Starter Pack: Must-sign free agents

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
8:00
AM ET
A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers' beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Packers have a long list of free agents; we detailed them last week in two separate posts -- one with the offensive players and one with the defensive players.

In an ESPN Insider piece Insider, Mike Sando identified what he considered to be the top 25 “must sign” free agents. Among them were two Packers players -- defensive tackle B.J. Raji and cornerback Sam Shields.

Here's what Sando, a long-time NFL writer, said about each one along with where they ranked on his list:

11. Raji appears somewhat miscast in the Packers' 3-4 defense. It's not that Raji has performed poorly. It's more that the Packers have turned him into a two-down player to fit their scheme, one reason Raji has zero sacks in his last 37 regular-season games. Raji had 9.5 sacks over a 27-game span preceding his current drought. He has reportedly turned down an offer worth $8 million per year, an indication he might see himself as a better fit elsewhere. Do the Packers have enough talent on defense to let one of their better players get away?

15. Shields provides needed stability in the Green Bay secondary. He could even outrank Raji on this list, depending on what role the Packers have in mind for Raji.

Sando makes a good point about Raji. Even though he underachieved in 2013, he remains one of their most dynamic defensive players. It's not so much a question of if they can afford him but rather can they afford to let him go? It's a moot point, however, if Raji would rather play in a different scheme.

As far as Shields goes, there appears to be little doubt that the Packers will get a deal done with him.

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
  • With the news that quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo was hired as the New York Giants offensive coordinator, here's a look at why the next hire is an important one for the Packers quarterback position.
  • ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell wrote that the Packers are seeking input from season-ticket holders about why it took so long for the playoff game against the 49ers to sell out.
  • Running back Eddie Lacy won the Pro Football Writers of America's rookie of the year award. Could the AP award -- the one officially recognized by the NFL -- be next?
  • Our look at the top-10 plays that shaped the season continued with No. 4.
  • Our look at the Packers' roster continued with the players ranked 41 through 50. There's a former first-round pick among them.
Best of the rest:
  • At ESPNWisconsin.com, Jason Wilde looked at how McAdoo put himself in position for Tuesday's promotion.
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Weston Hodkiewicz wrote that the loss of tight end Jermichael Finley to a midseason neck injury hurt the Packers in many ways, not the least of which was in the red zone.
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tyler Dunne wrote that with so many holes to fill on their roster, the Packers need to spend wisely this offseason.

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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