Here Is One Way I Would Attack The Cap Problem In 2021

The Packers have some problems looming as to the salary cap in 2021.  That does not mean there are no possible solutions to living with a $175 million cap limit in 2021.  I think my article yesterday was perceived with too much gloom, which is my fault.  A comment by Coach Dino inspired me to expand on some possibilities.

Aaron Rodgers looked very good in week one.  He threw some dimes on deep passes and just as importantly, got the ball out fast and within the scheme.  His performance made me much more willing to take some risks with his contract moving forward.  This article assumes that Rodgers continues to play well through week seventeen and in the playoffs this season.  Since Rodgers has three more years on his contract and will be 38 in 2021, I do not support extending him, but I do think annual restructures are perfectly reasonable.

So, assuming for purposes of this article that Rodgers performs like a top-seven NFL quarterback or better this year, I think it is perfectly reasonable to tweak his contract for 2021 to generate much needed cap space.  Rodgers currently is scheduled to have a $14.7 million base salary, a $6.8 million roster bonus, and a $500,000 workout bonus.  I think converting $12 million in base/roster money to a signing bonus to generate $8 million in additional cap space for 2021 is pretty reasonable.  Here is how that would look:

Yr Age Base Proration Roster W/O Cap Dead Savings/June 1
21 38 2.7M 18.352M 6.8M .5M 28.352M 50.356M ($22M)/3.2M
22 39 25M 18.352M - .5M 43.852M 25.204M 18.648M/25.5M
23 40 25M 6.852M - .5M 32.352M 6.852M 25.5M

I could live with that.  [Note that I am assuming this restructure will be executed in February or March of 2021 after a very good 2020 season, which means the $6.8 million roster bonus will get paid.]  The $43.852 million cap hit for 2022 is a trifle daunting to be sure, but I have no intention of allowing that number to stand.  One of three things is likely.

The first scenario is that Love gets some time to play in 2021 and looks like a franchise quarterback qualified to take over.  In that case, it does not matter whether Rodgers played well or not.  The Packers decide to trade Rodgers.  Yes, the dead money is a bummer, but the team still gets substantial cap savings, $18.65 million.  On the other hand, the acquiring team only has to pay Rodgers $25.5 million in 2022 and 2023 (none of which is guaranteed), which might mean that the Packers get better draft picks in return for Rodgers.  If Rodgers' performance declined then the Packers will get less in the way of draft picks.  If he really declined, the Packers cut Rodgers.  If Love is not ready even in 2022 and Rodgers looks bad or washed up, then yes, the restructure makes is worse, but only marginally so.  Bad is bad.

The second scenario is that the front office does not believe Love improved enough during the 2020 and 2021 seasons to hand over the reins to him and Rodgers performed like a top ten or better quarterback during the 2021 season.  In that case I would restructure Rodgers' contract to even out the cap hits.  [If Rodger looks like a top three quarterback, I would consider extending his contract by adding a year, but Rodgers would have to be amenable, so I will limit this article to things the Packers can control.]  Here is how such a deal might look:

Yr Age Base Proration Roster W/O Cap Dead Savings/June
21 38 2.7M 18.352M 6.8M .5M 28.352M - - - - - -
22 39 13M 24.352M - - .5M 37.852M 37.204M 648K/13.5M
23 40 25M 12.852M - - .5M 38.352M 12.852M 25.5M

I could live with that.

The third scenario is composed of a plethora of possibilities including Rodgers getting hurt such that the front office cannot be certain of what future level of performance to expect from him.  Again, if Love looks like a stud after the 2020 or 2021 season, that resolves the issues: just trade Rodgers for what can be gained or release him.  Things get murkier if Rodgers tails off later this season, or looks somewhere between the 8th and 14th best quarterback in the NFL during the 2021 season (depending upon which talent evaluator one consults).  A decline in Rodgers coupled with varying assessments of Love's ability to lead the franchise would be even murkier.  

