Sam Shields' desire to test the open market apparently lasted all of a few hours. Completing a lengthy and, at times, nerve-wracking negotiation for Packers fans, Shields has agreed to a four-year, $39 million deal to stay in Green Bay.
ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting the Packers will pay Shields a $12.5 million signing bonus:
Tom Silverstein of the Journal-Sentinel had more details on Shields' contract:
Shields' salary cap numbers are as follows: $5.562,500 in '14, $9.125 million in '15, and $12.125 million in '16 and '17.
Shields' base salaries are $1.5 million in '14, $2.5 million in '15, $8 million in '16 and $8 million in '17.
He also has $500,000 workout bonuses in each of the four years of the deal.
The Packers later confirmed the deal on Monday:
Shields took to Twitter to express his thoughts:
Shields, 26, was expected to test his value in free agency after the Packers declined to use the franchise tag. Still in the prime of his career and easily Green Bay's most coveted free agent, Shields was expected to garner interest from numerous corner-needy teams.
It's unclear how many teams contacted Shields or whether he entertained any other offers, but he certainly didn't give other franchises much time for a pitch. The NFL's open negotiation window before the March 11 beginning of free agency began only at noon Saturday, roughly seven hours before Shields' deal was announced.
Nevertheless, this deal looks like nothing short of a win for the Packers. Shields is coming off the finest season of his career, tying a career-high with four interceptions and setting a career best with 61 total tackles.
Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranks Shields as the 14th-best cornerback in its coverage snaps-per-reception metric and is a solid all-around cornerback.
Though not the most efficient tackler, Shields had a very solid 2013 campaign against the run and was at times the best player on a bad Packers defense. Green Bay finished 31st in team defense DVOA with a bottom-five ranking against the run and pass, per Football Outsiders.
With Shields and defensive lineman B.J. Raji hitting the open market, an overhaul could have been the plan. Instead, it seems management is pushing retention of a few core pieces before working on improvements in free agency and the draft.
"I think Sam has been a good player for us, and he does a good job," Thompson told reporters last month. "And he's one of the fellas we'd like to have back."
A former undrafted free agent with a raw but high-ceiling skill set, this deal marks a huge financial windfall for Shields. He made just over $2 million last season on a restricted free-agent tender and has spent most of his career without much in guarantees.
It would have been hard, then, to blame Shields if he tested the open market and went for the first big-money offer. But it's obvious both sides wanted Shields to return. He's comfortable within the Packers' system and likely wants to show a sign of good faith toward the franchise that took a chance on him in 2010, while Green Bay can go into the rest of its offseason knowing one cornerback slot is locked up.
This could also have major implications for other high-profile free agents. With Shields off the market, competition is now much higher for guys like Alterraun Verner, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Aqib Talib. Nick Wagoner of ESPN pointed out that Shields' contract should be a starting point for at least Verner, whom many consider this offseason's best free-agent corner:
Verner's final money should be something Shields watches as well. NFL teams are expected to spend heavily this spring after an unexpected raise of the salary cap to $133 million. If Verner is able to get into the $11 million to $12 million per-season range, Shields might wonder what would have been had he entertained free agency longer.
Either way, for the first time in his career, he's no longer going to have to scramble for his next paycheck.
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