Green Bay Packers: To tag or not to tag


Packers cornerback Sam Shields intercepts a pass intended for Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson during the third quarter of last season’s Thanksgiving Day game at Ford Field. Shields was the bright spot on an otherwise poor defensive unit in 2013. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports photograph

The Green Bay Packers would like to avoid it if at all possible, but they may be forced to apply either the franchise or transition tags on free agent cornerback Sam Shields.

Forget about B.J. Raji – the defensive lineman who had a career low in production last season turned away an $8 million offer sheet at the start of last season to take his chances on landing a bigger pay day. That day of check-signing isn’t about to come from the Green Bay Packers, who it seems will allow Raji to test the free agent market and surely aren’t about to slap him with the franchise or transition tags.

Today is the day when teams can start applying either the franchise or transition tags on players.

Shields is the player who is most likely to be a candidate for either tag, but it’s pretty clear the Packers would like to sign Shields long-term rather than paying the $11 million that would come to Shields for a single season if they are forced to use the franchise tag.

B.J. Raji most likely will not be back for the Green Bay Packers

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

The main difference between a franchise tag and a transition tag is in dollars. If using the franchise tag, teams are required to pay their player the average of the top five players at that particular position. If using the transition tag, the team is required to pay the player the average of the top 10 at the position.

The Packers, who have about $28 million in salary cap space, are said to be willing to use some of that money to play the free agency game, but we all know that team general manager Ted Thompson likes to sign his own and one has to think that Shields is at the top of his list.

We remember how Shields helped the Packers win the world championship back in 2010, but since that time, the young man has grown up into one of, if not the best cover corner on the team. He was consistently good last year on a defense that was consistently poor. Signing him would lock him up for the next four or five years and give the Packers the building block on which to once again put together a defense that competes.

While Raji was the darling of the Packers defensive line a couple of years ago, his stock has plummeted significantly over the past two seasons. In 2013, he had just 13 tackles, six assists and no sacks. In 2012, he had 16 tackles. In five years with the team he has 91 tackles and 42 assists. His best year came in 2010 when he had 29 tackles, 10 assists and 6.5 sacks.

Part of his drop in production could be attributed to his move from the nose tackle position – something he has said publicly. Nevertheless, it seems the Packers have lost interest in signing him unless he comes back to the team with an offer that would be affordable. But that’s not likely to occur.

And because of that, it’s certainly not likely the Packers will apply any type of tag to Raji.

The team has until the first week in March to make a decision on applying tags, so there is some wiggle room to get a contract worked out with Shields.

Time will tell on this.

Stay tuned …