Packers Use Odd Structure On Tonyan's RFA Deal And Sign Eric Stokes

The Packers previously issued an RFA tender to Robert Tonyan for $3.384 million, the second round tender.  Tenders are usually non-guaranteed, all base salary contracts.  However, the Packers used a radically different structure.  The Packers gave Tonyan a $2.349 million signing bonus and added four void years, and then gave the difference between the tender amount and the signing bonus as base salary and/or bonuses.  Here is how Tonyan's contract looks:

 

Yr Base SB Roster Cap # Dead Saving
'21 $990K $469.8K $45K* $1,504,800 $2.349M -$844K
'22 VOID $469.8K   $1,879,200 $1.879M - - - - -
'23 VOID $469.8K        
'24 VOID $469.8K        
'25 VOID $469.8K        
Tot   $2.349M        

Well, that is inelegant, almost ugly.  Adding void years to an RFA tender is yet another first for the Packers.  The signing bonus transforms the deal to a mostly guaranteed contract, not that that is not an issue since Tonyan is a lock to make the team.  It kicks $1.879 million into the 2022 league year, where it could become dead money.  I have little doubt that the Packers would like to re-sign Tonyan, but getting a deal done, while likely, is never a given.  There could be some issues regarding his value, depending on his production in 2021.  Some fans believed Tonyan should have been named as a Pro Bowler for 2020, for example.  Tonyan caught 52 of his 59 targets (88.1%) for 586 yards and an 11.3 yards average per reception.  His yards per target was an excellent 9.9 yards and he has only one drop in three years and 66 career receptions.  He has 13 career touchdown receptions, including 11 in 2020.  He has zero broken tackles in his career, according to Pro Football Reference.

The unusual structure saves $1.879M on the 2021 salary cap.  In a way, the void years do not make much difference since it is a one-year deal.  If the whole $3.384 million had counted in 2021, is just means the Packers would have had to find space elsewhere, and whatever rollover the team might have had would have been less for 2022.  Using a two-year lens, it does not make that much difference.  There is little doubt that it was designed this way out of necessity, as the Packers still need to generate at least some additional cap space to function in 2021.  Moreover, they are running out of places to obtain cap relief.  I will address that below.

*Overthecap just lists Tonyan's base salary as $1.035M and has no roster bonus.  That could be.  In any event, in addition to his signing bonus he will earn $1.035 million in base salary and bonuses. 


 

UNSIGNED DRAFT PICKS - ERIC STOKES AND AMARI RODGERS:

Brian Gutekunst announced that Eric Stokes has signed his rookie contract.  Rob Demovsky provided these additional details:

Yr Base SB Cap # Dead Saving
'21 $660K $1.508M $2.168M $10.325M -$8.157M
'22 $1.202M $1.508M $2.710M $8.157M -$5.447M
'23 $1.744M $1.508M $3.252M $5.447M -$2.195M
'24 $2.286M $1.508M $3.794M $2.194M +$91,448

All but $91,448 of Stokes' $11.925 million contract is completely guaranteed and it has a 5th year option.  

The signing of Stokes pushes Royce Newman and his $784,836 cap number out of the top 51 contracts.  Amari Rodgers should sign soon.  I previously estimated his cap number here at $897,550, and that looks close though a trifle high.  Pick 82 (Dyami Brown) signed for $898,909 and pick 89 (Nico Collins) signed for $885,730, so Rodgers should be roughly in the middle of those two numbers.  When Amari Rodgers signs he will push Jonathan Garvin's $799,821 cap number out of the top 51 contracts.  The 51st highest contract will then belong to Vernon Scott at $800,922!   


