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Packers by Position Offseason Preview: Cornerbacks

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Packers by Position Offseason Preview: Cornerbacks

Over the course of the next several days Cheesehead TV will have a brief position-by-position offseason preview, taking a look at what's in store for the Green Bay Packers in free agency and the NFL Draft..

Overview

Sam Shields in 2013 racked up a career-high 61 tackles, 17 passes defensed and tied a career-high with four interceptions in the regular season. And that was in 14 games, missing two due to injury. Just imagine if he played in 16 full games.

Shields was once again the best cover cornerback on the Packers roster, and it has a lot to do with his speed. Sometimes he has a bad habit of getting beat deep more often than he should because he's peeking at the quarterback, but no cornerback is perfect.

The same goes for Tramon Williams. He's not a baseball pitcher, tossing a shutout. But he did provide very solid play for the Packers this past season, playing at a very high level the last half of the year.

It took the better part of two years for Williams to recover from a shoulder injury originally suffered in 2011, but it appears he finally has recovered, gaining back some of that physicality he lost.

There was a time when it was thought the Packers might ask Williams to restructure his contract, but after the season he put together, don't bet on it.

Although he's rough around the edges, Micah Hyde emerged as a solid player for a mid-round draft choice, especially when factoring in his special teams contributions. He's a slot cornerback almost exclusively, but could be a very good one at that.

Unfortunately, the other slot cornerback, Casey Hayward, had his season ended by a hamstring injury and never made a meaningful contribution in 2013. He's still a very big part of the Packers' future plans, however.

Davon House was the No. 3 perimeter cornerback and had an up-and-down year, never displaying the consistency needed to see regular playing time. He enters a make-or-break year in 2014.

Credit the coaches for never putting Jarrett Bush out on the perimeter this past season, and credit Bush for turning in perhaps his best season ever on defense as a result. He should be back in the same role next year, including his presence as a special teams leader.

James Nixon and Jumal Rolle will have the opportunity to prove themselves in the offseason.

 

Long-Range Free Agency Outlook

Sam Shields––It's debatable whether anyone would have considered Shields the team's offseason priority a year ago at this time, but an injury to Jermichael Finley and a pitiful year from B.J. Raji has made the cornerback Plan A.

What makes the future so cloudy with Shields, however, is his agent: Drew Rosenhaus, a cut-throat negotiator who will be looking to get top dollar for his client.

Shields probably deserves to be paid among the top 15 cornerbacks in the NFL, but does he deserve to be paid like a top 10 type of guy or even top five? That's debatable. And it's debatable whether the Packers could afford such a high number counting against the salary cap.

Both sides would like to avoid the franchise tag if possible, but if Rosenhaus isn't going to budge from a ridiculous number, the Packers have the option of potentially using the tag to keep Shields around for another season.

The franchise-tag figure expected to be in excess of $11 million is exorbitant, but it will come off the books after just one season. It would be a last-ditch effort to keep Shields around if they can't agree to a contract averaging somewhere between $7 to $10 million per season.

 

Long-Range NFL Draft Outlook

Perhaps if Shields were to leave in free agency, cornerback might become a bigger priority considering Williams, House and Bush are all set to become a free agents after next season.

But if Shields is back in the fold, the need for a cornerback is significantly less.

With the Packers expected to have at least nine draft choices after compensatory picks are handed out, it wouldn't be surprising for them to add a cornerback at some point. It just won't be in the first few rounds.

As long as they're healthy, Hayward and Hyde are the future at the position.

Packers cornerback Sam Shields. Photo by Corey Behnke of CheeseheadTV.com.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: on Comments (13) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Evan's picture

Would a deal similar to Tramon's 4/$33 get it done? Maybe bump it up to 5/$42? That'd put him in the top 10, I believe.

Maybe something like Jonathan Joseph's 5/$48 or Ladarius Webb's 6/$50?

Finnegan's 5/$50 deal from 2012 won't help matters.

WKUPackFan's picture

One would hope Joseph's 5/$48 would be enough. It's interesting because I think Shields is a better player than Joseph or Finnegan, but that doesn't necessarily mean much for contract purposes. Doesn't it usually come down to what team is willing to guarantee the most?

RC Packer Fan's picture

I really think Shields is the top priority in free agency.

What complicates matters is if we were to lose Shields, who would replace him? Hayward and Hyde are inside guys. House has been very inconsistent.

If Shields leaves, I think there is a strong possibility the Packers draft a CB early in the draft. Possibly round 1.

If they do draft a CB, I hope they draft one with decent size and speed. Look at the players we have to cover. Calvin Johnson - 6'5, Brandon Marshall - 6'4, Alshon Jeffery - 6'3, Cordarrelle Patterson - 6'3

2 CB's they could potentially get in the 1st are Gilbert and Dennard. They both have pretty good size.

One of possibly the best CB's is Jason Verrett. But he is smaller.

A Dude's picture

Keep in mind that CBs are smaller than WRs. So you can have a good corner who's, say, 6,0, but you won't find 6,4 or 6,5 guys. Tall guys can't backpedal or flip their hips that well. Gilbert seems to be a stud.

Stroh's picture

Exactly why CB will never be tall. A few are, but even then they aren't as tall as the WR. Sherman is the tallest yet, but he doesn't flip his hips all that well, he wins by being ultra-physical in press coverage.

I like Gilbert a lot too. Many have Dennard rated higher, but of the 2 I would prefer Gilbert. Seems to be more of a playmaker and he's a great return man too. If they move Hyde to safety, it would open a spot at CB and I could then see drafting a CB in the 1st. Not likely, but possible.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I understand that... What I meant with good size is no less then 6' tall. There aren't many 6'2 or taller corners in the league.

I think Gilbert is the best CB in the draft. He has good size.

This position all depends on what happens with Shields. If he stays, the CB position is fine. If he leaves, it needs help.

RunAndHyde's picture

Pay....da....man.

larry valdes's picture

Tag shield no choice need first round pick for a s ilb te.

Icebowler's picture

I agree, 100%

Arizonabuck's picture

Hyde is not a cornerback long term. He's a safety. Not fast enough to play on the outside

ArodMoney's picture

One thing that could certainly help the packers resigning Shields is the loaded free agent market this offseason.

Hall, Talib, Verner, Maxwell, Tarell Brown, DRC, Vontae Davis, and Brent Grimes are all FAs and there are handful more mid tier starters hitting free agency. Hopefully this suppresses the market enough to make him affordable for the Pack or let's TT sign another quality corner(yea right) if they can't resign shields.

ArodMoney's picture

Another thing I didn't mention is that I think Shields is being placed in higher esteem than where he actually fits in. I mean it is debatable whether or not he had a better year than Tramon Williams last season and Tramon got his contract after almost two seasons that were certainly superior to Shields' last two. If he gets over $8m a year(unless by some crazy back load) I'd be surprised and frankly would expect the Packers to pass at that price tag.

leo's picture

I agree 100%, people are way too high on Shields

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