Monday marks the first day all NFL teams can start applying franchise or transition tags on players, essentially an attempt to prevent them from leaving via free agency.
For the Green Bay Packers, this means the clock starts ticking on cornerback Sam Shields and defensive lineman B.J. Raji.
While Shields and Raji perhaps represent the two best candidates to be tagged, there’s no guarantee with either, and––in fact––a maximum of one can be tagged at all.
The deadline to apply franchise and transition tags is March 3, about a week before the start of free agency (March 11).
For a primer on the difference between exclusive and non-exclusive franchise tags and how the value of tags are calculated, this article by former NFL agent Joel Corry at CBSSports.com provides a good starting point.
The odds that the Packers use any such tag on Raji appear unlikely after a subpar season in which he made only 17 tackles, zero sacks and reportedly spurned an offer from the Packers that would have paid him an average of $8 million per season.
Perhaps the likelihood that the Packers tag Shields is greater, although it’s something both parties would like to avoid if at all possible.
For one, the Packers would prefer not to pay Shields such a high amount of money (the franchise tag is estimated to be $11.3 million for one year). And two, both the team and Shields would rather agree on a long-term contract.
A tag of any sort would only be used as a last resort.
Although the use of the transition tag is becoming increasingly rare in the NFL because it doesn’t give the team compensation if the player happens to leave (only the right to match another team’s offer), it can’t be ruled out with Shields.
Using the transition tag would save the Packers money. The method in which tags are calculated is rather complicated, but in short, the transition tag basically pays players the average of the top 10 at their position. Comparatively, the franchise tag pays an average of the top five players at each respective position.
The exact and official values of either tag have not been released by the NFL.
Predictions on what Shields might receive on the open market are all over the board, but whatever happens, time is now running out for the Packers and Shields to agree on a long-term extension.