PACKERS' CURRENT CAP SITUATION:

The Packers at present (after the Tonyan deal) have $6.8 million in cap space, which sounds healthy enough.  After the team signs Stokes and Amari Rodgers it should still be about $5.3 million.  I submit that $5.3 million is insufficient.  The table below illustrates my thought processes:

Packers Cap Space +$6.810M
Net Cost of Stokes and Amari Rodgers -$1.504M
Subtotal: +$5.306M
PS - absolute minimum but could be more (16 x $198K): -$3.168M
52nd and 53rd contracts ($660K each but could be more) -$1.320M
Net Remaining Cap Space: $818,000

It is good that it is a positive number, and if no one goes on PUP or IR during training camp and the entire season, and the Packers do not sign anyone from outside the organization, it is theoretically sufficient.  However, teams need at least a $3 million if not a $5 million cushion.  Some rollover into the 2022 league year would also be nice.  Other costs include paying incentives and game active roster bonuses, the latter of which count immediately upon being earned. [For example, Funchess earns $17,647 per game that he is active, but his cap number counts just one game as likely to be earned in his cap number: as soon as he plays more than one game, the Packers' cap decreases iimmediately by $17,647 per additional game.]

Of course, this could be academic if the Packers restructure Davante Adams and do whatever it is they are going to do with Aaron Rodgers.  Adams has missed at least four days at the Packers' facilities so it looks like he will forfeit his $500K workout bonus.  Assuming he is working out away from team facilities, he also is putting his $12.25 million base salary at risk (see Ja'Waun James and the Denver Broncos saga).

I expect at least one of the UDFAs to make the roster, though there are fewer than normal this year.  And I expect at least one of the holdover players earning $660,000 or so to make the roster: Patrick Taylor, Ento, Stanford Samuels, Tipa Gileai, Jake Hanson, Previlon, Innis Gaines (intriguing fit), LS Joe Fortunato, and Delanie Scott.  

Some, perhaps all, of the rest of the necessary cap space could be gleaned by cutting higher-priced veterans from the team, as Hank Scorpio wrote in the comments section to my last article.  Who is at risk?  Here is a list from a cap perspective:

Possible Veteran (non first-year) Cap Casualties
Player Savings/Net   Player Savings/Net
C. Sullivan 2.133M/$1.41M   O. Burks 945K/$220K
L. Patrick 1.975M/$1.25M   H. Bradley 920K/$200K
J. Jackson 1.333M/$608K   B. Kaufusi 920K/$200K
D. Funchess 1.217M/$492K   W. Redmond 920K/$200K
D. Lancaster 1.047M/322K   JK Scott 920K/$200K
         
850K/$125K savings Rush, Braden, Nauta, D. Williams, Nijman, Bortles, St. Brown
T. Summers 825K/$125K   K. Hollman $806K/$81K

Note that the "savings" should be reduced by the cap number of the player who replaces each player listed above.  So if Burks is released, the Packers gain his cap savings of $945,000 minus the cap hit of whomever replaces him, and that number is probably around $725,000 (but that is just a rough estimate).  If so, cutting Burks might net about $220,000 in cap space.  The players listed in the table above were selected with the salary cap in mind rather than merit.  Lucas Patrick as a respectable starting guard might normally be thought of as a lock, and perhaps he is.  Still, the Packers have drafted a lot of guards recently, so if a couple impress sufficiently perhaps Patrick's cap savings plus the possibility of trading him for a day three pick to a needy team might be tempting.  It is a contract year for him.  However, his ability to play center might be important if Myers is not ready. 

That's nineteen players, so some of them will make the team.  There are quite a few players who will likely make the team that are not among the 53 highest paid players or the 19 players listed above.  They include Royce Newman ($784K), Tederall Slaton ($730K), Shemar Jean-Charles ($720K), who as fourth and fifth round picks are near locks, and Van Lanen ($698K), McDuffie ($693K) and Hill (680K), who seem like decent bets. So that is three to six players who might displace the players noted in the table above.  Krys Barnes and Dominique Dafney (both $780K) look like locks, and Randy Ramsey and Henry Black (both $780K) seem like bubble players.  That works out to five players who are locks and five more bubble players who might dislace players listed in the table.  Many people really like Patrick Taylor at RB as well ($662K).

It is far too early to look at roster construction.  The players have not yet even seriously practiced yet so predicting which players might not make the team is premature.  However, it does appear feasible to gain a considerable amount of cap space.         

