How Overpaid Is Sam Shields? All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Sam Shields is one happy camper.
Sam Shields is one happy camper.

Ted Thompson likely got done with his top priority this offseason when he resigned cornerback Sam Shields to a 4 year deal worth a total of $39 million.  At the time, reactions were rather mixed; many national writers who don’t cover the Packers specifically probably didn’t know too much about Shields and as a result many were taken aback by the size of the contract.  Few writers even predicted that it would set the pace for free agent signings, and contracts were going to be sizably bigger than previous years; so far this has yet to pan out and likely won’t.

For Packers beat writers, the response was a lot more subdued, while Shields did receive a hefty contract, there were times where Shields was obviously the best cornerback on the team and considering Ted Thompson almost never gets suckered in free agency (mostly because you can’t lose when you don’t play), Packers beat writers just assumed that Thompson likely got good value for a player who had other options.

So how much did the Packers really “overpay” for Shields?  Now that free agency is fully underway, I’ve compiled a list of the top free agent cornerback additions and compared the contracts they received with that the contract Shields received. PFF 3 stands for the 3 year average of that player’s grades from ProFootballFocus while PFF+ is the best season that player recorded in the last 3 years.  Before we start, I’ve intentionally left out perhaps the biggest free agent cornerback, Darrelle Revis, who was recently cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and signed by the New England Patriots 4 hours later with a 1 year $12 million deal with a purported $10 million guaranteed.

My primary reason for leaving Revis out is his contract demands and penchant for holding out are well known and therefore his contracts have always been unusual for a cornerback, starting from holding out as a rookie to get a bigger contract than his draft slot, holding out again with multiple years left on his rookie contract, and of course the bizarre contract he signed with the Buccaneers which netted him $16 million yearly but with 0 guaranteed money.  Simply put every once in a while there is a player that defies convention and logic and teams typically disregard these contracts when trying to establish fair value; Mario Williams, Ndamukong Suh and Tony Romo’s contracts are prime examples of contracts gone awry and not actual market value of a player.


Stat 1


Just by looking the raw numbers Sam Shields’ contract definitely is on the high end but not an outlier; Shields, Brent Grimes and Vontae Davis all got a 4 year, $32 million contract, while Alterraun Verner looks to have gotten a deal lower than his value.  Verner’s contract is a little odd but considering he’s not very well known, always plays one side of the field and therefore often doesn’t cover the best receiver and has a very specific skill set that doesn’t work well with all defenses the low value is justifiable, though likely Verner should have made more money.  Both Shields and Davis are 26 so these contracts are likely projecting forwards while Grimes’ contract is likely more betting that his level of play will continue for the life of the contract.

While Grimes has been the most consistent and productive of the group he got a smaller deal likely because he’s already 31 and it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to continue his high level of play.  Aqib Talib really is the outlier of the group, landing a massive deal but also one that will keep him as a Bronco until he’s 34, which is interesting considering that cornerbacks only have a longer shelf life than running backs.   Talib’s PFF scores are also an aberration based taken in context of the contract he signed because of a falling out with Tampa Bay and presumably some poor play while he adjusted to the Patriots defensive scheme; of course Talib’s off the field issues as well as issues with former head coach Greg Schiano are flags of their own and the Broncos likely overpaid dearly for his services.


Stat 2


While the total value of is often the most heralded point in a contract, the guaranteed portion is really the most important.  Take for example Aqib Talib’s contract; taken in the context of the Broncos’ recent signings of Demarcus Ware and TJ Ward points to the fact that the Broncos are stocking up for now to win now for one “last hurrah” for Peyton Manning and it will be almost fiscally impossible for the Broncos to honor the entire length of any of these contracts, likely meaning Talib will be cut before the end of his contract.  Therefore, Talib is likely more concerned about the guaranteed portion.

In fact its the guaranteed portion of the contract where the Packers won the biggest battle, no other cornerback made less guaranteed money this offseason than Shields; Vontae Davis and Shields are the same age, have almost identical PFF statistics, and the same total contract value and length but Davis made $7.5 million more in guarantees, meaning Davis can sleep easier at night knowing he will definitely be making around $2 million more per year than Shields even if both were cut tomorrow.

