The Green Bay Packers had more valuable defenders than Sam Shields. However, when the veteran cornerback suffered a concussion early during the 2016 season, the secondary quickly dissolved into dust. The Packers still haven’t found a No. 1 cover man to fill the void he left and might have to use free agency or another draft pick to locate one. Still, Shields looms large in Green Bay due to his career filled with big plays and his contributions to the team’s successful run through Super Bowl XLV.
The Packers decided that Shields’ injury history -- five documented concussions with the team -- precluded a return after 2016. However, Shields wants to try again anyway and hopes that some team will give him a chance to prove he can still play.
Even if Shields’ headache issues have dissipated, the Packers and other teams have plenty of reason for concern. Even Shields admits that he will have to hang up the cleats if he suffers another concussion. Teams have trouble finding reliable corners, however, so a return remains possible, albeit unlikely.
While the Packers have something to prove after a disappointing 7-9 campaign, they remain among the group of teams considered as title contenders. ESPN ranks them eighth in their early power rankings, four spots behind the Minnesota Vikings but still within the playoff field. Most likely, Green Bay’s status will improve if/when they fill some holes in free agency and the upcoming NFL draft.
A new deal for Aaron Rodgers remains far off, but the Packers have every incentive to push this along. The front office knows it will have to pay out the nose for their franchise quarterback no matter what, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense to drag this out. After Kirk Cousins and others cash in during the upcoming free-agency period, Rodgers’ price tag will undoubtedly skyrocket.
The Packers fared better in the eyes of Vegas oddsmakers than with those in charge of power rankings. Only the defending-champion Philadelphia Eagles look like better bets to win next year’s Super Bowl, which should inspire at least some confidence in Packers fans. Obviously, a healthy return for Rodgers helps, but the changes to the coaching staff and front office play a role in this as well.