10

January

Can the Packers Afford Sam Shields?

Packers CB Sam Shields

Shields is one of Green Bay’s top free agents heading into 2014

This will come across as pouting and before we get into Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields in free agency, I have to say that I really wish I were still writing about a Packers team who was preparing for their next playoff game.  Such is life.

So what about Shields?  Well, last year Shields was a restricted free agent and the Packers placed a second round tender on him, meaning that if Shields negotiated a deal with another team and Green Bay chose not to match it, the receiving team would have owed the Packers a second round draft choice.

At the time that the Packers were gathering for training camp and there was talk that he might hold out if he was not given a long-term deal.  Shields’ agent is Drew Rosenhaus, who is no stranger to a holdout, an interview or an attempt to pan for the camera.  Shields eventually signed his tender with the Packers and played out his one-year, $2.023 million deal this season.

A likely motivator for Shields to get signed and into camp was that there was expected to be competition at the cornerback position.  Shields missed significant time in 2012 due to an ankle injury suffered early in the season but returned late in the year to help the Packers earn another division title.

Shields also had an interception for a touchdown early in the divisional round playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers.  Still, looming over Shields’ shoulder were cornerbacks Casey Hayward, Davon House and rookie Micah Hyde.

Shields kept his starting spot and had a stellar 2013 season, tallying 61 tackles, 17 passes defensed and had four interceptions in just 14 games.

Two of Shields’ interceptions will not soon be forgotten.  The first was a game-saver late in the win against the Dallas Cowboys on a play that, had Shields not made, likely would have gone for a touchdown and prevented the Packers from winning that game.  The second was the last play of Green Bay’s week 17 win over the Chicago Bears to seal the division title.  Shields intercepted a Jay Cutler Hail Mary pass that somehow failed to make it to the end zone.

Heading into last weekend’s playoff game, Shields was in prime position for a lucrative new contract, whether with the Packers or someone else.  Early in that wild card matchup against the 49ers, Shields suffered a leg injury and needed help off the field.  He was carted back to the locker room and there were concerns over the nature and severity of the injury.  Shields and Rosenhaus likely breathed a huge sigh of relief when a MRI revealed a bone bruise and no ligament damage.

Many Packers fans likely also breathed that same sigh of relief and are hopeful that the Packers make Shields one of their top priorities to re-sign during this offseason.  I mentioned that Shields is in line for a lucrative deal, but what will that deal look like?

Consider that the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL is Tampa Bay’s Darrelle Revis at an average of $16 million per season, although none of that money is guaranteed.  The 10th highest-paid cornerback is Green Bay’s own Tramon Williams.  Williams current deal is for $33 million with $10.9 million guaranteed.  It averages about $8.25 million per season.  After this season, it’s fair to say that Shields falls in between Revis and Williams and closer to the Williams side of the equation.

Shields just turned 26 in December so he has some years left.  He will likely be looking for something long term in the four to five year range and at least $10 million per season, if you base it on what Williams currently has.  There is a possibility that the team may ask Williams to take a pay cut or restructure his deal in order to re-sign some of their current free agents, but that is not a given.  If the Packers can re-work Williams’ deal, they may be able to offer Shields a deal similar to what Williams has now.

The Packers 2013 salary cap was $122 million and they currently have around $9.5 million in space to work with.  But with several other free agent contracts set to expire, the Packers could free up another $9 million in additional space.  They would be in a position to make a decent offer to Shields, if they wanted to.  The question is, do they?

Shields emerged as the most reliable defensive back for the Packers this season and often blanketed the opposition’s best outside receiver.  He has the best ball skills of any other Packers defender, which is no surprise as Shields was a wide receiver in college.  One thing that the Packers lacked this season was play makers on defense.  Shields is one and will continue to be one for a few more years.  Can the Packers afford to let him go and hope that one of Hayward, House or Hyde can replace that production?

