Sam Shields and B.J. Raji will be members of the Green Bay Packers for 2013.
Beyond that, however, is anyone’s guess.
Shields signed his restricted free agent tender on Monday, one day before the start of the two-day mandatory minicamp. Shields was given the second-round tender, worth $2.023 million. In terms of cash, that will make Shields the 15th-highest paid player on the team.
Ranking sixth on the list is Raji, with $4.715 million in cash and a cap number of almost $6.6 million as he enters the final year of his rookie deal. According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapaport, the Packers will make Raji “earn” a contract extension.
Since posting 66 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hits in in 16 games 2010 to help power Green Bay’s run to the championship, Raji had 43 tackles, three sacks and 10 quarterback hits in 16 games in 2011 and 46 tackles, no sacks and seven quarterback hits in 14 games in 2012.
Time and again last season and again last week, however, defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said Raji was rushing the passer better than ever.
“I’m just raring to go,” Raji said last week. “Anytime you win your division for the second straight year and you end up losing in the divisional round, especially with the expectations we have here, it’s never a good feeling. I had some time off and (came) back with the mentality that I want to dominate like I have in the past. I’m going to help this defense play great defense every game.”
Meanwhile, according to reports, Shields’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was in Green Bay on Monday to talk to the Packers about hammering out a long-term contract. More than likely, the talks were in broad terms only.
Shields is coming off a season in which he played outstanding football when healthy. In 10 games, he intercepted three passes, plus added one in each of the Packers’ playoff games. His four career postseason interceptions are tied for the franchise record.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Shields was the No. 1 cornerback in the league with one reception allowed for every 16.3 snaps in coverage.
The Packers gambled and won by giving him the second-round tender. Taking advantage of a restricted free agent market that literally has disappeared over the last few offseasons, not a single team handed Shields an offer sheet, even though he would have cost that team only a second-round draft pick had the Packers elected to not match the offer.
Shields had until June 17 to sign the offer. At that point, the Packers could have replaced their tender by offering 110 percent of his 2012 salary — or the four-year veteran minimum of $630,000.
If Shields doesn’t get the extension before the season, he — like Raji — will have to earn it during the season. With Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Davon House and a fleet of intriguing youngsters, there are no guarantees that Shields will be a starter — or get paid like one.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.