Packers Release Top Cornerback Sam Shields

Sam Shields missed almost all of the 2016 season due to his latest concussion. The move creates an additional $9 million of cap space.

Sam Shields announced his release from the Green Bay Packers on Wednesday via Instagram. his Instagram account

The move was expected. Shields missed almost the entire season due to a concussion sustained in the Packers’ season-opening victory at Jacksonville. It was Shields’ fourth concussion in the NFL, including one late in the 2015 season that kept him out of the lineup for four games.

“#BusinessIsBusiness” Shields said in a series of hashtaged one-liners associated with his Instagram post, and this certainly was business. Shields was the Packers’ undisputed top cornerback and his absence led to the team’s season-long struggles against opposing quarterbacks. Nonetheless, Shields’ concussion history made his $8 million base salary for 2017 — his final season under contract — far too expensive.

Throw in $500,000 of roster bonuses and a $500,000 workout bonus, the release of Shields will create $9 million of salary-cap space. Shields’ cap charge was set to be $12.125 million. The final year of prorated signing bonus — $3.125 million — will count against the cap as dead money.

Paired with the release of running back James Starks on Tuesday, the Packers have created an additional $12 million in cap space this week. That gives the team almost $43 million of cap space, based on OverTheCap.com’s projection of a $168 million salary cap for 2017.

That seems like a lot of money — and it is — but it still ranks only 13th.

With that stash of money, Green Bay not only has to tend to its own free agents — a list headed by T.J. Lang, Jared Cook and Nick Perry and 2013 draft picks Datone Jones, Eddie Lacy, J.C. Tretter and Micah Hyde — but it has to build a roster. According to Over the Cap, the Packers have 47 players under contract. Only two teams have fewer.

Shields was a tremendous rags-to-riches story. An undrafted free agent in 2010, the former college receiver blossomed into a Pro Bowl cornerback. From 2010 through 2015 and including the playoffs, only Richard Sherman (28) had more interceptions than Shields (23) among active players. His five career playoff interceptions are the most in Packers history. However, Shields never could stay healthy. He never played all 16 games and missed 17 of a possible 96 regular-season games during his first six years. That number swelled to 32 after this year’s concussion.

Near the Packers’ locker room after the NFC Championship Game in Atlanta, Shields said he wanted to play but was still battling symptoms of the concussion.

“Some days it’s tough headaches, some days it’s mild,” Shields said. “It varies. I never know. I’m so used to it that it’s just normal. Each day it’s getting better. I’ll be back.”

A few days after the game, coach Mike McCarthy said Shields was still in the concussion protocol.

“Having a chance to visit with Sam in Atlanta briefly, he needs to get healthy for himself and his family, that’s the primary focus,” McCarthy said.

Why risk himself and the possibility of another head injury and the potential for lasting damage?

“I understand why you ask that,” Shields said. “I don’t know. I just love the game, man, and I feel that I can get back out there and play. If not, then not. But right now it’s just day by day.”

In January, Shields was charged in Brown County Circuit Court with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. On Oct. 19, Brown County investigators went to Shields’ apartment in Ashwaubenon to investigate the suspected delivery of marijuana through the mail. Shields answered the door while smoking a blunt, according to the criminal complaint. More marijuana was found in the apartment, including in candy and muffins.

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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