Shields presumably is the team's No. 1 free agent priority. The sides have talked for months but haven't made much headway. The Packers have the leverage of the franchise tag; the window for using that tag is Feb. 17 through March 3. Shields' leverage is the calendar. Free agency begins on March 11 — though negotiations can begin on March 8 — and it's probably in Shields' best interests to test the market, considering this probably will be his one and only chance to strike it rich.
The 26-year-old started all 15 games he appeared in this season (including playoffs). During the regular season, he led the Packers with four interceptions and a career-high 24 passes defensed.
Playing under the restricted free-agent tender of $2.023 million, Shields put together a quality season. While the team got crushed at Detroit on Thanksgiving, Shields was a lone standout for his coverage on Calvin Johnson. Shields saved the Packers' season with his late interception against Dallas, which set up the offense for the game-winning touchdown. One week later, his interception sealed the NFC North-clinching win at Chicago.
Based on ProFootballFocus.com's film study, Shields allowed eight catches for 98 yards during the five games before missing the Philadelphia and Minnesota games with an injured hamstring.
However, Shields has been plagued by the occasional mental breakdown in which he trusts his speed too much and/or keeps his eyes focused in the backfield too long. Plus, he's missed 11 of a possible 64 regular-season games, and he bowed out of the playoff game with a knee injury.
Including that playoff game, Shields in essence missed three games this season. Green Bay went 0-2-1 in those games.
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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.