The Green Bay Packers have five restricted free agents, including starters Sam Shields and Evan Dietrich-Smith.
Joining them are tight end Tom Crabtree, inside linebacker Robert Francois and outside linebacker Frank Zombo.
According to NFL Network’s Albert Breer, a first-round tender will cost $2.879 million, a second-round tender will cost $2.023 million and the original-round/right-of-first-refusal tender will be $1.323 million.
By offering its restricted free agents a tender, the team can match an offer from another team to retain that player’s services. Here’s how it works: For example, let’s say the Packers give Shields the first-round tender. If Shields isn’t offered a contract by another team, he’d play next season for $2.879 million. If Shields were to receive a contract offer from another team, the Packers could match that contract and Shields would play for Green Bay under the terms of that deal. If the Packers were to decide not to match that deal, they’d receive a first-round draft pick as compensation.
However, restricted free agents almost never change teams.
According to ESPN.com’s Andrew Brandt, the Packers’ former capologist, 20 restricted free agents changed teams between 2003 and 2008. Since then, only one player (running back Mike Bell in 2010) changed teams. Last year, standout Pittsburgh receiver Mike Wallace didn’t attract any interest.
For Green Bay, the big decision will be the tender amount for Shields. The difference in money between the first- and second-round tenders is significant — $856,000 — though Shields has outplayed several first-round cornerbacks despite entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2010.
If the team concludes Dietrich-Smith is the center of the future, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers has stated on numerous occasions, it probably would be compelled to offer a second-round tender.
The Packers almost certainly will give Crabtree, a valuable blocker and special-teams performer, the minimum tender. Francois is a special-teams contributor, as well, but wasn’t in the mix on defense this season. Zombo, with his lengthy injury history, has played in 12 games over the past two seasons after recording four sacks and starting six games as a rookie.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.