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Musings on The Packers Salary Cap Situation

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Musings on The Packers Salary Cap Situation

As of September 7, shows that the Packers have $6.803 million in salary cap space. lists the Packers with $2.979 million, which ranks 31st out of the 32 NFL teams.  The difference between the two estimates is very close to the $3.78 million, which I have suggested should be associated with the grievance over Martellus Bennett's signing bonus. 

After digging a little further, I learned that since the Packers filed the grievance in 2017, any award issued in 2018 counts toward the team's 2018 salary cap.  If the Packers lose the appeal, OTC will deduct $3.78 million from its estimate of the Packers' salary cap space.  Sportrac has assumed that Green Bay will lose the appeal, so its estimate would remain unchanged if Green Bay loses the appeal, but it should increase to roughly $6.759 million should the Packers win the appeal.  As a note, Cole Madison's prorated signing bonus of $81,083 counts against the cap until such time as the Packers seek a forfeiture for the return of Madison's prorated signing bonus. 

A big question is, which of the numbers are the Packers using for roster construction purposes?  My guess is that the front office is using the more conservative number.  Only having roughly $3 million in cap space available might explain why GM Gutekunst has not signed players like Reid, Simon, Nate Orchard, or others.  Another possible reason is that most of the names bandied about are vested veterans whose base salaries would be essentially guaranteed if they were on the 53-man roster for game one.  It seems possible that the Packers will wait until after the Bears game to sign additional help: that way the Packers are only responsible to pay for the games such players are on the roster.  We should be aware that sometimes millions of cap dollar space disappears over the course of a season on a routine basis. 


Aaron Rodgers Contract

The biggest attribute of Rodgers' contract is that it follows the conventional Green Bay model.  The guaranteed money consists of the massive signing bonus, plus the first-year and second-year base salaries.  True, the $19.5 million roster bonus is probably essentially guaranteed due to the $34.5 million dead money still remaining on the contract, but it is not guaranteed.  Indeed, the cap savings are only a negative $1.9 million for the 2020 season.  Otherwise, the contract does not represent any breakthroughs in contract structure.  There are no reports of voiding years, opt-out clauses, or mutual options.  If Rodgers wanted more player control, I see no evidence that he was successful in that regard.  Nor did Green Bay use any fancy tactics such as option bonuses or the 50% down rule. 

One unusual aspect of the contract is the lack of any game-active roster bonuses.  Rodgers lost over $650,000 in salary due to his injuries in 2013 and 2017 because of those game-active bonuses.  Another is that the entire $57.5 million signing bonus gets paid in 2018.  Most large signing bonuses have large amounts deferred into the next league year.  Matt Ryan got a $46 million signing bonus, but $23 million was not payable until 2019.   

Even with those two unusual provisions, I have to wonder why it took so long to reach an agreement.  It looks like merely plugging new numbers into his old contract.  Perhaps Rodgers did press for more exotic provisions, or the Packers did.  Another possible reason for the delay might simply have been to allow the Packers to maintain some salary cap flexibility.

Joel Corry has an excellent article on Rodgers' contract which you can find here

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (25) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Jonathan Spader's picture

Dez Bryant remains unsigned and the Browns brought him in for a visit. It was thought that he would be signed after game 1 was done to only have to pay him on a game by game basis. I hope the Packers do this with Reid but we'll see what safety play looks like in the regular season tomorrow. Hopefully we won't need anyone.

Tim Backes's picture

The Packers really should have signed Reid months ago. Solid player, still quite young, and an instant upgrade over what they've got. Even if Brice/Jones/Ha Ha turn out to be serviceable or better this year, there's really nothing to lose by bringing in Reid, I can't imagine he'd cost much at this point given the rest of the league seems to have exiled him.

henry113's picture

Agreed concerning Reid. I hope its not to late

DraftHobbyist's picture

Also a distraction with his kneeling crap and in a lawsuit against the NFL. Plus, cap ramifications depending on what he's asking for. Just because the rest of the NFL hasn't signed Reid doesn't mean that Reid himself thinks he's worth less. He may be overvaluing himself.