I think this really highlights the value that the Packers got; while overall the Packers are overpaying Shields based on his performance from the last 3 years (which includes a dreadful 2011 season), the Packers also have the most flexibility since the guaranteed portion is the lowest.  Taken in another perspective, if 2011 was just a poor season for the entire defense (and it was historically bad for those who don’t remember) and 2012 is a better indication of Shields’ actual play, then the Packers got the best deal in the cornerback market, considering Shields has the second lowest total contract over average PFF score to Brent Grimes, who again is unlikely to match his play from the last 3 years at age 31.

If on the other hand, 2011 is a better indication, that’s not a problem as well since the Packers can cut Shields with less penalty than any other team due to the low guaranteed portion.  Also keep in mind that in the coming future the Packers hold the leverage if they want to ask Shields to take a pay cut/restructure; Shields has to consider it since 60% of his salary is not guaranteed compared 16% for Darrelle Revis (essentially Revis doesn’t have to listen to taking a pay cut since the threat of getting cut outright only loses him $2 million)

Overall I think this is a good contract for both sides, it pays Sam Shields like a premier cornerback but gives the Packers the ability to cut their losses should Shields fail to live up to his contract.  At best, the Packers are paying roughly market value for an elite cornerback, if he ends up being just average they have the leverage to reduce his contract and if he’s a complete bust then they have the flexibility to cut him without incurring too much dead money down the road.  This is ultimately one of the reason’s why the Packers have been such a good franchise over the years, while players and coaches often get the majority of the credit, its fair business dealing with level headed financial planning that allows the Packers to be contenders year after year.


Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s


57 thoughts on “How Overpaid Is Sam Shields?

    1. Me too JimR_in_DC… No matter, I get Thomas’s point. The way Shields contract is constructed is healthy for the Packers cap moving forward. I’ve said it a million times, TT can drive you nuts with his approach to FA at times, but he’s one of the absolute best at managing the cap.

        1. Not re-signing Dietrick-Smith and Jones will be really noticed!!Front office NOT doing well, Jim.

        2. Not re-signing Dietrick-Smith and Jones will be really noticed!!Front office NOT doing well, Jim.

        3. Not re-signing Dietrick-Smith and Jones will be really noticed!!Front office NOT doing well, Jim.

    2. My mistake, though this actually strengthens my point as it makes the percentage of his total contract that is guaranteed even smaller. I’ll correct the tables but the conclusion is the same.

  1. It’s handy for analyese like these but PFF grading leaves a lot to be desired imo. It it was that good teams wouldn’t grade their own players. Also GMs realize that a player’s performance is somewhat dependent on who is around him on the field and who is not. GB’s crap safety play dragged the CBs down.

    1. I agree, but like I’ve said before, PFF grading is a good starting point, not an end-all-be-all assessment of a player. Keep in mind teams also will biased towards their own players when grading, so its not like anyone really has a 100% accurate grading system (or else the draft would be a lot more boring). Either way, I think Shields’ grades fit pretty well with everyone else’s grades and really that’s the most important point.

  2. Shields got the least amount of guaranteed money, which is good for the Pack. Sams cap hit is only 5.6 M this year. Let’s hope Sam plays into his 9.1M cap number for year 2 and then plays into his cap number for year 3 and hopefully year 4. (I think he will). The going rate for good CBs by year 3 and 4 will be higher than it is now, so that helps. If not, restructur the deal.

    1. My mood would jump from good to great if we also pick up a decent FA safety. Then, the Packers can draft and develop to their heart’s content. 🙂

        1. In my opinion, it’s too soon to tell with Hyde, although I hope you’re right, Pete. 🙂

    2. I would say no matter how well the team does on the playing field, the team will always do well on the financial aspect which, despite the fact that the NFL is basically printing money is actually a really important aspect, see the mess that the Cowboys are in or how long it took the Raiders to get out of their salary cap hole.

  3. I never really bought into the rumors that said he was looking for $7-$8 mil per year. Rosenhaus is tenacious enough as an agent that he was going to let the market go as high as it would go. I was especially skeptical when it became clear the cap was getting a major bump up.

    Shields got a fair deal, IMO. He’s a young, speedy CB with good ball skills. He’s improved his tackling enough to be passable for a CB, who you pay to cover WRs, not support the run.

