Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Who Will The Packers Sign Among Their Restricted Free Agents?

Because the Green Bay Packers' collection of restricted free agents consist entirely of players who were undrafted, the team has some tough choices to make.
The first question is how much does it cost to tender a contract to a restricted free agent? The levels don't appear to be publicly known, but last season they ranged from $2.742 million to $1.26 million. A tender at the lowest level is tied to the player's original draft selection, but since the Packers didn't draft these five players, the lowest tender will be essentially worthless. The Packers will have to offer the higher amounts to give themselves draft pick compensation protection and that might not work with their salary cap.

The good news is that teams seem to have no interest in signing restricted free agents, especially ones that would require them surrendering their first or second round pick.

C Evan Dietrich-Smith. Would any team offer him a contract to become their starting center? I don't think so, but the Packers probably know better than me. His salary was $619,650 in 2012, so a first (approx. $3 miliion) or second-round tender (approx. $2 million) would be a huge increase. I don't think the Packers want to pay $2 to $3 million for a backup lineman. Mike Vandermause thinks the Packers will offer a first or second-round tender because there's no other candidate on the roster who could start at center. If he does receive a higher tender, it would likely mean he'll be the starter next season and the Packers will look for their center of the future in the later rounds.

CB Sam Shields. It's a no-brainer that he'll receive a first or second-round tender since he's their starting cornerback. Either way, he'll receive a significant raise from $547,540 in 2012 to $2 to $3 million next season. But should it be a first-round or a second-round offer? A second-round tender should be enough to scare off every team. The only downside is that Shields might feel slighted by receiving a second-round tender (and approx. $1 million less).

TE Tom Crabtree. Yes, he's a fan-favorite, but I can't see any reason why he should be tendered a contract. He's obviously liked by the coaches because he's played ahead of TE D.J. Williams and TE Ryan Taylor for the past two seasons, but he probably doesn't want to leave Green Bay and would be happy with a reasonable multi-year deal. Another team or two might show some interest, but I can't see anyone giving him big money.

LB Frank Zombo and LB Robert Francois. I can't see either of them receiving a tender offer. Zombo's struggled too much with injuries and Francois is buried too deep on the bench. Plus, the Packers do have to open up some roster spots for the 2013 draft class.

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