The Green Bay Packers breathed a sigh of relief on Friday Night when the deadline for teams to sign restricted free agents to offer sheets passed because it means cornerback Sam Shields is almost guaranteed to return to the team for the 2013 season.
According to PackersNews.com, which cites an NFL source, Shields did not sign an offer sheet with another NFL team before the deadline, so at this point he will have no choice but to sign the restricted free agent offer the Packers tendered him earlier this offseason.
Green Bay gave Shields, a third-year cornerback from the University of Miami, the second-round tender, which would pay him $2.02 million this season. The Packers also would have received a second-round pick as compensation had another team signed Shields to an offer sheet and the Packers chose not to match.
Shields was undrafted out of college and signed with the Packers as a free agent. Yet he runs a sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash, and after playing just one season at cornerback in college he's starting to realize his immense potential and has become one of the best players in the Green Bay secondary.
Down the stretch last season, it’s hard to argue that there was a better corner on the roster than Shields, who gave up completions on just 37.1 percent of the times he was targeted.
Shields also greatly improved as a tackler in 2013 and finished the season with a total of 28 to go along with three interceptions and 10 passes defensed. In two playoff games, Shields posted 11 tackles, four passes defensed, two interceptions and a defensive touchdown.
The only question that remains now is whether Shields will play the 2013 season on the one-year restricted tender, or if he and the Packers come to terms on a long-term contract extension.
The Packers have a very good history of taking care of their own players, especially in the secondary. Tramon Williams and Nick Collins each received long-term deals after being restricted free agents, and according to Pro Football Talk, the two sides are talking about a long-term deal. The NFL source cited in the PackersNews.com report also stated that Shields wants to return to Green Bay next season, preferably with a long-term contract in place.
Getting Aaron Rodgers' deal done is certainly the priority, but after that getting Shields locked up long-term should be one of the next items on the to-do-list for general manager Ted Thompson.