    He still needs to work on his consistency, which is not surprising given he converted to defense as recently as his senior year in college.

    1. I’m actually a little surprised that Shields signed as quickly as he did; Shields and Rosenhaus pretty much know that Thompson isn’t going to replace Shields by signing another free agent, so at the very worst they could have fielded offers for a couple more days before settling back with the Packers. That would seem to indicate that Shield’s market wasn’t all that robust.

      1. That’s a fair point about Shields not making it all the way to the signing period for FAs. I expected he would not sign until he could be signed by anyone. I’m not sure what to make of the fact it went differently.

        Maybe the Packers did outbid themselves. Only Rosenhaus would know and I doubt he’d ever say. I don’t claim to know what 31 other teams would, or should, do. I just pay close attention to the Packers and I’m ok with Shields contract. I wouldn’t call it “team friendly” but it’s not overpaying to the Hawk degree.

      2. Teams could officially start contacting agents for players the morning that Shields signed. Its pretty clear when FA negotiating started that Shields was going to be a pretty desirable FA and its likely that Rosenhaus and the Packers both realized what his market was going to be and how much teams were willing to offer him. Thomspon and Balls saw what was going to happen if Shields actually reached FA and had to pay him well to keep him off the market. They paid a little higher and in return got a team friendly structure to the contract.

        Figured Shields was going to top Tramon’s contract! He came in right in may original predicted range of over 9M.

  4. (1) I suppose this deal is good if you assume Shields will suck in 2014 and get cut before 2015.

    (2) If he plays only OK and hangs around 4 years it’s a sh*t deal.

    (3) If he improves another level and holds that level of performance over the course of all four years then it will be a fair deal.

    CONCLUSION: TT was forced to pay top dollar for potential. I’d say SS’s agent squeezed our clownish GM for every penny possible and our penny-wise, pound-foolish GM took the bait. line and sinker. Just imagine what the market was a year ago, had he signed them. $5MM/yr?

      1. Old Gomer took the bait on the shriveled up Julius Peppers as well. Last year he was non existent. Played with no heart and just all around sucked. Old Gomer is starting a trend here, pay the players with no heart. The Bears organization must be laughing their azzes off, “can you believe that dumbazz Gomer took peepers off our hands” Gomer Thompson strikes again…

        1. The Bears are actually taking a bigger cap hit on Peppers this year than we are and he isn’t even on their team anymore. I am pretty sure the Bears aren’t laughing at all. GoPack!

    1. I’m not sure you even read my post:

      1) If Shields plays terribly in 2014, he can get cut without much penalty

      2)He won’t play out his contract if he performs poorly

      3) This is the tradeoff, if Shields plays well then he gets paid well, if he plays poorly then he gets cut without much penalty going forward.

  5. We just had a earthquake under my house in LA. Great way to kick off St Patty day, with a bang…enjoy today and drink safe my friends…it’s easy for me to find something green to wear to the bar on St Pattys day, I just throw on some of my Packer gear

  6. The biggest problem with this article is calling Shields an elite corner. That is a joke. He is an average corner playing with horrible corners around him. That does make him “look” above average. He is an average corner at best. Obviously TT wishes he was better and paid him accordingly. 4million/yr. would be very generous for an average corner.

    1. Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde are “horrible”?

      Is that what you’re going with?

      *makes a note that Charles Martin is to CB talent evaluation as the real Charles Martin was to sportsmanship and fair play*

      1. Micah Hyde plays with heart and will be an elite corner/safety. Tramon and Casey, what did they do to make them elite? Did Casey even play? I did see Tramon get a few penalties called on him. Please inform me of their great play, did they make the probowl? I must have missed something Hank. Were the 2 of them tied for MVP. I am excited now, I didn’t know we had some kickazz shut down corners like that. We don’t need no stinkin draft.

        1. I seem to remember a certain NFC championship game a few years ago where Sam got two picks. One of them was “the dagger.”

        2. In this context, talent is kinda like water. There is a huge range between ice (horrible) and steam (elite). Most of the time it is liquid..something in between the two extremes.

          Try a better strawman. This one was as weak as your talent evaluation skills.

