Budget Busters and Bargains: No. 6 on Lists

In Part 1 of our series, we tell you the players who earned (and didn't earn) their 2011 salaries. Leading off are two cornerbacks. While Sam Shields didn't take a step forward after an impressive rookie season, he's still a good deal and has a bright future.

With 87 players on the Green Bay Packers' salary ledger as of Aug. 15, the team had commitments for $379.8 million in base salary and $82.4 million in signing bonuses, if every year of every player's contract was taken into account.

Those numbers, provided by a source with access to salary information, really don't mean anything, other than their sheer eye-popping size.

We mention it as we tell you the best and worst bargains from the 2011 team. We lead off this six-part series with the No. 6 slots on our list.

No. 6 Bargain: Sam Shields

In today's pass-happy NFL, cornerback is a premium position. Just ask the Patriots, who would have won the Super Bowl had they not been forced to rely on players found on the scrap heap or their wide receiver depth chart.

To be sure, Shields was a disappointment after a surprisingly strong first season as an undrafted rookie. He didn't take a step forward in coverage and he took a step backward with his willingness to tackle. In 18 games in 2010, Shields allowed 57.4 percent completions, a passer rating of 78.2 and had four interceptions, compared to 58.0 percent, 87.5 rating and four interceptions in 16 games in 2011, according to Pro Football Focus. In 2010, he missed eight tackles and yielded 130 yards after the catch. In 2011, he missed 10 tackles and allowed 213 yards after the catch.

"Sam is a tough man. That's not the issue," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "He doesn't know how to tackle. He hasn't had to do it. He hasn't played corner (that long). Even when he was at Miami, they pressed him, so he wasn't in tackling situations. This year, we played a little bit more zone ... so that put him in more tackle positions. It was more glaring this year. We're going to give him every opportunity in practice to get that corrected. I have a couple drills that we can do. With the short time (in training camp because of the lockout), how much do you want to beat a guy's body up? Next year, we'll get that corrected."

Still, he played for the second-year minimum of $450,000 and received a mere $7,500 signing bonus in 2011. He'll make the third-year minimum of $490,000 in 2012, his final year under contract before becoming a restricted free agent.

"I think he's going to be a real good player in this league. That hasn't changed," Whitt said. "He jumped out so quickly last year. I knew there would be some bumps in the road. He still covered at a decent level this year. The thing is, the tackling has to improve and that's one thing that we will get corrected. It will get corrected."

No. 6 Budget Buster: Pat Lee

Pat Lee
Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire
For the three-year duration of Shields' contract, he'll make $1,267,500. Lee, a second-round pick in 2008, received a combined $2.16 million in signing and workout bonuses alone.

Lee's cap figure of $765,000 in 2011 wasn't horrible, not with Lee and Jarrett Bush tying for the team lead with 12 special-teams tackles. Still, it's his lack of production on defense and his draft position that earn him a spot on this list.

In the final year of Lee's four-year deal, he played merely 21 snaps on defense. In four years — including 2009, when he missed the season with a knee injury sustained in the preseason — he played in just 126 snaps on defense. If he is not re-signed, he'll depart Green Bay with $2.99 million in total earnings, 21 tackles, one pass defensed and no interceptions. He had as many boneheaded plays (the safety as a kickoff returner against Detroit in the 2011 regular-season finale) as starts (in 2010 at Washington).

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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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