Take A Step To The Left; Take A Step To The Right

Aaron Rodgers and Mason Crosby were scheduled to receive roster bonuses in the amounts of $6.8 million and $1.25 million, respectively, on March 20, 2021.  There have been no reports that the Packers converted those bonuses to signing bonuses, or that the payments were delayed.  It appears that the players were paid as scheduled.  Ken Ingalls indicated that Rodgers' contract has a provision allowing the Packers to convert his roster bonus to a signing bonus without having to seek permission.  I do not know if Crosby has an automatic conversion provision in his contract. 

That suggests that the Packers elected to forego generating up to $4.533 million in cap savings from Rodgers and $625,000 from Crosby.  It also means Rodgers' cap number for 2022 will remain the same for now rather than increasing by $2.267 million in 2022 and again in 2023.  By extension, it also means Rodgers' potential dead money charge in 2022 and 2023 is unaffected.  Potential is always the key word: it does not become dead money until the player is no longer on the roster.  Crosby's 2022 cap number would have increased from $4.4 million to $5.025 million and his potential dead money charge by a like amount.

That is a positive since the Packers cap situation looks rather alarming for 2022.  The Packers currently have 29 players under contract for 2022 at a cost of $202 million, per Overthecap.  Adding 22 more players (because the Packers will have at least 51 under contract next March) with 5 at the rookie minimum and 17 at the minimum for players with one credited season increases their total liabilities in 2022 to $219.5 million.  That does not include the first year cap hits of the team's UFAs like Davante Adams, Jaire Alexander, probably Marquez Valdes-Scantling, perhaps Lucas Patrick, and others.  It seems likely that the Packers will extend Adams.  It seems likely that the Packers will exercise Alexander's $13.4 million fifth-year option, which must be done by May 3rd.

The Packers still need to generate at least $9 or $10 million to sign their draft picks, and to pay for the practice squad and 52nd and 53rd players.  The team will need to generate more cap savings if it wants to sign some of their own free agents (perhaps Marcedes Lewis and others) or sign an outside free agent or two.  The Packers can still generate a little over $9 million from a conversion of Rodgers' base salary to a signing bonus.  The team has other options as well.

There have been plenty of articles about what the Packers plan to do with Rodgers in the future.  What can be said in the here and now is that the Packers decided not to generate the maximum in cap space possible from Rodgers. 

There have been plenty of articles suggesting that the Packers are going all-in this year.  It seems more like the team went big on some players and were quite restrained with others.  It seems like GM Gutekunst sometimes takes a step to the left and then a step to the right.  The things they did with the contract structures (see Turner's void years) and moving cap around seem overall quite aggressive. 

Objectively speaking, so far the Packers have generated $1 million more than the rules require.  What they have done that is extra is re-signing Aaron Jones.  Letting Corey Linsley walk is something the team might have done regardless since the Packers do not too often re-sign 30-year old offensive linemen with a history of back injuries to third contracts.    

The Packers have lost the services of Corey Linsley, Jamaal Williams, Montravius Adams, and Tim Boyle.  There has been no news on any attempts to retain Marcedes Lewis, Kevin King, Raven Greene, Tyler Lancaster, and Will Redmond (other than declining to tender those three players as RFAs), Tyler Ervin and Lane Taylor (who has been visiting with other teams).  On the other hand, it can be argued that some of those players will be adequately replaced by other players already on the roster or simply won't be missed.  Of course, some, perhaps most, of these players would not cost much more than some player currently on the lower end of the top 51 contracts on the books if the Packers are simply waiting for the players to ascertain their market value.  Nevertheless, those players listed in the table below played 4,184 snaps last year that will have to be replaced.

