Sam Shields ready to hit open market

Green Bay - Defensive tackle B.J. Raji and cornerback Sam Shields are set to hit the open market on March 8 and nothing seems to be in the way of them moving on to different pastures.

It's not a complete surprise, but the Packers did not use a franchise or transition tag on either free agent, meaning their best hope for retaining them is to up their offer before free agency starts or have the market prove to them that they can't do any better financially outside of Green Bay.

League sources said that deals for Raji and Shields were unlikely before both gain the right to negotiate with other teams Saturday and only a last-second assessment by the Packers would change that. Officially, free agents can't be signed until March 11, so the Packers have five days of exclusive bargaining rights and three more days of pleading their case.

Players can agree to terms with other teams starting on March 8, but they can't sign a contract until the 11th.

This marks the fourth straight year and the seventh time in nine years under general manager Ted Thompson that the Packers have not used the tag.
It would have cost the Packers $9.654 million to franchise Raji and $11.834 million to franchise Shields. Those numbers account for roughly a third of the $35 million in salary cap room the Packers have going into the new football year.

Under franchise rules, a team would have had to give up two first-round picks to the Packers if it wanted to sign one their franchised free agent. The Packers would have had the right to match the offer also. Under the transition tag, which comes at a price tag of about $1 million less than the franchise for each position, the Packers would have had only the right to match an offer.

Shields' worth became more defined Monday when Miami CB Brent Grimes agreed to a four-year deal that reported was worth $28 million, including $14 million guaranteed. That deal consists of the same structure as the deal Chicago's Tim Jennings signed in January (half of it guaranteed) and helps define the market for both sides.

Shields is likely to get something more in the Grimes range than the Jennings deal (four years, $22.4 million) because he's only 26. But both Grimes and Jennings had better seasons than Shields and while both are 30, they played as though they have several good years left.

It's possible the open market will be better to Shields than expected since it only takes one team to blow it all up with an unnecessarily inflated deal. Teams like Cleveland, Oakland and Jacksonville have money to burn and they might pay a premium to get Shields to come to their team.

Other corners who will be competing for free agent money are: Tennessee's Alterraun Verner, New England's Aqib Talib, Indianapolis' Vontae Davis and Denver's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

The Packers will be counting on Shields getting no more than Grimes, which would put them back in the running for his services. They still have five days of exclusive negotiating rights with Shields and could raise their offer after seeing the Grimes deal.

Here are the mandatory one-year offers the Packers would have had to make if they tagged either Raji or Shields: 

Defensive tackle: $9.654 million 
Cornerback: $11.834 million

Defensive tackle: $8.060 million 
Cornerback: $10.081 million

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