Top lineman Shields might be cap casualty

Updated: March 1, 2006, 9:08 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Thirteen-year veteran guard Will Shields, one of the most celebrated offensive linemen in recent NFL history and a fixture in the Kansas City community during his long career with the Chiefs, could be a salary cap casualty if his contract for 2006 is not readjusted.

Will Shields
Shields

Chiefs officials have been discussing with Shields and his representative various scenarios to reduce his cap figure for 2006, the final season of his current deal. Shields is scheduled to earn a $5.1 million base salary, and is due a $400,000 roster bonus, and he carries a 2006 cap charge of $6.67 million.

Like many teams in the league, the Chiefs may have to make some roster moves to get into compliance with a 2006 cap projected to be $95 million-$96 million. The Tuesday breakdown of negotiations that would have extended the league's collective bargaining agreement, and the resultant likelihood that 2007 will be played as a so-called "uncapped" year, only makes that task more difficult.

Shields, 34, may have to weigh the advantages of staying in Kansas City, even at less money, against the prospect of being cast into an uncertain free agent market, one in which teams are expected to proceed with great caution and in which it could be impossible to meet players' financial expectations. Shields has deep roots now in the Kansas City community and leaving the Chiefs, the only franchise for which he has ever played during his stellar career, could be difficult.

A major component of one of the NFL's premier blocking units, Shields has been selected for 11 straight Pro Bowl games, and is one of the most respected players in the league. He has never missed a game, has appeared in 208 contests, and started all but one of them. The former Nebraska star has played in more games than any non-kicker in franchise history.

Shields received the NFL's prestigious "Man of the Year" award in January 2004.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

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