The Green Bay Packers and Sam Shields will not get a deal done by March 8, and the cornerback will test the free agent market, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.
The Packers, however, have at their disposal, the use of the transition tag worth approximately $10.1 million (per OverTheCap.com) to ensure Shields is a member of the Packers through at least 2014, or at least have the right to match any deal Shields receives.
Athough the use of the transition tag has become increasingly rare in the NFL, the Packers would probably be safe to use it instead of the franchise tag (worth approximately $11.8 million) in the case of Shields because he's not likely to receive a deal averaging more than $10 million on the open market.
Shields is reportedly seeking a deal in the realm of the one signed by Bears cornerback Tim Jennings for four years and $22.4 million, more than half in guaranteed money, according to Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel. But he also has the right to see if bidding on the open market escalates.
There are risks involved in using a tag of any sort, such as alienating a player that desires to sign a long-term contract. However, either tag would represent a significant raise for Shields.
The question for the Packers is, do they want to absolutely ensure they have Shields' services at a cost of nearly $10 million for one season or do they think those dollars are better spent elsewhere? The team has 16 other unrestricted free agents, including defensive lineman B.J. Raji, tight end Jermichael Finley, wide receiver James Jones, center Evan Dietrich-Smith, fullback John Kuhn and several more.
The Packers are roughly $35 million under the salary cap in 2014.
For the cost of less than $10 per season, the Packers could make a competitive offer to one of the top free agent safeties on the market, although they'd have to offer a deal of probably at least four years to land one of them.
There are several options the Packers could go at the cornerback position, including taking one of the top players in this year's draft class in the first round, either Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard of Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert.
There's also sufficient depth at the position currently on the Packers' roster assuming all players are healthy, including Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Micah Hyde, Jumal Rolle, Jarrett Bush and James Nixon.
Not entirely out of the realm of possibility is the rare tag-and-trade maneuver, by which the Packers could come to a long-term agreement with Shields and subsequently trade him to another team.
It's perhaps likely the Packers have offered Shields and agent Drew Rosenhaus what they consider a competitive offer. Should Shields choose not to accept, the Packers have the right to take such an offer off the table.
The risk in said approach, however, is potentially losing Shields to another team in free agency.
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