James Jones, wide receiver
3. Evan Dietrich-Smith, center
2. B.J. Raji, defensive lineman
1. Sam Shields, cornerback
With less than 24 hours until unrestricted free agents may begin talks with other teams, the Green Bay Packers still don’t have a deal with Sam Shields.
The two sides have been negotiating for more than nine months, but there’s a divide between what general manager Ted Thompson and Shields’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, feel his value is on the open market.
Both will soon find out. In four days, Shields will be free to sign with any team for the first time since he agreed to a $7,500 signing bonus with the Packers after going undrafted out of Miami in 2010.
Shields, 26, is banking on speed and steady progression earning him his first true payday in the NFL. He signed a one-year restricted tender worth $2 million last summer prior to mini-camp and made the league minimum before that.
The market started taking shape last week with one the best soon-to-be free agents, Brent Grimes, agreeing to a four-year, $32 million extension ($16 million guaranteed) with Miami. He’ll turn 31 this summer.
Veteran Tramon Williams came on late, but Shields was the most consistent cornerback in the Packers’ secondary. He missed two games, but still finished with a career-highs in 61 tackles, 16 pass deflections and four interceptions.
Assuming the bone bruise he suffered on the first defensive play against San Francisco in January was nothing more severe, the table should be set for Shields to cash in.
Pro Football Focus didn’t rate Shields’ 2013 season as kindly as it did when he led the NFL in coverage snaps per reception (16.3) in 2012, but he still was among the top 20 cornerbacks with 12.4 snaps per catch allowed and a 72.7 quarterback rating when the ball was thrown into his coverage.
On a defense starved for turnovers, Shields’ four picks led the team, including a critical one against Dallas in December that set up the game-winning drive. If he leaves in the coming weeks, the Packers might have to dip into the draft for the fourth straight season.
At the very least, they must hope third-year cornerback Casey Hayward can put his recurring hamstring issues behind him and four-year pro Davon House is ready for a more consistent role next season.
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Editor's note: Prior to the start of the new league year in March, Press-Gazette Media counted down the top 20 unrestricted, restricted and exclusive right free agents the Green Bay Packers will have to decide on this offseason.
No. 1 Sam Shields, fourth-year cornerback
The skinny: Unrestricted free agent
The snaps: 879 total (878 defense, 1 special teams)
The stats: 61 tackles, 17 pass deflections and four interceptions (14 games)
The 2013 salary: $2,023,000.