 

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Comments (17)

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MarkinMadison's picture

June 04, 2021 at 06:03 am

Very nice write up. I think you're correct to say that the Rodgers issue could very well make this academic. There are three possibilities there: (a) new deal = cap relief; (b) trade = cap relief; (c) stand pat = no cap relief. Call the odds of each possibility however you want, but it still seems that there is a good possibility the Packers gain some cap relief from the resolution of the Rodgers problem. I don't think anyone should count on Adams providing cap relief until the Rodgers issue gets solved. I think Adams is going to have to know that the odds of him making a Super Bowl in Green Bay before he has passed his prime go down drastically if Love is the starter. I think he will price his contract accordingly. Plus, if the Packers are not paying Rodgers they will certainly have more money available for him, so he will take advantage of that situation to the maximum extent that he can.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 04, 2021 at 01:25 pm

Thank you. Those three scenarios seem to be the main ones. I'd add a couple though:

A. AR returns begrudgingly (he is still mad but is going to play for GB this year) but allows Gute to convert some or all of his base salary to a signing bonus to bolster GB's chances in 2021. That is, enough to allow GB to pick up a cap casualty in September. This assumes no resolution of his status for 2022; I inferred from your possibility "a" above when you wrote new deal that the new deal almost guarantees that AR will be GB's starting QB in 2022, and possibly longer.

B. Adams agrees to a void year for 2022 and some (not too much!) of his base can be converted. Doing that keeps his status as a UFA for 2022 until the AR situation gets resolved - I tend to agree Adams is alive to the possibilities for him in the AR saga: might want to leave or leverage it for more money in GB.

I am sure there are other scenarios. Adams could of course just straight up extend for perhaps more money than he otherwise might have gotten - if not more money, a bigger signing bonus in 2021, and possibly a guaranteed option bonus in 2022 to push cap hits into 2023 and beyond since 2022 is looking ugly.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

June 04, 2021 at 02:17 pm

It's tough, because GB cannot extend AR and DA while also re-signing the players like MVS or Tonyan that draw enough coverage to make DA lethal. Adams is a great receiver but his effectiveness this last year was in part to the viable receiving threats on the field.

His choices are to take below market value as a #1 or #2 for a contender, or play for a team at full market value where he will fill out stat sheets but not the W column. No team is a WR away from the Superbowl.

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Coldworld's picture

June 04, 2021 at 07:53 am

The Tonyan structure seems to suggest that with Rodgers not budging, they need to jump through hoops to maintain what they have going into camp. A frustrating side effect. Presumably the team isn’t going to have much room to add FAs this summer, even unglamorous ones. Frustrating.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 04, 2021 at 01:34 pm

Just letting you know that I am taking the high road here!

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Coldworld's picture

June 04, 2021 at 05:42 pm

Don’t let the rarified atmosphere weaken the blood.

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dobber's picture

June 04, 2021 at 08:43 am

I suspect the Packers will ink Tonyan to a longer-term deal before we hit Christmas. There's a gamble there (as you state, TGR), but I think they could probably get him at a little lower rate than if they wait and try to put a deal together after the season is done.

You point to possible cuts, and I've always been critical of Lucas Patrick, but he's a valuable game day piece due to his ability to play C...especially given the Packers seem to be counting on Jenkins holding the fort at LT until Bakh returns.

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PeteK's picture

June 04, 2021 at 09:16 am

Grumbling

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 04, 2021 at 10:25 am

The list is almost solely on cap consequences rather than merit. Lucas Patrick is a clean example: value is obvious, but a pick and $ could be tempting but only if other OL impress in camp.

I find Tonyan fascinating in many ways. Lots of support for the notion he should have gotten a pro bowl nod last year.

I tend to agree that Tonyan will be extended by Xmas, but it won't be until there is snow on the ground. That is, it won't be until the new signing bonus no longer counts against the 2021 cap.

Tonyan needs to be careful here. He just turned 27 so he will be 28 in 2022. It looks like he is good for one 4/yr deal and then might be on short deals. He needs to make hay while he can.

