Today, NFL teams can officially begin using the franchise tag or transition tag on players that are set to become unrestricted free agents, so it seemed like a perfect time to examine whether the Green Bay Packers will use either of their tags this offseason.
At first thought, my prediction is that the Packers will not be using the franchise tag or the transition tag this offseason.
There are some decent candidates to be tagged, namely Sam Shields, B.J. Raji and Jermichael Finley, arguably the Packers three biggest names headed for free agency.
However, I can almost guarantee that Raji will not be getting the tag, in fact at this point, it’s starting to look like the former 2009 first-round pick has played his last game as Packer.
After a dominant 2010 season in which he posted 6.5 sacks, Raji has never consistently played at a high level. He has shown flashes of dominance over his five-year career in Green Bay but not enough to warrant a huge payday from the Packers.
It’s possible Raji could still wind up back in Green Bay if the money is right, but it will not be on the franchise tag.
The tag could have been a possibility for tight end Jermichael Finley, but after fusion surgery on his neck and doubts about him being able to play football again, it’s highly unlikely the Packers would give him the tag.
Furthermore, tagging Finley would be more expensive than the tag normally is for tight ends because his tag number would actually be 110 percent of his 2013 salary, which was $8.75 million. That means it would take nearly $9.5 million to tag Finley and there is no way the Packers are taking that risk.
That leaves us with Sam Shields, the only Packer with a realistic chance of being tagged.
Shields just finished his fourth season with the Packers and after playing last season under his restricted free agent tender, he earned himself a big payday with his best season as a pro.
In 2013, the former Miami product proved to be the Packers best corner, starting a career-high 14 games, notching 51 tackles intercepting four passes and breaking up 17, also career-highs.
Shields proved that he is a high-level starter at the cornerback position and the Packers desperately want to keep him but tagging Shields would cost nearly $11 million and even though Packers are projected to have nearly $28 million in cap space, it still would take nearly half their cap space just to tag Shields.
Another thought on Shields is that he enters free agency during a year where the cornerback position is loaded. Other highly-touted corners such as Alterraun Verner, Aqib Talib, Brent Grimes, Vontae Davis, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond are all hitting the market this offseason, meaning Shields doesn’t have as much leverage as he normally would.
Last offseason, with the exception of a few players, it was mostly a buyer’s market and with so many talented options available, the Packers should not overpay to keep Shields, which is why I don’t see Green Bay applying the tag to Shields or any other player in 2014.