          1. Hank, you should actually read my post before responding. I will try to break it down to your level. Hyde is an awesome talent and will prove himself in the future. Tramon and Casey are not the elite shutdown corners that you think they are. I don’t see where your evaluation skills are any better than mine. And as far as liquid, that would be the substance between your ears.

            1. I read it. I got it the first time. Repeating it with different words didn’t really add anything.

              But I did learn that I think Williams and Hayward are elite. I never knew I thought that before you told me what I think.

              Unless I never thought that and still don’t.

              Yeah, I think I’m going with door #2 on that one.

              Have fun trolling the interwebs, Charles.

    2. He didn’t call him an elite cornerback.

      “At best, the Packers are paying roughly market value for an elite cornerback, if he ends up being just average they have the leverage to reduce his contract and if he’s a complete bust then they have the flexibility to cut him without incurring too much dead money down the road.”

      This simply means that if he is playing at an elite level the Packers are paying market value. If not, they have options.

    3. I never called him an elite corner. I said IF he plays like an elite corner then they will be paying him like one. If he doesn’t play like an elite corner then they can cut him without much penalty.

  7. I would also add that Verner and Davis both signed with Florida teams, where there is no income tax, so what they are taking home is more than it would be in Green Bay. Also, Green Bay is not one of the more desirable places to live, so a player’s asking price to play in Green Bay might be higher than somewhere like Florida. Maybe it is worth it to them to take 1-2 less million and live somewhere nice than.

  8. I did not read the article, just saw the title and started typing. My first impression on Shields contract was “WOW, why so much”? Then I saw that most of the money (other than signing bonus) will be paid in the last 2 years of the deal (when he ‘should’ be a better corner than he is today, and he ain’t bad now). I see this as; by the time 2016 rolls around the cap will be $160M and Shields contract will look small or he’ll be gone”. If he continues to improve as he has, and if he stays healthy, I see this as a good deal.

  9. Our D backfield was very solid when you consider the amount of time opposing QB’s had in the pocket. Peppers and a healthier Matthews should help.

    1. The time in pocket has nothing to do with defending the pass. The safety is supposed to prevent the reception it doesn’t matter how many seconds until it is thrown. The reason the secondary was so bad is because of lack of talent. Micah Hyde is a good player with future prospects but he is not going to save the packers this year….they need talented help.

      1. Everything is related. For instance if the Packers defense dials up a heavy pass rush, the cornerbacks and safeties might come up to be in better position for short dump off passes but that of course results in them being in worse position for longer routes. If the pass rush doesn’t disrupt the quarterback and he makes a long completion, then the cornerbacks are doing their job correctly even though the results are negative.

  10. They are all overpaid if you look at their contribution last season. To resign Raji for anything over the minimum required for time in the league is stupid. INCENTIVE pay is what should make up the majority of their pay. IF you win you cash in. If you loose you loose.

    1. I think that’s what the Packers are basically doing, it’s not like NFL contracts are written in blood like contracts in the NHL are. The Packers could technically release Shields right now and not suffer a huge cap penalty.

  11. Given the structure of Shield’s deal and the fact that TT had to deal with his agent, I think that TT did a great job for the Packers resigning Shields. At least we are set at corner, barring injury injuries, for the next few seasons. As for TT resigning Raji and signing Peppers, I realize that this may, emphasis on may, solidify our DL but I wonder if the money for both of them would have been better spent on a veteran safety. I would prefer to see Hyde matched with a veteran safety rather than Burnett at this point. I know that everything begins with the DL on defense but Raji and Peppers are still questions marks IMO. Maybe TT is not done in free agency yet, it’s still early in the game. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61

  12. Excellent article. Intelligent and well written with facts and figures to support the narrative.

  13. Excellent article, I wasn’t aware of Verner’s limitations until this.

    There are going to be major changes in the secondary these next couple of years. A new safety this year and probably a replacement for Tramon next year. It’s good to have Sam for a few years at a fair price for continuity.

  14. Great article. I have defended the contract TT gave to Shields. Guaranteed money/structure of the contract is the most important thing. For example: Peppers at $10 million per year is one thing, and Peppers with a $7.5 total guarantee is a completely different thing!

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