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LambeauPlain's picture

June 04, 2021 at 11:40 am

One thing about Patrick...he seems to have gotten better every year and he is one tough warrior who can play all three interior spots as you mention. His versatility is coveted by Matt and one of the rookies, 2nd year guys will really have to outplay him in TC to cut him.

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greengold's picture

June 04, 2021 at 09:10 am

TGR, this is fantastic. Really helps me understand how it all works a lot better. This kind of stuff has never been my strength. Great explanation of where we are now. Thank you very much for sharing this!!!

Using that $725k figure as a very rough guide, Burks, Kaufusi, Redmond, Hollman, Summers, Lancaster, Funchess and Jackson being replaced by these other new players could net a savings of around $2M, or a little more?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 04, 2021 at 10:53 am

Those players add up to $2.248M in cap relief. I take leave to doubt that Lancaster is going anywhere. I don't see a funtion for Rush with Slaton and Lancaster ahead of him. Rush played just one snap last season.

I don't know about Redmond - I like him better as a decent reserve FS than others do but there are a lot of DBs with some talent around, though more might be for the hybrid role.

I think Nauta, Braden, Dexter Williams have to really impress to stick. Dexter Williams has only a long shot with Jones, Dillon as locks, and Hill and Patrick Taylor as his competition for the 3rd RB spot (will they keep 4?). Dafney can play, but with Tonyan, Marcedes, Deguara, and Sternberger also being TEs will GB keep 5 TEs? If Dafney is classified as an RB, see above: will they keep 4 or 5 RBs? Can GB just create a category for Deguara and his backup, Dafney called H or F back? I like Dafney but he didn't do all of the things Deguara did, but the offense looked better when Dafney got involved.

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flackcatcher's picture

June 05, 2021 at 02:58 pm

Lafleur's scheme needs an F-Back to function effectively. None of the current TE can play that position at the level needed. While Deguara is more an H-Back, Dafney is very much an old style FB who can play either H-Back or move TE. Both are needed if Lafleur wants to run his sweep action or deception action with the WR. And it all depends on if Rodgers is going to be behind the center this season. I could easily see a 2 RB/2 F Back on the active roster. Roster construction is going to be tough, Rodgers actions may make it a lot harder.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 04, 2021 at 11:21 am

Cut off numbers for top 51:
$1.15M: Texans,
$940K: NE
$915K: BUF,
$867K: NYG,
$862K: Indy
$860K: Wash,
$852K: Balt, DAL
$850K: DET, CHI, ARI, SF, SEA, KC, LV, TN, Jax, CIN, CLE, TB, PHI, MIA NYJ
$834K: Steelers,
$831K: Denver
$801K: GB
$780K: Vikings, Rams, LAC, CAR, NO, ATL

So, I might have left a false impression in the article. Vernon Scott being the last player in the top 51 highest-paid guys on the team at $800,922 puts GB 26th in the NFL. To be honest, it struck me as a high number when in fact it is a low number.

Nah, I don't know that it means anything. I just look for anomalies in any data set I see: lots of discoveries have been made that way.

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LambeauPlain's picture

June 04, 2021 at 11:42 am

That is an interesting addendum....

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 04, 2021 at 12:59 pm

As a note, cutdowns mean having to eat the signing bonuses of the players who are cut, even if they end up on the PS. GB gave $46K to the UDFAs in signing bonuses. Sometimes 6th and 7th rounders get released and end up on the PS. Hill ($79K), McDuffie ($131K), and Van Lanen ($153K) would be those players this year, and they add up to ~ $350K in dead money, not including the $46K to UDFAs.

Possibly due to having 16 guys on the PS last year, the 90 person roster is loaded with folks with no dead money if released/back on the PS again. I already accounted for any dead money for the players listed in the table as potential cap casualties. Since GB backloaded so many contracts by giving Signing Bonuses, I don't foresee GB having any surprise cap casualties outside of the players in the table.

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greengold's picture

June 04, 2021 at 01:41 pm

Thank you, TGR! I was wondering what that meant. Packers ranked 26th is pretty good in this respect.

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