As reported by Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel back in January, cornerback Charles Woodson is due a $4 million roster bonus at some point in the month of April.
Because of the implications $4 million would have on the Packers’ salary cap, the decision the Packers make in choosing to pay Woodson or asking him to restructure his deal will similarly affect other players on the roster.
As of March 31, the Packers ranked 26th in the NFL in salary cap space at $3.425 million under the cap, according to Aaron Wilson of Scout.com. Only six teams in the NFL have less room.
The remaining space will be eaten up quickly when the draft choices sign their contracts. It’s difficult to project exactly how much money the Packers will need to sign their rookies because only the highest 51 contracts on the team count against the salary cap, and it’s possible trades will be made during the draft affecting both the number of draft choices the Packers have and how high they may select.
Regardless of how the draft plays out, there will be very little salary cap space for the Packers to sign players currently under contract to extensions such as quarterback Aaron Rodgers, linebacker Clay Matthews and wide receiver Greg Jennings, for example.
One way the Packers can create a little room to operate is to restructure Woodson’s contract by spreading out his bonus over the remaining three years of his contract.
The exact date of Woodson’s bonus has not been reported, but a good guess is that it will be due by Monday Apr. 16 when the Packers begin their offseason workout program.
The choice of whether or not to restructure Woodson’s contract would be a consensual agreement by both parties. The player does not have to agree to any such deal.
If Woodson doesn’t restructure, the Packers could cut him, and he would become a free agent, although that doesn’t seem likely.
The Packers could choose to pay Woodson his bonus and try to create space other ways such as cutting either wide receiver Donald Driver or tackle Chad Clifton. Retirement by either player would work the same way.
Any decision to cut either Driver or Clifton may not come until training camp or the regular season when their roster bonuses are due.
One more way that salary cap space could be created is through the potential retirement of safety Nick Collins who is scheduled to meet with the Packers some point this week.
Perhaps it’s not coincidence that the meeting was scheduled this week before Woodson’s bonus is due. If Collins does retire and extra salary cap space is created as a result, maybe the Packers choose to pay Woodson’s bonus now and not spread it out over future years.