NFL Nation: Ted Thompson

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Pick after pick crawled across the bottom of television screens last April 25, 26 and 27 and those wondering when the Green Bay Packers would draft a safety got their answer when the 254th -- and final -- pick in the 2013 NFL draft was announced.

Three safeties went in the first round, but none to the Packers.

Two more came off the board in Round 2, but neither was a Packers pick.

[+] EnlargeHa Ha Clinton-Dix
AP Photo/Rogelio SolisHa Ha Clinton-Dix may be available to the Packers when they draft in the first round.
Seventeen more were drafted on the third and final day, yet the Packers still had not filled one of their biggest needs.

That's not to say they went into last year's draft wholly convinced that they didn't need help at the position. But when it came time to exercise each of his selections, there wasn't a safety sitting there that intrigued general manager Ted Thompson enough to make that call.

Thompson liked a few of the safeties in the draft, but the ones he was sold on were either already off the board or would have been a reach at the time of his pick.

So here are the Packers, nearly a year later, and Thompson still has not put pen to paper on a contract for a new safety of any consequence. (And no, street free agent Chris Banjo does not count.)

That has to change next month, when Thompson will take nine selections into the May 8-10 NFL draft, doesn't it?

If Thompson fails to land one of the top, say, five or six safeties in this draft -- be it Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama or Calvin Pryor of Louisville, both of who are locks to go in the first round; or possible second- and third-round picks like Jimmie Ward of Northern Illinois, Deone Bucannon of Washington State or Terrence Brooks of Florida State -- then he will be handcuffing defensive coordinator Dom Capers in much the same fashion he did last season.

Last summer, Capers and coach Mike McCarthy opened the competition at free safety to a pair of second-year players, Jerron McMillian (a 2012 fourth-round round pick) and M.D. Jennings (an undrafted free agent the same year). It was a close competition, more so because neither one stood out, and when strong safety Morgan Burnett was unavailable for the season opener because of a hamstring injury, that duo started Week 1 at the two safety spots.

The Packers thought so little of their performances that they cut McMillian late last season and did not even bother this offseason to offer Jennings a restricted free agent tender, which would not have cost them any guaranteed money.

"Obviously we didn't get the production that we wanted from that [free safety] position," safeties coach Darren Perry said this offseason.

To be sure, the Packers need Burnett to show that Thompson wasn't misguided when he signed him to a four-year, $24.75 million contract last summer.

"I think he's fully capable of doing it," McCarthy said this offseason. "Morgan's going to do everything he can. He needs to be more assertive in play-making opportunities."

In order for Burnett to flourish, he can't be worried about the player lined up next to him. That player was supposed to be Nick Collins, the three-time Pro Bowl safety whose career was cut short in 2011 by a neck injury. At age 30, he still would have been in the prime of his career last season.

If the Packers don't find another Collins, they must at least come close.

Since the team's resurgence in the early 1990s, they have enjoyed a strong group of safeties -- from LeRoy Butler to Darren Sharper to Collins; all were Pro Bowl selections during their time in Green Bay.

The dynamic of the position has changed in recent years. Whereas Butler was a fierce hitter, today's safeties are judged just as much on speed and ball skills as anything else. What NFL teams need now are safeties than can cover chunks of yardage in milliseconds and knock passes away or, better yet, intercept them. The Packers were the only team in the NFL last season that didn't get a single interception from a safety.

"The intimidator isn't necessarily needed anymore," ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said. "The big hitters, you don't need that."

Kiper doesn't believe Clinton-Dix will be around when the Packers come up at No. 21 in the first round, but Pryor very well could be available.

Even if Pryor is gone or Thompson passes on him, he will have other options, says Kiper.

"Jimmy Ward from Northern Illinois you could make an argument is the best cover safety in the draft," Kiper said. "He's coming off the [foot] injury but he had a very good career, has great ball skills, real good hands for the interception. And Ward is a decent tackler, but he doesn't have tremendous size [5-foot-11, 193 pounds].

"The days of that big, intimidating safety are just about over. Terrence Brooks from Florida State would fill that void at that point as a safety that could come in and help you right away."

