Who's the Packers' top free agent?


GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In the early hours of the NFL's three-day window during which free agents can negotiate -- but not sign -- with other teams, there's been little movement among the Green Bay Packers’ 17 unrestricted free agents.

Which ones could be the most valuable might come as a surprise.

While cornerback Sam Shields likely will be draw the largest contract among the 17, one experienced personnel evaluator did not grade him as the Packers' top free agent.

Former Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian, who serves as an ESPN analyst, worked with our ESPN Insider's team to come up with gradesInsider for all the unrestricted free agents around the league.

When it came to the Packers' 17, center Evan Dietrich-Smith received the highest mark with a B-plus.

Outside linebacker Mike Neal was second among the Packers' players with a B-minus. Shields was tied for third with fullback John Kuhn with marks of C-plus.

Tight end Jermichael Finley, who is coming off neck surgery, was graded as a C in large part because of his injury. B.J. Raji was given a C-minus.

Polian's grading scale looked like this:

  • A: $6 million-plus annual average value, three-plus years in term and/or guaranteed money

  • B: $2 million to $6 million AAV, two years or fewer in term and/or guaranteed money

  • C: $2 million or less AAV, two years or fewer in term and/or guaranteed money

  • D: minimum salary, one-year contract

Here's what Polian had to say about some of the notable Packers' free agents:

On Dietrich-Smith: “When it comes to Dietrich-Smith, everything is good except his overall strength, but that's not a terrible detriment for a center. He is productive, is quick and has great character traits. He was elevated to the starting job in 2013 and worked exceptionally hard to get there.”

On Neal: “Neal is a good fit as a 3-4 pass-rusher. He is a big guy who can convert speed to power, but he is limited in acceleration to the passer. In terms of scheme fit, he is really only a target as a 3-4 DE.”

On Kuhn: “Kuhn is an interesting guy. If an offense needs a fullback-neutral-blocker, neutral-short-yardage, neutral-goal-line guy, he can be valuable. He also helps as a special-teams contributor. I would want him on my team, but I wouldn't break the bank.”

On Shields: “Shields is a solid cover guy, but his tackling is not outstanding. He has put up three or more interceptions each of the past three seasons.”

On Finley: “I'm still debating this grade. I don't think I can make him an B due to the injury. Finley is not ideal as a blocker, but the rest of his game is pretty good. I'd take pause before spending big money though. A lot will rely on his health outlook because it's a very serious injury.”

On Raji: "Raji is a big name -- and a big player -- but like his teammate Ryan Pickett, he will only fit defenses that feature no-movement nose tackle."