Shields Re-Signs; Everything Else Is Gravy

I was probably as surprised as most of you when I heard that the Packers had come to terms with Sam Shields on a new four-year deal. After all, the sides were reportedly far apart as the clocked ticked toward free agency and, well, his agent is Drew Rosenhaus.

But the first day of free agency gave players, agents and GMs an idea where the corners were in the pecking order and Ted Thompson ponied up big time. Shields' new deal makes him a top five paid corner. Not bad for a college wide receiver and undrafted free agent.

And he's worth every penny. The Packers' defense has enough holes everywhere else. Losing Shields would have meant drafting a corner early, or finding a couple cheap veterans in the second wave of free agency. At 26, he's on the uptick and possesses speed that is hard to find. With Tramon Williams on the back end and the Pack's other top corners, Hayward and Hyde, more adept on the inside--Shields can match up with #1 receivers. He'll be expected to at his salary level.

Since I assumed Shields was history, I look at whatever happens over the next few weeks to be gravy. BJ Raji may or may not accept the Pack's offer. Expect that decision to happen this week, once he finds out whether a team is willing to pay him more on a long-term deal than the reported $4 million the Packers offered for one year.

Now we'll wait and see what interest there is in guys like Raji, Mike Neal, James Jones, John Kuhn, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless. It sounds like the New York teams may scoop up the tight ends--look for that to be a focus of tier two free agents and the draft.

Thompson still has plenty of money to spend. If the Shields deal is structured like many think, he'll only count five or six million against the cap this year. Thompson has plenty of money to re-sign the guys he wants back. I would guess Raji, Neal and Dietrich-Smith would be the internal priorities.

I expect these guys to move on: the tight ends, James Starks, Jones, Raji, Jolly and Kuhn. Look for the Pack to bring back Ryan Pickett, Neal, Flynn and Dietrich-Smith.

As far as looking to the outside for help: don't expect much. The free-for-all will hit on Tuesday and when the smoke clears over the weekend, Thompson will look at what's left and begin shopping for bargains.

After all, he just bought his big ticket item of the offseason, the Pack's most vital free agent. Now it's time to do some coupon clipping.


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