No matter what Thompson does in the draft, Capers and McCarthy plan to work cornerback Micah Hyde at safety this offseason. Perhaps the fifth-round pick out of Iowa last year will be the full-time answer; he certainly showed enough as a rookie to warrant more than the 39.4 percent playing time he got last year. But if the Packers think Hyde can allow them to concentrate on other areas of need in the draft, they'd better be right.
The Green Bay Packers' greatest needs would seemingly be on the defensive side of the ball.

Even with the addition of pass-rusher Julius Peppers, they likely need to upgrade a few more spots in order improve on its 25th overall ranking last season. With that in mind, it might come as a surprise that in ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay's latest mock draft , version 4.0, he has the Packers taking offensive players not only with their first-round pick but also with their second.


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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- From the outside, the Green Bay Packers' list of needs in the upcoming draft seems obvious.

Safety, tight end and linebacker surely would be at the top of general manager Ted Thompson's wish list.

But sometimes GMs think a little differently.

That's something new ESPN Insider Mark Dominik knows as well as anyone. Dominik has nearly 20 years of experience as an NFL personnel man, including most recently as the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2009-13, before joining ESPN last month.

So it was interesting to see that Dominik, in an ESPN Insider piece, identified the Packers as a team that might have what he called a "hidden need." And he wrote that need is offensive tackle.

"The Packers drafted offensive tackles in the first round of the 2010 [Bryan Bulaga] and 2011 [Derek Sherrod] drafts, but they are still hunting for that dependable long-term option at left tackle," Dominik said. "Even though the team has other, more pressing needs, I believe general manager Ted Thompson could target a tackle earlier than expected in this draft. Remember, Chad Clifton was a second-round selection back in 2000, and it wouldn't surprise me if the Packers look to find a player like him -- in roughly that same range -- in this year's draft."

Perhaps Dominik isn't convinced second-year pro David Bakhtiari is the long-term answer at left tackle. Coach Mike McCarthy said recently he plans to leave Bakhtiari there, where he started every game last season as a rookie after Bulaga blew out his knee two weeks into training camp, leaving Bulaga to return to right tackle.

Or perhaps Dominik was taking the contract and injury history of Bulaga and Sherrod into account. Bulaga missed all of last season because of a knee injury and the second half of 2012 because of a hip injury. Sherrod returned late last season from the broken leg he sustained on Dec. 18, 2011, an injury that sidelined him for all of 2012 and the first half of 2013.

Both likely will be free agents next offseason. Bulaga is entering the final year of his rookie contract, while the Packers have an option for 2015 on Sherrod's deal that they are unlikely to exercise.
The Green Bay Packers have big plans for their returning tight ends, even if Jermichael Finley isn't one of them.

Finley still has not been cleared to resume his career following last season’s neck injury.

Bostick
Quarless
Even if Finley is cleared, which at this point remains in question, there's no guarantee general manager Ted Thompson will re-sign him.

So it was no surprise to hear coach Mike McCarthy talk Wednesday at the NFL annual meetings about Andrew Quarless and Brandon Bostick as players he views as possible significant contributors this season and in the future.

The Packers re-signed Quarless to a two-year, $3 million contract after he finished last season as the starter in place of Finley.

But Bostick, a former small-college receiver, might be the more intriguing of the two. At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds and with a basketball background at Newberry (S.C) College, Bostick is a Finley clone in terms of body type and athleticism. In limited opportunities last season, his first on the active roster after spending his rookie season on the practice squad, Bostick averaged 17.1 yards per catch on seven catches and had one touchdown.

His role increased following Finley's season-ending neck injury Oct. 20 against the Cleveland Browns. He first proved himself on special teams before getting a chance on offense.

"When you look at performance on special teams, it's always a pretty good indicator of how guys are going to transition to their offensive and defensive responsibilities," McCarthy told reporters at the NFC coaches breakfast. "And Bostick's right there. I thought he really improved and was one of our four core players on special teams. He's doing some really good things in his limited opportunities on offense."

It was surprising to hear McCarthy call Bostick the team's best blocking tight end before a foot injury ended his season in Week 15.

