Cornerback Sam Shields is set to become a restricted free agent next month
With all due respect to the Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein, I really don’t think the decision facing general manager Ted Thompson when it comes to restricted free agent corner Sam Shields is all that tough.
Thompson will have to offer a tender to Shields prior to the start of free agency in March. The highest tender costs roughly $2.4 million and sets compensation at a first-round pick, the middle tender costs $1.6 million and sets compensation at a second-round pick and the low tender costs $850,000 and sets compensation at the round in which the player was drafted. Since Shields was not drafted, there would be no compensation. Regardless of the tender used, the Packers would have the right to match any offer.
The obvious move would be to use the middle tender on Shields. No general manager is going to give up a second-round pick for an undersized cornerback who still has a lot to prove. As well as the former college wide receiver played late last season, he’s still only seven months removed from being Jarrett Bush’s backup. The low tender, however, is far too risky. I could see any number of teams – especially the ones currently being run by former Green Bay executives – making a strong play for Shields in that scenario.
The Packers other restricted free agents are offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith, tight end Tom Crabtree and linebackers Robert Francois and Frank Zombo. None of the four were drafted into the league.
Dietrich-Smith did a decent job after taking over at center for Jeff Saturday in December, but he lacks the size and the athleticism that most teams are looking for in an interior offensive lineman these days. I’d slap the low tender on him and see what happens. In the highly unlikely event that EDS signs an offer sheet (no RFA has signed an offer sheet since 2009), Thompson would always have the right to match.
I would expect Crabtree to receive the low tender. Francois could also get the low tender, but it might make more sense to let him become a free agent and then attempt to bring him back for less money. The injury-plagued Zombo, who has missed 23 games in three seasons, almost certainly won’t be tendered.