After a disappointing 2011 season Sam Shields returned to form in 2012. Although he is currently set to become a restricted free agent, his long term place on the team is not in question.
The Packers face an interesting problem with Sam Shields this year. Currently Shields is set to become a restricted free agent, meaning that the Packers have to put a tender on him….but what tender is appropriate? Basically there are three tender amounts: the first round tender, the second round tender, and the lowest tender which is determined by the original draft status of the player. Remember, Shields was an undrafted free agent, meaning that there is a possibility the Packers would lose Shields for no compensation if the lowest tag were placed upon him. Realistically the Packers will probably place the middle tender on him. This would give Shields a salary around $2 million for the year (in 2012 the middle tender amount was worth $1.927 million) and a team attempting to sign Shields away would need to surrender a second round pick to the Packers if they successfully out bid the Packers for Shields’ services. Since teams rarely put in offers for restricted free agents it’s doubtful this would happen. If it did the Packers would likely match the offer. Yet, it is an interesting side drama to an offseason filled with tough decisions all around for the Packers.
Shields started the year off by being buried on the depth chart and people doubting his career trajectory. Sure he was an impressive rookie in 2010, but his 2011 was a major disappointment and he struggled early in training camp as well. The season started to turn around for Shields with the last preseason game and by week 2 he was getting significant snaps in the defense once again. I don’t know if it was this hard fight to regain his starting job, but Shields was back to his 2010 form….in fact he probably was playing at an even higher level. Shields once again displayed superior cover skills, solid ball skills, and the speed that has always made him an intriguing prospect; but now he also showed toughness and willingness to tackle that was missing before.
Shields missed six games with injuries this year, but was still able to end the year with three interceptions. Only Casey Hayward had more for the Packers with six. Shields’ improvement in coverage and tackling earned him a +10.9 grade from PFF for 2012. This is the highest grade for any Packer player set to become a free agent this year and makes him their second highest graded free agent corner. Shields was also the fifth best performance based value for the Packers with a +$5.0 million value differential.
This is simple. If the Packers can secure Shields for another year then the need for a cornerback is low….no matter what NFL Network tells you. If Shields leaves the team for some reason then corner is absolutely a need.
Likelihood of Re-Signing
There is no good reason why Shields is not locked for 2013 and part of the long range plans of the team. He is a young, dynamic cornerback who is quickly becoming a cornerstone of an impressive secondary. He may have to wait one more year before his big payday though.
Estimated odds of re-signing: 95%