"That is something he had to grow into, develop into," McCarthy said. "I look at him as still a young, ascending player."

Both Bostick, 24, and Quarless, 25, fit that category. Quarless missed all of the 2012 season after blowing out his knee late in 2011.

"I felt like last year, he wasn't quite where [he was] two years ago,” McCarthy said. "Just quite wasn't himself. I thought last year there was a big hurdle that he actually made it through the whole season. It's something that he struggled with. We felt that he has a chance to get all the way back and still is a young ascending player."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Even after signing or re-signing seven players since the start of free agency, the Green Bay Packers still have enough salary-cap space to do more.

According to the latest figures from ESPN Stats & Information, which includes all the contracts the Packers have done in free agency to date, the Packers still had more than $15 million in salary-cap space. To be exact, they were $15,742,829 under their adjusted salary cap of $141,821,209 (which includes room they carried over from 2013).

Only six teams had more cap room left than the Packers, as of Monday. They were: the Cleveland Browns ($37.1 million), New York Jets ($30.4 million), Jacksonville Jaguars ($25.7 million), Cincinnati Bengals ($27.1 million), Miami Dolphins ($19.2 million) and Philadelphia Eagles ($16.3 million).

The Packers will need around $5 million in cap space for their rookie salary pool.

They still have a few of their own free agents they could sign -- including fullback John Kuhn and perhaps defensive linemen Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett -- but general manager Ted Thompson also knows he must leave room to extend the contracts of receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Both are entering the final year of their current deals.
Ted Thompson did not travel to Orlando, Fla., for this week's annual meetings, but wherever he is, the Green Bay Packers general manager likely pleased with Monday's developments.

The NFL awarded the Packers a pair of compensatory draft picks, one in the third round (No. 98 overall) and one in the fifth (No. 176). The announcement was made at the league's annual meetings, where the Packers were represented by team president Mark Murphy, coach Mike McCarthy and several other front office staff members.

Murphy told reporters at the meetings that Thompson is fine and working but could not travel. Thompson typically leaves the three-day meetings a day early to resume his pre-draft preparations.

Although the exact formula for awarding additional picks isn't known, not even to the teams themselves, it is based on the net losses in free agency from the previous offseason with contracts, playing time and productivity factored in.

Thompson did not sign any free agents in 2013 but lost receiver Greg Jennings (who signed with the Minnesota Vikings) and outside linebacker Erik Walden (Indianapolis Colts). The third-round pick was for losing Jennings and the fifth rounder for Walden.

The 98th overall selection represents the Packers' highest compensatory pick since 1999, when they used one at No. 94 overall to select defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt.

With the two additional picks, the Packers will have nine selections in the upcoming draft on May 8-10. They own their original picks in each round, beginning with No. 21 overall, plus the two compensatory selections.

Compensatory picks cannot be traded.

Among the players Thompson has drafted with compensatory picks in recent years were: guard Josh Sitton (fourth round, 2008), cornerback Davon House (fourth round, 2011), defensive tackle Mike Daniels (fourth round, 2012) and defensive end Josh Boyd (fifth round, 2013).
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Shortly before free agency opened, the Green Bay Packers had the sixth-most salary-cap space in the NFL.

Since then, they have re-signed cornerback Sam Shields, defensive tackle B.J. Raji, outside linebacker/defensive end Mike Neal, tight end Andrew Quarless, tendered restricted free-agent linebacker Jamari Lattimore and added free-agent defensive linemen Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion.

They began the month with nearly $34.2 million in cap space and even after all that activity, they still have about half of that remaining.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Packers had $20,627,413 in available cap space as of the start of the second week of free agency. However, that did not include Raji’s one-year, $4 million contract. It also did not include the new two-year deal that running back James Starks has agreed to but has yet to be announced by the team.

According to NFL Players Association salary information, counting the Packers' top-51 players under contract -- which is all that must be counted for cap purposes at this time of the year -- the Packers still had $17,024,449 in salary-cap space as of the start of business on Wednesday. That also did not include Starks' contract.

The Packers will need around $5 million for their rookie salary pool but even accounting for that, general manager Ted Thompson still has room to maneuver.