That’s a tricky question because it relies on predicting how Hayward will bounce back after a lost 2013 season due to a hamstring injury.  And can he be effective outside versus in the slot, where he played so well last season?  Hyde nearly had a game and season-saving interception against the 49ers in last week’s wild card playoff game and flashed some good abilities throughout this past season.  Still, Hyde is young and has some developing to do.  I wouldn’t put him at Shields’ level at all.  House came on relief of Shields in the playoff game and did OK when you consider that the officials were letting both sides play.  Otherwise, House is merely depth at cornerback.

Shields is a known entity and he also knows the defensive system.  The system may change but as previously mentioned, Shields is a playmaker and those are hard to come by at all, let alone on the Green Bay defense.  Matt Stein of Bleacher Report seems to agree and writes a nice piece on the Packers salary cap situation and what to do with their upcoming free agents.  Shields is top priority on his list.

Stein also reminds us that in addition to those Packers players who are soon-to-be free agents, there are also a few key contracts set to expire at the end of next season.  Namely receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson.  The team could use some of this year’s cap space to extend one or both during this offseason and take some of the heat off of next year.  That could further complicate the Packers’ ability to get a deal done for Shields.

However they make it work, they need to bring Shields back.  It’s what Vice President of  Football Administration/Player Finance Russ Ball gets paid to do:  make it work!

 

 

 

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

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42 Responses to “Can the Packers Afford Sam Shields?”

  1. Razer says:

    Our chance to resign Shields was before this season, NOT after the season. Drew Rosenhaus will take Shields public and someone will pay him more that Tramon Williams. It is too bad because he is just coming into his own and the Packers coached him up to this level.

    The Packers need to find another raw cover corner somewhere in this draft that can become the next Sam Shields project. Sorry to see him go.

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    • Big O says:

      I agree, Rosenhaus seems to work his clients to help Rosenhaus and is not going to let us off easy on this, I would think Sam is gone!! Hope I’m wrong

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      • Savage57 says:

        Just doing what an agent is paid to do, albeit in that nauseating Rosenhaus way. Simple fact is that last season the Packers checked on the bet, and Shields drew two Aces on the river this season and now he’s going to take the pot.

        Sucks, but that’s the way the cards played out.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

        • Stroh says:

          I don’t think his value went up very much from last year to this. He proved last year he was a damn good CB, albeit not an elite CB. His play this year wasn’t any better or worse than last year. So the Packers in essence got another year from Shields at an affordable salary.

          I have zero concerns about Shields signing. The Packers simply do NOT let young talented football players leave, not until they are over 30 yrs old. Don’t worry Shields will sign… Probably in the 11M per year range. Not anything more than he probably would have gotten last year.

          Packers tried to sign him long term to a very team friendly deal, a la Jordy Nelson. Shields decided not to take the long term security and played another year at less than 3M. Now he’ll make most of that up, but it still won’t be an exorbitant contract.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

          • Savage57 says:

            I’m guessing that Shields is going to get something > $8MM range. It might be too rich for the Packers with all the other guys they need to sign, extend, re-do.

            And, just for the record, my point wasn’t anything other than the fact that the Packers had a chance to take the gamble, sign him early and lost. They probably could have had him in the $5-6MM range. Now they pay more.

            Let’s try to stay on task from now on, OK?

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    • Dobber says:

      The sad part is that nobody in the Packer secondary has his raw speed. He was beaten in the Bears game by Jeffery on a sideline route and Shields just flat ran him down.

      Part of draft and develop (or play) is that when players outgrow your ability to keep them, you hope to have players in place to step in. Certainly the Packers have four corners they feel can play (House, Hayward, Williams and Hyde), but you hate to lose Shields.

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      • Savage57 says:

        Shields could spot House 20 yards in the 100 and still run him down.

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  2. White92 White92 says:

    Can they afford not to?

    Somebody else may need to take a cut..

