Sam Shields contract: Packers have (more) cap space; this doesn’t matter to the franchise tag, or anything else
The Packers, according to this report from Kevin Seifert of ESPN this week, will have even more space under the NFL’s 2014 salary cap, now expected by Seifert to settle at $132 million. If that holds, Green Bay will have $34,197,930 of available cap room. And that would be the sixth-most of any team in the league.
Free agency doesn’t open in the NFL until mid-March – also: thank the heavens it’s almost March – but next Monday, March 3, is the deadline for teams to use their franchise tag on a player who would otherwise become an unrestricted free agent. The franchise tag, to refresh our collective fuzzy memories, is a one-year deal that pays a salary on par with the top five at each respective position. Basically, it’s a means for the team to keep a free agent for another year, the player to get paid well for it, and then for the two sides to figure it out next offseason. In some ways it is the Procrastination Tag.
For the Packers, cornerback Sam Shields is the man you’ll hear with the greatest chance to be franchise tagged before Monday. While the sides are said to be working on a long-term agreement, the tag still looms as an option until next week. (After that it’s a deal or the uncertain and shark-infested waters of free agency.) The problem for Green Bay, even with all that fun-looking cap space, is that franchise tagging a cornerback this year will likely cost them about $11 million, the fourth-most expensive position in the league in ‘14. And, of course, keeping Shields long-term would remain an issue simply pushed back for the time being.
The ideal thing, here, is that Shields and the Packers come to an agreement that spreads the money out somewhat evenly over however many seasons the contract calls for. This way Shields would get paid and the Packers would be able to keep doing the flexible and magical yet sometimes unexpected wiggling that they do with their cap space.
But because of that cap room, this offseason of all offseasons is the one in which Green Bay could easily afford to use the franchise tag on Shields. Even though that really only solves a problem in the short-term, and in a not very fiscal manner, it’s an option. They’d still have money to play with this offseason if they pushed a lump of it towards Shields for the 2014 campaign. It’s a testament to how they keep their books that the Packers aren’t in an either-or situation here. It’s also a testament to how they keep their books when we say this: we don’t see Shields getting the franchise tag. It’s an expensive and short-term move. Regardless of how good their overall financial standing is – regardless of the fact they could be out here with nearly $34.2 million worth of breathing room – that’s one the Packers rarely make.
There’s little deviating. Money does not burn holes in their pockets: it builds homes and winterizes the car and gets cozy and raises a family, becomes a regular at the local pocket coffee shop, waits for the eventual spring to come, settles in for an open-ended stay until the time is right and the air is warm. Until the confines outside of the pocket are as comfortable as they are in.