Among the things he has to consider is having enough space to extend the contracts of receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, both of whom are entering the final years of their contracts. Their situation likely played a role in Thompson's decision not to re-sign receiver James Jones, who signed a three-year, $10 million deal with the Oakland Raiders on Monday.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Who says Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson doesn't sign any free agents?

Yes, you've heard that line before, but almost every time it should have been hashtagged with this: #sarcasm. How else can you explain a signing such as Raymond Webber?

Who?

Exactly.

No hashtag needed this time.

Not for Julius Peppers, who signed a three-year, $30 million contract Saturday to continue his career in Green Bay.

This is more than a little splash. It's cannonball-sized, especially for Thompson, who specializes in no-name signings such as Webber, a street free-agent tight end whose signing last month barely made a ripple.

Not since 2006, when Thompson signed cornerback Charles Woodson, has he made a move like this. This won't count as a true unrestricted-free-agent signing, at least not under the terms of the NFL's formula for awarding compensatory draft picks, because Peppers was released last week by the Chicago Bears.

Forget technicalities. This was a significant -- and much-needed -- move for a defense that sank to 25th in the NFL last season and needs an infusion of playmakers.

There's plenty still to be learned about Peppers, including how much the eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end still has left at age 34 and where exactly he will play in Dom Capers' 3-4 defensive scheme.

He's coming off his lowest sack total (7.0) since 2007, but, in his past three seasons combined with the Bears, he has 29.5 sacks. In his 12 NFL seasons, he has had fewer than 10 sacks only three times (2003, 2007 and last year), and he hasn't missed a game since 2007.

At 6-foot-7 and 287 pounds, Peppers has been an ideal 4-3 pass-rushing defensive end. But defensive ends in a 3-4 scheme don't typically command $10 million average salaries because they're not asked to jet up the field and pile up sacks like 4-3 ends.

Perhaps Capers will use Peppers in the elephant end position coach Mike McCarthy recently discussed as a possibility for Nick Perry and Mike Neal, both of whom can be considered hybrid defensive end/outside linebackers.

The possibilities could be endless.

Regardless of how Capers uses Peppers, it should help outside linebacker Clay Matthews. Not that teams won't still double-team Matthews, but say Capers lines up Peppers and Matthews on the same side of the formation. What's an offensive coordinator to do?

Peppers nearly ruined the Packers' 2013 season. Had fullback John Kuhn not gotten the slightest of chip blocks on Peppers in the final minute of the regular-season finale at Soldier Field, Peppers would have drilled quarterback Aaron Rodgers before he could have released the 48-yard bomb to Randall Cobb for the game-winning and NFC North-winning touchdown pass.

He could be just what the Packers need in 2014.

Thompson might be done in free agency for this season. For that matter, he might be done in free agency for next season and the one after that. But don't say he doesn't sign free agents. Hashtag: #serious

Kiper's Mock 3.0: Packers

March, 13, 2014
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With a defense that slipped to No. 25 in the overall rankings last season, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson will no doubt go into the draft thinking defense.

He did that in 2012, and he used his first six picks on that side of the ball.

Those picks were supposed to be the core of the defense, but last year only one of them -- fourth-round defensive tackle Mike Daniels -- made a major impact.

So where does that leave the Packers when it comes to the 21st pick in the draft?

They could conceivably address any level of their defense. They could use some run-stopping muscle on the interior of the defensive line, another pass-rusher off the edge to complement outside linebacker Clay Matthews, a playmaking inside linebacker and a ball-hawking safety.

There's a chance the top-two safeties, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama and Calvin Pryor of Louisville, will be off the board before the Packers pick. But if either one was available, Thompson might have a hard time ignoring that spot.

On the defensive line, Louis Nix III of Notre Dame would be an option at nose tackle, while Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman could be a viable pick as a 3-4 end. There's a good chance both could be there at 21.

The top outside linebackers almost certainly will be gone by the time the Packers pick, but inside linebacker C.J. Mosley of Alabama could be available.

And if Thompson decides to go with an offensive player, he might strongly consider North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, if he's still there.