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  3. John says:

    It is natural for management and Fans to overrate Packer players. This seens to be happening in Shields case. Of the 150 corners that played at least 1 game, Shields grades out at 68 per PFF. His pass coverage grade is .9 and would rank him as the 48th best in coverage. Not bad but certainly not the super star that some say he is. His tackling grade is -4.7 which brings him down. If he can be signed for reasonable money, what an average #2 corner on a team should get paid. Pay him, but please don’t over pay him because he is a Packer. For comparison sake, Williams ranked 44 in all aspects of playing corner, Hyde 46, Bush 56 ( surprised, not a Bush fan ), Hayward 62 ( he ranked 4th best last year but had hamstring problems this year, if he can get over them he is a Gem ), House 93rd. Spend Free Agent money wisely on Packer free agents and other teams free agents. It does not matter.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 5

    • Nopainnogain says:

      I agree that fans overrate our players sometimes and that we should not overpay, but the Shields hype is not completely baseless. The previous season, he graded 15th overall and 8th in coverage in spite of missing 6 games. You extrapolate the per-game over 16 and he’d be 5th overall and 2nd in coverage. He was incredible after he came back from the injury. To me, he is at least a very high-end #2 corner. Looking only at the grading this year can be deceiving since he was matched up against the opponent’s best receiver for most of the time, which is something not everyone above him had to deal with.

      Even with TWill’s resurgence, would you rather have him or Shields if you had to pick? In my mind, you have to keep one of them, otherwise we’d start back at square one at cornerback. Shields has excellent speed for recovery and good ball skills and is almost 5 years younger than TWill. It’d be nice to keep both, but if one’s gotta go to keep a healthy cap, I’d release TWill and give Shields that money. TWill’s $2 mil signing bonus would stay on the cap for one year, but to me, that is worth it and we would probably get more out of the younger Shields over the next 4 years than aging 31 yo TWill.

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  4. funcrusher says:

    I don’t think he’s worth the money, to the Packers. He’s a nice corner with great speed, but he’s not a game changer, and far from elite. When they gave Tramon that extension back in 2010, he was playing corner at a much higher level than Shields is now.

    If they can resign Shields for a reasonable amount, I’m ok with it, but $9M/year is way too much. They need to put that money towards getting a safety.
    Ahem, Ahem, Jairus Byrd, Ahem…

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    • Jason Perone Jason Perone says:

      Some good thoughts. With some big decisions coming on starters this and next offseason, spending too much is a concern.

      John mentions earlier that some players tend to get overrated by team management and fans. Maybe true, especially to their old team. Jairus Byrd’s name has floated around for a few seasons now as a possible FA option for the Packers. Is he kind of like the Marshawn Lynch of 2014 and just gained a lot of momentum because his name keeps coming up? Sure, he’s got good instincts, but if you look at Buffalo’s numbers with and without him this past season, they weren’t “difference maker” apart. Is he better than what the Packers have now? Yes. Is he worth $8 million/year and moreso than Shields? Maybe, but any FA is a gamble and more of a gamble than would be keeping Shields. Byrd missed 5 games last year with the foot injury but prior to that, was fairly healthy. I just think his price tag would be too high and the Packers have too many other priorities to get done.

      Lastly and we’re all tired of hearing it, but it’s just not Ted Thompson’s MO to shell out that kind of money on a new guy. Byrd is a day 1 type of free agent. Rarely do we hear the Packers name on that day much unless it’s one of their old players signing somewhere else or if another team pays more and signs a player they were after

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      • funcrusher says:

        Signing Byrd definitely wasn’t a prediction I was making, I just think it would be a good football move. They need a big time safety to improve the secondary. Shields isn’t an elite corner and I don’t think he’s in the second tier either. If the money is even remotely comparable, they should go with Byrd or whichever safety they like.

        Honestly, I think Shields will get closer to $5M/year than the $9M/year that some people are predicting, but who knows. It just takes one team. Ask Eric Walden.

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  5. zack says:

    Let another team overpay shields. He did seem to be playing at a much higher level at the end of the season but he didn’t reach superstar status… I’m tired of paying for a players “potential” what ever happened to proving yourself THEN getting paid? I’d rather pay that kind of money for jarius Byrd than a slightly above average corner which is all shields has proven to be.

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  6. Big T says:

    If Shields didn’t have speed we wouldn’t even be addressing this situation. He is a below average db that has great speed which brings him up to average. He is also injury prone and can’t tackle if his life depended on it. Let the Viqueens over pay him.

