Sam Shields

It’s beginning to look like the Green Bay Packers will not tender contracts to all of their restricted free agents — something that was a mere formality in past seasons.

If that is indeed what they do, those players will become unrestricted free agents and can sign with any team. By tendering the contracts, the Packers can match any deal offered by another club.

This is where it gets somewhat confusing. There are three levels of contract tenders — low, medium and high. They each carry compensation with them. If another team signs away a low-tendered player, the team that incurs the loss gets a draft pick in the same round that player was chosen in as compensation. Medium supplies a second-round pick and the high tender carries a first-round pick as compensation.

There are also dollar amounts associated with each tender, meaning the team has to pay the restricted free agent X dollars on a one-year deal. For the low tender that is $1.323 million. Medium is $2.023 million and high is $2.879 million.

Essentially, the thought is the Packers won’t tender all of these guys because it will save them money. Instead of paying $1.3 million, they will probably be able to get away with paying the veteran minimum of $715,000.

The Packers restricted free agents are Sam Shields, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Robert Francois, Frank Zombo and Tom Crabtree.

Shields and Dietrich-Smith will get tendered. The other three guys may not.

As a starting cornerback (and probably the best cornerback on the team), Shields seems likely to get the first-round tender. Since Dietrich-Smith is already penciled in to start at center, the Packers will also need to tender him. There’s not going to be anyone pounding on the door to sign him, so the second-round tender will be sufficient.

The other three guys are the question marks. Crabtree is the most valuable among them and could conceivably get an offer from another team. However, there isn’t going to be a huge demand, so the Packers can probably gamble. That just doesn’t seem like something they would do, though. We’re going to say Crabtee gets the low tender.

That will leave Francois and Zombo without offers, which shouldn’t really matter. Francois, a core special teams player, has already said he plans on returning, so there shouldn’t be any problem signing him to the veteran’s minimum.

As for Zombo, there isn’t really any reason for the Packers to re-sign him at all. He’s hardly played since his rookie season because of injuries.

If all of this plays out like we suspect, the salary cap ramifications will be as follows.

Shields — $2.879 million
Dietrich-Smith — $2.023 million
Crabtree — $1.323 million
Francois — $715,000
Zombo — $0

Total — $6.94 million