More important to re-sign: Raji or Shields?

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
8:00
AM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Of the 17 Green Bay Packers players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents next month, only two might demand what would be considered blockbuster contracts.

If general manager Ted Thompson can keep only one of them, should he re-sign defensive tackle B.J. Raji or cornerback Sam Shields?

Shields
Raji
Raji reportedly turned down an $8 million per year offer last season. Shields likely is looking for something similar.

On Tuesday's edition of NFL Insiders on ESPN, former St. Louis Rams general manager Billy Devaney offered his opinion on which one he would re-sign.

“I'm sure Green Bay's working hard trying to figure out a way to keep both of these guys, but to me, keeping the corner that has speed and can cover over a defensive tackle that is pretty much just a guy, that's a no-brainer,” Devaney said. “You've got to keep the corner.”

Three years ago, no one would have called Raji “just a guy.” He was coming off a 2010 season in which he posted 6.5 sacks in the regular season plus one more in the playoffs. He also returned an interception for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game.

But since then, he has recorded just three sacks (all in 2011).

“Green Bay does have problems along the defensive line,” Devaney added. “Raji is a free agent. Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly and C.J. [Wilson] are all free agents, so they need to do something to address that defensive line.”

Meanwhile, Shields is coming off his best season, and at age 26 he is still improving.

In an ESPN Insider post Insider, Mike Kurtz of Football Outsiders agreed with Devaney. He wrote that Shields is likely to be “the beneficiary of [coach Mike] McCarthy's organization first-spending strategy.”

Kurtz added that “regardless of whether Raji stays, the defensive line is thin and likely to be thinner.”

The Packers have other issues to deal with before free agency. Veteran receiver James Jones also is scheduled to become a free agent. So is Evan Dietrich-Smith, who is coming off his first full season as the starting center. On the defensive side, Mike Neal is at the end of his contract and had his best NFL season after moving to outside linebacker from defensive end.

But the biggest -- and most expensive -- decisions are on Raji and Shields.

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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