$8 million is in cap savings is not enough to solve the 2021 cap crunch, but added to a potential rollover of $5 to $7 million, the team would be getting closer to the $16.6 million it probably needs just to comply with the rule of 51 for the 2021 season.  The Packers could convert more than $12 million of Rodgers' salary to a signing bonus: certainly $14 or even $16 million (for the latter, the team would need to convert some of the roster bonus but it would generate $10.65 million in cap savings) or even the $20 million I tossed out in the previous article.  I just started to get less comfortable with Rodgers' cap number and dead money numbers in 2022 if more salary was converted.  It really is just a question of the degree of risk one is willing to assume.

The Packers could generate some cap space by extending Adams and/or Bakhtiari, bearing in mind that it would be third contracts for both of them.  I think both are good bets to remain very good players well into their thirties: Adams because he is such a good route runner and Bakhtiari because left tackles seem to age well in general.  Bakhtiari is intriguing in that it appears possible to actually extend him while keeping his cap hits close to neutral over 2020 and 2021 (that's another article).   Perhaps some other players could be extended to mutual advantage.

The best solution would be for some young players to blossom so as to make established starters expendable.  Perhaps Runyan can lock down left guard allowing Jenkins to play center (making it unnecessary to re-sign Linsley), or if Hanson can play center, allowing Jenkins to play right tackle making Wagner (or Turner) expendable.  Perhaps Kamal Martin (or Barnes for that matter) can make Kirksey ($6M cap savings) expendable.  The big ticket would be if Gary blossoms, making Zadarius ($10.75M) or Preston Smith ($8M) expendable.  The easiest solution would be for the cap limit to be higher than expected.

I will be watching this season closely, bearing in mind a lot of possibilities.

 

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Comments (30)

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Coldworld's picture

September 17, 2020 at 07:27 am

Another brain stretcher with my coffee. Interesting. I would like to express disquiet at the idea of Jenkins being a full time center. I’d rather have his abilities elsewhere. Hopefully we will find another solution should Linsley move on.

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Bearmeat's picture

September 17, 2020 at 07:37 am

I feel pretty confident about the OL going forward, assuming we re-sign or franchise Bakh...

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 17, 2020 at 07:42 am

There is a draft intervening as well. Gute could take a center perhaps in round 2 and pencil him in as the presumptive starter. Personally, I think guards and centers that go that high should have a good chance of starting early.

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Bearmeat's picture

September 17, 2020 at 07:36 am

Regarding Rodgers: If he plays like he did on Sunday, or even close, you can't let him go. He plays until the end of the contract and you extend Love if he shows anything towards the end of his rookie deal. The best scenario would be Rodgers balling out, Love showing his ready, and we trade Rodgers for a haul prior to 2022.

Regarding cutting other vets: I'm confident Linsley is gone as sure as Bulaga was. King probably too. Jones is iffy, but the drafting of Dillon makes me think Jones gets paid elsewhere. Perhaps we keep Williams and draft a faster back in May of 21.

I'd also think Jenkins moves to RT if Wagner can't play and Turner is gone in March of 21.

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Guam's picture

September 17, 2020 at 08:19 am

Historically, the Packers don't give offensive lineman three contracts. The last OL that got a third contract from the Packers was Chad Clifton and he only completed 2 years of that contract before retiring (injuries). Since then Bulaga, Sitton, Lang, Wahle, Rivera, Flanagan and Tauscher* have all not been offered a third contract by the Packers. Interestingly, only Wahle completed his third contract with the new team - all of the others (Bulaga excluded since we don't know his outcome yet) did not finish their third contract with their new team - injuries or poor performance cut short their time. I am sure the Packer FO is well aware that only one of seven players was able to complete their third contract. That's lots of dead money against the salary cap for the other six teams.

That history does not bode well for Linsley or Bahktiari. Bahk may be a special case as he is a year younger than most OL looking for their third contract.

*Tauscher was not re-signed after his second contract and was out of the league until the Packers did resign him to a one year contract due to injuries on their OL the following year. So technically he got a third contract, but not a multi-year deal and only after injuries forced the hand of the Packer FO.

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greengold's picture

September 17, 2020 at 11:03 am

I DO think this is very interesting looking at Bakhtiari and Linsley both up for renewals. Totally agree with you, Guam, that 3rd contracts are out of the norm.

