The Green Bay Packers have made their first decision (indecision?) of the 2014 Free Agency period. They have elected not to use the Franchise or Transition Tag on any player, meaning that cornerback Sam Shields will indeed be poised to fully test the free agent market.
The Packers' decision not to tag Shields was not the only important tag decision today, however. A pair of premier safeties were not tagged today, opening up the free agent market to their services as well. The Buffalo Bills chose not to tag Jairus Byrd, who will likely enter the market as the top safety on everyone's board. The Cleveland Browns also elected not to tag their free agent safety, T.J. Ward, instead placing the Transition Tag on center Alex Mack.
Mack's tag by the Browns all but ensures his return to Cleveland, which means that an external free agent center is probably off the table. The Packers' best bet at the center position now is to re-sign Evan Dietrich-Smith to compete with JC Tretter.
Byrd and Ward will bolster the safety market in free agency, and with many teams looking for quality safeties this offseason, the bidding to sign those two to new contracts will likely be fast and furious. Typically, that in and of itself would eliminate the Packers from consideration, but if Shields departs in free agency, that (and the higher-than-expected salary cap in 2014) could convince Ted Thompson to spend some of that money on a veteran safety. Don't bet on that happening, though.
Also tagged today were a pair of high-profile outside linebackers. The Washington Redskins used the Franchise Tag on three-time Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo, while the Pittsburgh Steelers chose to use the Transition Tag on up-and-comer Jason Worilds. Either one would have commanded a substantial salary on the open market, and Worilds still might since the Steelers are in a tough salary cap position - they are, in fact, $15 million over the cap according to Overthecap.com and will be making some big cuts over the next week, with Lamarr Woodley being a likely casualty. Pittsburgh may not be able to afford to hold on to Worilds if he is given a tempting - and lucrative - contract by another team.
To make a long story short, Sam Shields will likely be hitting the free agent market, and at this point his return to Green Bay is questionable at best. His departure would likely free up some money to be used elsewhere, but despite Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward hitting the market, they are highly unlikely to become Packers in the next few weeks.