Check out ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper's Mock Draft 3.0 Insider to see which players he thinks the Packers should target with their first pick.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Seattle Seahawks will be the first team to take a look at tight end Jermichael Finley.

Just minutes after Finley hit the free-agent market, an NFL source said he would arrive in Seattle on Tuesday night and will visit with the Seahawks on Wednesday. One of the first orders of business, according to the source, was a meeting with the Seahawks doctors, who will examine his surgically repaired neck.

Bush
Finley
Finley underwent fusion surgery between the C-3 and C-4 vertebra last November following the season-ending neck injury he sustained on Oct. 20 against the Cleveland Browns.

It's unclear if the Green Bay Packers have had a chance to examine Finley recently. In fact, it's not even known if Finley's surgeon, Dr. Joseph Maroon, has cleared Finley. Maroon is the Pittsburgh Steelers' team doctor.

Last month at the NFL scouting combine, Packers coach Mike McCarthy was optimistic that Finley would be cleared, saying the injury wasn't exactly the same as the one suffered by former Packers safety Nick Collins. The Packers released Collins following a C-3/C-4 fusion surgery in 2011.

Finley is a free agent for the second time in three years. Two years ago, he opted to sign only a two-year deal (for $14 million) in the hope that he would blossom into a star and command an even bigger contract the next time around.

If Finley signs with the Seahawks, he would be reunited with general manager John Schneider, who was one of packers general Manager Ted Thompson's top personnel advisors in Green Bay when the Packers drafted Finley in the third round in 2008.

In 70 games with the Packers over six seasons, Finley has 223 catches for 2,785 yards and 20 touchdowns. In 2012, he set a franchise record for receptions by a tight end with 61.

In other news involving Packers' free agents, center Evan Dietrich-Smith is scheduled to visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan confirmed the visit. The New York Giants also are believed to be interested in Dietrich-Smith.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The rehabilitation of the Green Bay Packers’ defense is still in its early stages, but they no longer have to worry about their cornerbacks.

[+] EnlargeSam Shields
AP Photo/Joe RobbinsLocking up Sam Shields means the Packers are set at cornerback and can focus on other parts of the defense.
By re-signing Sam Shields on Saturday to a four-year, $39 million contract, Packers general manager Ted Thompson now can focus on restoring the other parts of the defense to what they were early in defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ tenure.

All along, Shields was the Packers’ top free-agent priority after finishing the best season of his career in 2013. At 26, the Packers believe he is an ascending player whose speed won’t leave him any time soon.

Shields did not come cheap. Over the first three years of the contract, he is expected to make $30 million (including $15 million this season). Among cornerbacks currently under contract for 2014, Shields would be the second-highest paid at his position behind only Darrelle Revis ($16 million) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It also means, barring any change in Tramon Williams’ status, the Packers will shell out $22.5 million to their starting cornerbacks this season. Williams is scheduled to earn $7.5 million ($6.9 million base salary and $600,000 in bonuses) this season.

With the expected return of Casey Hayward from last season’s hamstring problems, the Packers have to feel good about their cornerbacks.

And Thompson still has enough money and salary-cap space to use on what could be a significant overhaul to the defensive depth chart.

All three of the Packers’ starting defensive linemen are scheduled to become free agents on Tuesday. B.J. Raji is mulling a one-year deal to return as a nose tackle, while Ryan Pickett’s agent, Kennard McGuire, said Saturday that he plans to stay in contact with the Packers throughout free agency. The other defensive line starter, Johnny Jolly, is awaiting clearance from his doctors after undergoing neck fusion surgery. Pickett and Jolly likely could be had for low- to moderately-priced deals.

With Shields in the fold, perhaps the biggest issue facing Thompson is the safety position. There’s been no indication that he plans to offer M.D. Jennings a restricted free agent tender, and the Packers know they need to upgrade that position.

For now, though, Capers and his staff have to feel better about their secondary knowing Shields will return. Several times last season, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt acknowledged that while the defense, which finished last season ranked 25th in the league, did not play up to its standards as a whole, the same could not be said for Shields.

“You can’t take that away from him,” Whitt said late in the season.