At the same time, say the Packers win the Super Bowl this season, with a healthy Aaron Rodgers. Gutekunst and LaFleur might put more of a premium on keeping a dominant OL in tact for one or two more runs at it with AR behind C.

I could see both Linsley and Bakhtiari extensions happening. "Always pay the guys up front" may be the plan ahead. They look to be in a pretty good rotation financially with the instant emergence of Elgton Jenkins.

On the flip side they extended Kenny Clark to the same kind of monster money.

Not a bad plan knowing the game is won in the trenches. Shove your money on your lines, to those who warrant it and roll.

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Guam's picture

September 17, 2020 at 05:01 pm

I think Linsley is unlikely to get a new contract because they drafted three interior O-linemen including a center last year. While he is a good player, he is replaceable and the Packers certainly seem to be trying to do so.

Bahk I just don't know. He is a year younger than other OL seeking a third contract so the injury issue is somewhat less of a problem (assuming he doesn't want a five year guaranteed deal). However the size of his contract and the Packers well documented salary cap issues next year make him a problem. The Packers clearly do not have his replacement on the roster unless Nijman makes an unprecedented leap. So... I just don't know.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 17, 2020 at 08:22 pm

P Smith could be traded. Lindsley walks. Sign your only All Pro lineman. Patrick and Hanson can fight for the center spot. Funchess is back for a roll over. D line and CB should be the focus of round one and two.

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greengold's picture

September 17, 2020 at 07:49 am

Really makes a person wonder when Gutekunst said - I believe this was after the draft - "It's a young man's game." Not sure if anyone else recalls that, but I remember my ears perking up.

Think that goes straight to your point in realizing cap savings for 2021, 2022 and beyond.

Brian Gutekunst's job is to make the tough decisions. I don't think Aaron Rodgers is too much of a tough decision, as the writing is on the wall and Aaron himself knows it. He's going to try to play out his contract with multiple Super Bowl wins as a parting gift. This team appears set up for that.

Oddest part about that is, say GB wins the next 2 SBs with AR at QB. You KNOW they will have to extend Rodgers at that point.

These other players/positions speak to the importance of achieving success now. We are currently "blessed" with Z, Preston, Bak, Rodgers, Jones, Williams, Adams, King, Linsley, Amos. They are collectively part of an era, and all we can do is hope, as fans, they achieve their ultimate goal of winning a Lombardi Trophy, this 2020-2021 season. Now is the time.

Should be interesting who stays on to continue the era moving forward.

Dillon's selection R2 lays bare Gutekunst's awareness of the futility of dropping 2nd contracts on RBs. Not that GB wouldn't want to keep either of Jones or Williams, but, those numbers will be cost prohibitive to further success.

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Nate-1980's picture

September 18, 2020 at 04:33 pm

Aaron Rodgers isn’t too much of a tough decision ??? I guess you didn’t watch last weeks game and the last 13 years..

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PeteK's picture

September 17, 2020 at 07:49 am

It's good to prepare , but this is a problem that should be addressed much later in the season.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 17, 2020 at 07:55 am

These are interesting ideas to ponder.

I also think we will not see a 170ish cap in 2021. Too many teams would be forced to release very high quality players. The NFL has a ton of money. They will work something out with the union.

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Coldworld's picture

September 17, 2020 at 08:51 am

I tend to agree, but a prudent GM or TGR can’t plan on the basis of a suspicion. Overestimation in that circumstance would potentially undermine the franchise for years.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 17, 2020 at 10:28 am

For sure. They will have a plan for all feasible situations.

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Archie's picture

September 17, 2020 at 12:43 pm

I think so too.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 17, 2020 at 08:26 pm

There will be a staggered deal set up with some amortization going forward. The League cannot afford to have a talent drain from established clubs and players drifting to outposts like Jax-ville or the Brown family. TV cash is still the boss and the games are being televised.

