With one of their top defenders set to hit the open market, the Miami Dolphins opened up their wallet to pay Brent Grimes $32 million for four years, $16 million of which is guaranteed. Both the Packers and Sam Shields have been keeping a close eye on Grimes' negotiations as the outcome impacts their own negotiations for a long-term extension.
Whether Grimes' deal sets the ceiling or floor for Shields is a matter of some debate.
Prior to re-signing with the Dolphins, Grimes was widely considered the top cornerback in this year's free agent class. What sets him apart from Shields, Alterraun Verner, and the others is his age. Grimes turns 31 prior to the 2014 season and will be 34 upon the expiration of his new contract. Shields is only 26, and is regarded as an ascending player rather than one who has plateaued. There's little doubt that his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, will endeavor to use that fact to net his client an even bigger deal.
That doesn't necessarily mean teams will oblige, however. For all his skill and athleticism, Shields has yet to hit the peaks or play with the consistency that Grimes has demonstrated during his seven-year career. Grimes' contract places him just inside the top 10 in salary for his position. Will teams invest in Shields as a top 10 corner on mere speculation? Perhaps, but that's not guaranteed.
What is clear though is that the reports of Shields seeking a Tim Jennings-level contract were indeed inaccurate. As we speculated at the time, the Packers would surely have come to terms with their star cornerback if those demands were genuine. Unfortunately for Green Bay, it appears Shields' camp is looking for a much heftier payday.
The Packers do have a trump card in this negotiation. They can apply the franchise tag to Shields and remove him from the open market. In that scenario Green Bay would immediately incur a cap hold of over $11 million, the price of tagging a cornerback. That number can be lowered if the two sides agree to a multi-year extension, but becomes final should Shields sign his franchise tender. The Packers have until 3PM CST to decide whether to use the tag or not.