Turophile's picture

@Tim Backes "The Packers really should have signed Reid months ago"

It does seem like there might be a sort of collusion going on between the owners, one that mandates neither Reid or Kaepernick are signed.

If that IS the case, then the Packers are not much more likely to sign them than anyone else. Sure, they have a different structure to other teams, but they are also fairly conservative, and may not want to rock the boat on this.

If there is collusion then no-one will want to be the team that breaks ranks, because of some kind of 'get you-back' reprisal, from the other teams, down the road.

This may be a bit conspiracy-theory, but then, it may not. Both players have plenty of talent for the NFL, so you have to decide between a general unwillingness to sign them because of their outspoken attitudes, or collusion between the owners to keep them out.

Lare's picture

The available salary cap is always a fluid number. The Packers could extend and redo Matthews and/or Cobb's contract and free up quite a bit of salary cap space if they wanted to. That said, I wouldn't do that unless they intended to re-sign them after this season anyway.

The point is, it's probably best to wait and see how the current players perform before making any decisions on adding additional players. If our safeties bomb out, then by all means do what you have to do to bring in somebody better.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

They could also gain $1M to $2M by reaching injury settlements with Murphy, Mays, and Rollins. IIRC, teams have 5 days to reach such a settlement.

Not at all sure I want to extend CM3 or Cobb until I see how they play, and in Cobb's case, how the rookies play. I'd be more interested in extending CM3.

Cubbygold's picture

Reid isn't your average practice squad guy that you can count on being available come week 8. Some team is going to be smart enough to sign him on the cheap and reap the benefits. Given the lack of quality depth in the secondary, its worth being the team that jumps

croatpackfan's picture

Yeah, it is known he can not pick the team how many of them wait in the row...

Michael Hughes's picture

We normally carry over 5m. If we are down to 3m then we really are close to the bone given it is pretty certain you need a few million in season to replace injured players.

Looks like the piggy bank is empty which makes you wonder how we planned to afford mack. Aggressive is fine but ball might need to try and reign gute in or he could be putting us in cap hell in a few years.

Packer Fan's picture

I disagree. TT is no longer involved. BG is quite different. I like seeing what happens with the first game and then perhaps BG will pick up a veteran or two. And work magic with the cap number.

Michael Hughes's picture

Depends what you mean by magic. If we can get decent money from injury settlements or the bennett money then great.

If magic means restructuring the contracts leaving us with declining players on very bad contracts which then lead to significant dead money in future years then no thanks. When you are playing that game you going to be fighting the cap every year.

HankScorpio's picture

I would argue that the "normal" carry over of 5m was TT leaving options to improve the team for a given year on the table. In essence, leaving that buffer to roll over means you're taking from the here and now to save for future use. If that "future use" never arrives, it becomes a meaningless number that is more like an accounting shuffle than something that helps the team.

I never really had a problem with TT choosing to roll over every year. But the longer it continued, the more I wondered what he was saving that money for.

Demon's picture

What happened to all of TT's unused cap money? Who got it? Seems they rolled over 10 mil every year much to the chagrin of fans.

Only being 3 mil under the cap on a team that finished 7 and 9 is upsetting. It seems like we are paying premium money for mediocre play.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I've posted over and over that TT wasn't really a tightwad at all. He spent 98% of the cap or more most years. Most of the unused cap in recent years came from cutting Sitton (which I don't think was the plan at all). Sitton saved $6.5M which TT left in a savings account so to speak.

FWIW, GB rolled over $3.934M from 2017 into 2018. However, TT paid Davante Adams ($3.6M) and Linsley ($2M) a total of $5.6M in signing bonuses that counted against the 2017 cap. Had he waited for them to be UFAs and re-signed those two in March, GB would have rolled over $9.534M. [That's why I often write that Adams' cap number isn't the $10.537M shown by OTC but really is $14.137M since TT/Ball simply stuck some of the cap hit in 2017 even though Adams was in concussion protocol and wasn't going to (and in fact didn't) play again in 2017.]

croatpackfan's picture

TGR, if TT (and Ball) waited Davante and Cory to be UFAs, they would cost a lot of more, probably...