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Turophile's picture

September 17, 2020 at 08:36 am

TGR. Do you think there is any chance the league allows teams to 'borrow' money in 2021 from the 2022 cap (maybe even more than one future year), to spread the pain of a low cap over two (or more) years ?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 17, 2020 at 08:56 am

I don't know, to be honest. The NFL being the NFL, the league will probably want a concession from the union to do that. There is an argument that increasing the cap helps teams as well but I suspect the NFL will see opportunity at least.

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TheVOR's picture

September 17, 2020 at 09:00 am

All this assuming we drafted the right QB, which it appears we did not. Dude has nothing to show. Wasn't that terrific in college, and worse in camp. My 2..

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murf7777's picture

September 17, 2020 at 09:27 am

Waay to early to tell on Love. With limited training camp and no real game film to watch I’d say your comment is grossly premature. Any QB not taken in the top5 of a draft will have some weaknesses, no difference from Rodgers having his early in his career. Even those in the Top 5 have some. Go watch Peyton’s first year as a starting QB and you will find major weaknesses. He had 28 Interceptions. Same with Favre, and Holgrem was close to benching him in I believe it was year two, the list goes on and on.....give Love some time, even when he shows some major learning curve, which should be expected, not scorned.

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Since'61's picture

September 17, 2020 at 09:58 am

Give him time. I don’t think Rodgers showed us very much sitting on the bench for the first game of the 2005 season. This would have been Love’s senior season in college if he did not come out for the 2020 draft. Thanks, Since ‘61

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JohnnyLogan's picture

September 17, 2020 at 10:15 am

Actually was pretty damn good in college in 2018. I understood the pick the minute it was made. The kid great tools, rocket arm, doesn't fluster in the pocket, and happily, has two or three years to understudy the GOAT. The Packers are too good a team to pick in the top ten for the next few years. Gute knew this. A QB with really good potential falls to the end of the 1st. Worth a gamble. I'm not saying Love is going to give us sixteen years of Hall of Fame play like Starr, Favre, and Rodgers, but I'm saying "There's a chance."

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 17, 2020 at 10:28 am

Impatient a little bit?

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Archie's picture

September 17, 2020 at 12:44 pm

Giving up on Love already? Tsk..Tsk.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 17, 2020 at 05:56 pm

No, the article does not assume that Love is the right guy. Instead, it shows how to get cap relief while keeping Rodgers for the next four seasons. I did discuss possible courses of actions if Love at some point looks like a stud, but also if AR declines and Love looks okay/bad.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 17, 2020 at 08:31 pm

How many of his college Games have you actually Viewed over the past Three Years? He has the intangibles, the foot speed and the arm.
Best for him to be mentored by Rodgers for three -four years. See the future, live in the now.

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Since'61's picture

September 17, 2020 at 09:55 am

The cap savings for Rodgers provide interesting scenarios. Rodgers could win an MVP and/or 1 or even 2 SBs during the next 2 seasons. In that case it might become more difficult to generate cap savings.
It also makes trading or cutting Rodgers much more unlikely.

Love’s progress is also the other variable in this scenario. If he busts we need to keep Rodgers until we can draft a legit successor.

In any case I think the Packers will figure out their cap situation moving forward. Thanks, Since ‘61

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frankthefork's picture

September 17, 2020 at 02:55 pm

Thx Rey. The cap possibilities are almost endless. One thing for sure is there will be at least 7 new faces on our Packers team next year, assuming the draft class is as versatile and promising as this years. GPG.

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stockholder's picture

September 17, 2020 at 08:56 pm

1. Bahk isn't going to block for Love. 2. The packers carried Wells and Saturday. So lets not jump the gun on Linsley. 3. Wagner is here to stay. 4. Turner and Bahk will give you all you need to sign Jones, King, and Linsley. The OL will change. And I'd much rather see it change, then trade Rodgers.

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Stroh's picture

September 18, 2020 at 05:41 pm

I would do a restructure of Rodgers as well, tho not quite as much as you suggested. I think they will move on from Kirksey and either Turner or Wagner. Do an extension w/ Bahktiari that reduces his cap number temporarily. You could probably get cap saving in excess of 20M in this manner. That's just a educated guess. I'll leave the resident cap specialist to figure that out. :)

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