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  7. Deuce says:

    I think Shields will be back next year remember Pickett departing will free up a lot of cap space, which also TT knows Williams is overpaid for his age he will be forced to work a new deal or he will be let go we have lots depth at CB to spend on a declining CB, There’s no doubt in my mind that due to Rosenhauss being his Agent were gonna pay for bringing him back, Shields isn’t a concern to return I would say James Jones is more of a worry than Shields.

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    • Stroh says:

      Say Good Bye to James Jones… Boykin has already proven he can do Jones job rather well. Jones is 30 now and speed was never his forte, but it will become his liability sooner rather than later. Letting Jones walk is a no-brainer, unless he signs a contract less than the one he just finished.

      Shields on the other hand is in his prime years and could still get better. The area of his play that was a weakness, was tackling and I would say he improved that tremendously. Keep in mind that he didn’t play CB till one year before the Packers got him. I’m not worried about Shields a bit. The Packers simply don’t let players in their prime year walk in FA.

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  8. PackerbackerJim says:

    Reading these posts makes me wonder what they were watching? Shields has the best pair of hands, cover skills and speed since Woodson and possibly
    Adderly. After CM3, he is the only other playmaker in defense. Byrd would be a welcome addition, but not instead of SS. 48th best cover??? You can’t name 45 better cover guys, especially when such piss poor safeties and the communication
    amongst the DBs was non-existent negatively affecting and causing “blown coverages”!

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  9. James David says:

    You can not teach speed. The game today requires speed. GB simply does not have enough speed all over the defense. Pay up.

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  10. aaronqb says:

    The Packers need another corner – Shields, a different FA, or a draft pick, especially since Hyde may be moving to safety (where his skills are probably a better fit).

    I’m confident that TT understands the situation and will make the best decision for the GB Packers. I don’t care which way he goes.

    The Packers need only an average to slightly above-average defense. Their offense is built to be one of the best in the NFL.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

    • Shavager says:

      C’MON MAN, anybody who thinks Packers can make much of a run in playoffs and SB is crazy if they think Packers can sit on this defense and NOT improve it. FACT–IF Packers played in west or south divisions, they would’ve finished 3rd AT BEST, possibly 4th. We’ve seen what happens when Packers make playoffs–we’ve seen it 3 CONSECUTIVE YEARS, defense can’t stop opponents and win games. Packers offense can compete with Niners, Saints, Hawks, Panthers–DEFENSE is why Packers aren’t in these teams level of success this year. TRADE Tramon Williams NOW, get a pick to use in draft to move up and select the BEST defensive player available, start with SAFETY. Williams won’t be back after next season anyway, get some value while it’s possible and use some money to re-sign Sam Shields, the BEST player in Pack’s secondary.

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  11. tim says:

    Cornerback is one position where talent like shields is incredibly important. Who do they replace him with who isn’t a huge downgrade. If they can get him back for tramon Williams money I would do it in a heartbeat. He’s worth whatever the market says he’s worth. I just hope no one else goes completely nuts over him. Then they face a tough decision. They’re about guaranteed to lose Raji, Finley and probably James jones too. Pickett is gone or gets a paycut, Williams will get restructured or is gone. I wonder about hawk or brad jones as well. Kuhn’s contract will be for less. The only other free agents that I can see the packers giving a significant raise to are quarless, maybe eds, and even maybier Neal or Starks. Cobb and Jordy are more important than shields, but none of the others are close.

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  12. Icebowler says:

    Good question Jason. Let’s assume we can’t. I think House can do the job on the outside if we take him off of most of his special teams duties. Hopefully Hayward will be back for the full year. Also, hopefully, Williams will take a pay cut in return for a few more years of security. I think Hyde should be switched to Safety. We really need to add an ILB who can cover TE’s or big WR’s crossing the middle. This would really help the secondary in all aspects of the passing defense. Then we add a NT, S, ILB, & CB in the draft in the order of BPA. Of course, if we can resign Shields to a reasonable contract, that would be the best scenario.