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Perhaps. Personally, I think we paid top dollar for both of them, but their value is what the dumbest or most deep-pocketed GM would have been willing to pay them.

TT signed them the last day the bonuses would count in 2017 and with a couple of weeks left in the season. TT could have waited a day. So my point remains

DraftHobbyist's picture

A lot of the money went to Aaron Rodgers for starters. Davante Adams got restructured. Some of the money went to Jimmy Graham, Muhammad Wilkerson and Tramon Williams. There were minor moves like Marcades Lewis, Antonio Morrison and Deshone Kizer as well. If you look at everything he did, we brought in a lot of players on that money. Also, banked money goes quickly because if you have $12M banked, that really only means you can give a player $3M/year extra on a 4-year contract.

Cubbygold's picture

My buddy lives down in Houston and can't believe they're entering the season with 20+M in space. Theyre as much of a contender in the AFC as GB is in the NFC. With watson and watt coming back, how does that GM not go out and make a big move this offseason?

Jonathan Spader's picture

Houston has to sign Clowney after this season. I expect a BIG season in Clowney's contract year and a big contract. They'll need the cap space.

Twister's picture

Get Glenn Coffee - Hire a Veteran!
a 31 year old RB - former Alabama RB who doesn't have too many miles on his legs

MarkinMadison's picture

Maybe appropo nothing, but the thing that would have concerned me about Mack is with that cap hit + Rodgers' cap hit, you'd have to be losing a few veterans and relying on the draft - but without two 1s and probably another pick or two. Not a great situation to be in going forward. Hate seeing him with the Bears, but maybe better than seeing the Packers in a pinch the next 2-4 years.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I sensed some Mack Fatigue so I deleted a couple of paragraphs about Mack's contract. I do agree that GB should not and would not have given Mack that kind of money, and I think Chicago overpaid, though they are in a decent position to overpay.

Houston got a $20.5M signing bonus, $32.5M guaranteed at signing, and $52.5M guaranteed in 2015.

Von Miller got a $17M signing bonus, $42M guaranteed at signing, and $70M total guaranteed with a $19.1M AAV in 2016.

Mack somehow got a whopping $34M signing bonus, $60M guaranteed at signing, $90M total guaranteed, and a $23.5M AAV. Miller's deal adjusted for cap inflation would indicate a $19M signing bonus, $47M guaranteed at signing, $80M total guaranteed and a $21.8M AAV.

I guess I don't understand the negotiating dynamics involved. Since Chicago was willing to pony up the best draft pick compensation (which I assume was contingent on reaching a long-term deal with Mack), it is not like Chicago was competing against 31 other NFL teams. What happens if Chicago tells Mack's agent this is a fair deal (essentially Von Miller's cap adjusted deal), take it or leave it, and if you leave it, we're taking our ball and picks and going home? Would Oakland let the team with the 2nd best draft pick compensation negotiate with Mack? If yes, would that team give Mack a better deal knowing that Oakland might decide to play hard ball with Mack if the 2nd team can't reach a deal with Mack?

Donald is also on a 5th year option, same as Mack. Though OLB might be worth more than DT, the big difference is that LAR thinks it can win a super bowl in 2018 with Donald. Oakland has no such illusions about their team's likely success even with Mack.

I think Pace overpaid. I think he wanted to make the splash, and Mack knew it.

DraftHobbyist's picture

The timing of the contract between Rodgers and the Packers seemed pretty reasonable to me. Negotiations often take longer when you are talking about a record setting contract, even if the contract does follow the typical model. There is a chance that they were holding off to see if the Packers were going to win the Mack sweepstakes, because the Packers would've had to probably structure the contract differently. Maybe Rodgers even told the team he was willing to take less to get Mack, who knows.

RobinsonDavis's picture

Nice article James! I am in total agreement with your perceptions, and the possibility of some restructuring of the cap numbers, soon with the injury settlements. Gute said it himself that the roster (and thus also, the cap) would be fluid this season.

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