“He’s trying to make that next step to: can he be in the conversation with some of the those top corners that are out there?” Whitt added.

And now he will be paid like one of them.

Offseason Blueprint: Packers

March, 4, 2014
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The Green Bay Packers went into this offseason with many questions:

What impact will the changes on their coaching staff have?

How will they fix their 25th-ranked defense?

How many of their 17 unrestricted free agents will they re-sign?

While the first question won’t be answered for months, they couldn’t be in a much better position to address the last two questions.

From a salary-cap standpoint, they left last week’s combine with the sixth-most salary-cap space in the NFL at more than $34 million. That will allow general manager Ted Thompson to re-sign several of his top free agents and also dip into the free-agent market, if he so chooses.

Our ESPN Insider team took a further look into the Packers’ offseason blueprint .
The Green Bay Packers did not use the franchise tag or transition tag Monday, which was the deadline for NFL teams to do so as a way of keeping their own free agents.

Shields
There's still a week left for the Packers to negotiate exclusively with their own players before they hit the open market Monday, but as ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Saturday, the team is unlikely to come to an agreement before then with perhaps their most coveted free agent, cornerback Sam Shields.

As recently as last week, the Packers were still in negotiations with Shields' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, about a long-term deal, but the two sides were far apart.

Although the Packers have more than $30 million in salary-cap space, general manager Ted Thompson clearly did not want to be in a position of having to use more than $11 million of it on one player.

The franchise tag for a cornerback would have been $11.834 million, while the transition tag would have been $10.081 million. There were no cornerbacks among the six players tagged (four with the franchise designation and two with the transition).

It's unknown exactly what Shields is seeking, but the deal signed Monday by Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes could help determine Shields' value. Grimes signed a four-year, $32 million deal that included $16 million in guaranteed money.

Shields, who emerged last season as the Packers' top cover corner, entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent and received only a $7,500 signing bonus. He played last season for the restricted free-agent tender of $2.023 million.

Including Shields, the Packers have 17 players who would be eligible for unrestricted free agency beginning March 11. Teams can begin negotiating with other team's free agents Saturday, but no deals can be signed for three days.
Each week, I will ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then will deliver the answers over the weekend.
 

Wrap-up thoughts from the combine

February, 23, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS – The media access portion of the NFL scouting combine ended on Sunday afternoon, but events for the invitees and league personnel continues through Tuesday.

Looking back over the four days spent in and around Lucas Oil Stadium, there was plenty to be learned.

Here are some final thoughts from the Green Bay Packers’ perspective.

Lineup changes: This is the time of year where the coaches ponder new roles for new players. We already told you about a possible new role in the defense that might better suit Nick Perry, and coach Mike McCarthy’s desire to turn Eddie Lacy -- and the other running backs -- into three-down players in order to limit substitutions and therefore speed up the offense. Also, cornerback Micah Hyde could add safety to his list of duties, while David Bakhtiari appears likely to remain at left tackle, but there’s been no decision made on where Bryan Bulaga will play.

Salary-cap space: With the 2014 salary cap expected to exceed $130 million and possibly be as high as $132 million, the Packers will have even more room than they expected. Including unused cap space, they could carry over from last season, the Packers will have more than $30 million of salary-cap space available for this offseason.

Tag or no tag: General manager Ted Thompson would not reveal whether he would use the franchise tag as a way to retain cornerback Sam Shields. Although they have the space to absorb the more than $11 million that the tag would cost, Thompson would prefer to sign Shields to a more cap-friendly, long-term deal. Shields’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was expected to continue discussions with the Packers in Indianapolis.

Talking to prospects: On the final day of media access, among the players who confirmed they have met or will meet with the Packers included Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland, Notre Dame defensive lineman Louis Nix III and safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama and Calvin Pryor of Louisville. There are two kinds of interviews -- formal ones that last 15 minutes (teams are limited to 60 of those) and informal interviews (of which there is no limit).

Up next: Free agency officially begins on March 11 but teams can start negotiating with free agents on March 8. The next official league gathering is the NFL annual meeting, known as the owners meeting, March 23-26 in Orlando, Fla.

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