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  13. larry valdes says:

    Please do not let shields go sign hin and reworked Williams contract. And sign a good safety or draft one with our first or second pick.

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  14. Icebowler says:

    John, I value your analysis and have more respect for PFF data then many, but I question your/their data pool. I think that your premise of “that have played at least one game” is flawed. I think the minimum should be at least six to eight games in order to draw a more reasonable conclusion.

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  15. Since '61 says:

    I think that Shields is a good CB, however, his height is an issue for me. Many of the WRs that we face, especially in our division, are taller and stronger than Shields. On the plus side he has speed and good hands. He is not a good tackler, as has been previously mentioned. BTW, PackerbackerJim, he is nowhere close to Adderly. I watched Adderly over his entire career, which was a Hall of Fame career, and Shields is not close. First, teams did not even throw to Adderly’s side of the field, second, Adderly was a ferocious tackler and would take on any body one on one. If Shields played like Adderly, we would need to pay him Reveis money or even more. Only Deion Sanders and Reveis are in the same class as Adderly and Deion didn’t like to tackle either. if the price is right I would like to keep Shields, but I would not overpay him. TT likes to keep his own guys(it’s his idea of signing FAs) but he is also cap savvy. If Shield’s agent aims high he’s gone. However, it’s possible that no one else will want to pay big $ for a short CB who doesn’t tackle. We’ll see. Thanks, Since ’61

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  16. PackerbackerJim says:

    Since’61: read carefully, since Adderly, not better than. He was the best and Woodson was also excellent, but would bite just a little too quickly and setes get burned. SS cheats a little and relies on his speed to close the gap when peaking in the backfield. But his ball skills and hands are the best. He snares like Lester Bayes but without the glue! Tackling is horrible as are most DBs, throwing their shoulders into people and
    Expecting them to stop. Pitiful coaching from HS, college into the Pro’s. No wonder Tramon has so many upper
    Body injuries.

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  17. tim says:

    Willie Buchanon, Tim Lewis, Ken Ellis, Doug Evans, Al Harris all were as good as shields or better. It still doesn’t take away from the fact that shields is good, with an upside still. The pack has been fortunate to have any number of top notch corners over the years. I think its debatable where shields ranks, but he’s for sure our best, and a top young talent. I think we should pay him market rates, or it leaves the defense with another big gaping hole. We have enough of those to patch as it is.

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    • Ed Schoenfeld says:

      Any one of the ex-Packers you mention would command top dollar in today’s free agent market.

      Shields is certainly within that group. His tackling and coverage both improved noticeably this year. People forget that he never played CB before senior year college — he didn’t have bad coaching in HS he had *none* for the position he is mastering now.

      At 26 Shields is a superior player waiting to take off. I can only hope the Packers can afford the contract Rosenhaus wants for him; I expect that we won’t.

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  18. Since '61 says:

    PackerBackerJim- thanks for the feedback. I’m OK to keep SS for the right price. Any Willie Buchanons out there? Thanks, Since ’61

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  19. tim says:

    I think buchanon had the potential to be close to an Adderly if the leg injury hadn’t bit him

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Stroh says:

      Damn right. Buchanon was going to be a perennial ALL PRO, at a time when that meant something. He was headed for a possible HOF career when he hurt his knee. I think it was an ACL, not sure tho. Tim Lewis was also looking like a Pro Bowl player till he hurt his neck.

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  20. rick s. says:

    our defense clearly needs to be upgraded but i’m of the opinion that all our db.s and safetys would be better with a stronger pass rush. we don’t have one. we need 2. our offense is great. let.s get this done . please!!!
    go pack sb 49

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    • Dobber says:

      The Packers actually finished tied for 8th in sacks on the season and tied for 6th in sack pct.

      I think what gets us is that the Packers didn’t seem to get those key sacks at key times in games.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. tim says:

    The way shields plays is reminiscent of ken Ellis of thec70s. They both had tremendous speed but weren’t tough guy types and had tackling difficulties. They both had a knack for the big play though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  22. Dave D says:

    Shields is an average corner with above average speed. Unfortunately, we have poor talent at corner so he looks good, relatively speaking.

    Stay or go no big deal!

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  23. Shields signing isnt about Sheilds -its about Rosenhaus – his agent. There is a reason Sheilds signed him to be his agent-he is ruthless. He cares only about bottom dollar, and getting the most for player (and thus he gets higher cut). He cares nothing about the new situation he puts player in-he puts good players on bad teams and then player wonders why they never make playoffs ect, and will mis-match players abilities (example put a 3-4 lb into a 4-3 team) then convince player it is good. Anyways Shields hired him and the reason is obvious-top money. Sheilds is not elite but he is above ave. He has skills that cant be taught. There is a reason he had the interception in game with bears where he was turned around and was beat and yet still got interception. Our only hope to get him back to reasonable lvl of i hope anyways 8-9mil is if market doesnt play out .TT will wait for most FA players to get market set-see if we can match then let walk if too much. our hope is 1) last few waves of old rookie contract players are becoming FA this yr and next which i hope means they think they get super big bucks and find out they get less. 2) most teams are coming to terms bad cap management-Dallas is bad shape, bears are goig to have to fill up rest of roster with deals only ect-lions are in terrible shape–9ers have like 2mil for next yr, have to pay for rookie class and after this yr will have to pay a certain QB BIG buck (seahawks will in 2 yrs)–few teams have lots of money–Our biggest problem is actually our top packers #2 team (the queens) have tons of cap space and Rosey will play them against us. Rosey wont give us home team discount.My guess ishe ends up on Queens OR, if by some chance he chooses not to sign with queens-he will hold out on us (other Rosey trick) and not show up until TC in June–and history says the percentages are that most players who hold out end up wtih injuries.One other small possibility is TT and Williams agree on paycut (and maybe extension :)) with Williams agreeing that having Shields on other side is worth it to him and we give Rosey the money–my problem with that is i dont see Shields making more than Clay money, which is what Rosey wants (I think) for Shields

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  24. Chad Lundberg says:

    How dare you mention Matt Stein, and how dare you mention Bleacher report. They’re about as factually accurate as flat earth believers.

    There’s a reason they won’t let me write for them anymore. They prefer quantity over quality.

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  25. Jim Katie says:

    You are right on Shields, so far as the Pack’s best bet is to hang on to him, and that’s going to mean about 7 – 8 mil a year, or at least that’s what his agent will be telling him, and just because any good agent would see his worth not to be less than that. I myself personally think 8 mil per year is a steal on him, being proven and knowing the system, (it’s starting to get “iffy” on the D system lately) and looking at who’s the best with the team and where he stands in that group. I don’t think TT would go much higher than 8 mil. looking at the success they have in making real good players in the backfield. Their success rate in the last few years for not just starters but good players is remarkable, but some of that might be luck too.
    So, who if they were all healthy, would be worth the most for the team? Shields was always up there in my book, along with T Williams, who at least is tied up for a few years now. Then looking at who has proven anything, the 1st thing to come to mind is always negative, so look at House, who surely has gone through growing pains, but at the expense of a few games lost, and none won by his play. He still is frequently too far behind the runner, not in place for the pass, and blowing coverage altogether. On the bright side, it seems too soon to grade Hyde, but Casey Hayward has been doing some very cool things back there. Sure, he was burnt a few times, but not as often as any starter for Minnesota. Thank the big guy for that! Casey is in the starter category, getting better like a fine wine, so the front office better start paying the price on him, he along with Shields are listed as “hang on to any way you can without going broke. That’s understood, but the only difference between this season when they were outrageous in the stats, and before the last couple years when they held their own, but were not in the top 10, and that difference being injuries. And injuries are reason enough not to overpay Shields when he gets the contract, even with Rosenhaus for an agent. It has been said, “Shields is packing now, due to Rosenhaus. So let’s hope when the time comes, Sammie calls Rosenhaus telling him to write up a reasonable figure, and take it, which may be the only way to stay in Green Bay. He knows he’s treated like a god here, and want’s to stay here and continue to make the playoffs, due to go deep the next couple years on a team deeper in talent that the 1st round of the playoffs.

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