Player Snaps   Player Snaps
Wagner 610   King 664
M. Lewis 422   Kirksey 548
J. Williams 418   Lancaster 352
Ervin 142   Redmond 340
L. Taylor 63   Greene 324
Lovett 45   M. Adams 163
Austin 30   B. Winn 41
Boyle 22      
Offense 1,752   Defense 2,432

The list does not include Tonyan and Sullivan since the Packers tendered both of them.  Yet, even the Packers will not know for sure until as late as April 23 whether they will retain these two players.  Other teams can make offers to them up to that date.

So far, the Packers have done the minimum required plus they re-signed Aaron Jones.  They will have to generate at least an additional $9 million plus more if they want to sign their own players or outside UFAs.  I do not immediately perceive how to generate additional cap space to sign the team's own free agents or a few outside free agents without exacerbating the 2022 cap other than releasing players. 

I suspect that simply restructuring contracts to dump cap hits into 2022 might be no longer feasible.  Instead, I expect the Packers to start agreeing to extensions with players to lower cap numbers in 2021 and keep them neutral or at least reasonable in 2022.  That means no extension for Jaire Alexander, but quite possibly deals involving Za'Darius Smith, Adrian Amos, Davante Adams, possibly Mason Crosby, potentially Aaron Rodgers, plus a pay cut or other move involving Dean Lowry.

The Packer Tracker has been updated to reflect in detail every move the Packers have made to date.

   

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Comments (24)

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HankScorpio's picture

March 22, 2021 at 04:19 am

The Packers will have 2 drafts to help set the 2022 opening day roster. It is vital that they hit on those picks in order to get themselves out of the cap issues that will become yearly things until one of few things happen. 1) They start to suck so it doesn't matter who they cut. 2) The cap increases by so much that it fixes their cap issues.

The draft is how you fix cap issues. Those deals are cheap. You need about 35-40 players on rook deals making solid contributions at any given time. Each year a certain number of those players will migrate to 2nd contracts. So they need to be replenished constantly. And it needs to be considered that some guys develop at different rates. Guys like Patrick Taylor, Simon Stepaniak, Jonathan Garvin, Vernon Scott, Henry Black, Tipa Galei, Delontae Scott, etc, etc can still serve to alter the calculus on 2022 opening day roster. And maybe some other names I didn't list. How much better will guys like Krys Barnes, Jon Runyan, Kamal Martin, AJ Dlilon, Dominque Daffney and Josiah Deguara look? All of them made some kind of contribution in 2020. They will need to make a bigger one in 2021. And even bigger in 2022. That's why going down in the draft is much better than going up. It's a numbers game. You will not have quality in those 35-40 spots if you are drafting 5 guys per year. Better to draft 10.

It's a young man's game. All the people getting upset over the lack of activity in FA are missing the boat on the way good teams sustain themselves. It's not done is March. It's done over a particular Thursday-Sunday in late April.

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murf7777's picture

March 22, 2021 at 07:06 am

Hank, I agree you need to develop young players. For some reason this year Belichek sees it differently and we will see how that serves him. Of course, he can do this because he has less than 15M going to a QB position. I suspect the Pats will struggle to make the playoffs.

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CheesyTex's picture

March 22, 2021 at 11:10 am

murf,

IMO that Belichick recognized a unique opportunity to rebuild his roster -- so many quality players that would not normally be available but were available this year because of the lower COVID cap (I know, many ??? about Nelson Agoholor, but even he may be a perfect fit for BB).

But it may just be that Kraft is Jerry Jones II.

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murf7777's picture

March 23, 2021 at 02:17 pm

I have a feeling it is JJII vs old vintage Belichek.

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Razer's picture

March 22, 2021 at 08:32 am

Well said Hank. Packer drafting has been less than stellar in the last 5-7 years. It forced us to go the FA route and now we have a high priced roster with little depth. The day of reckoning will come. You are right about Gutekunst and these next two drafts. Can't afford to miss.

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PeteK's picture

March 22, 2021 at 10:09 am

Even a mediocre draft like 2020, where our #1 was for the future, would greatly help. #1( hopefully contribute more than a QB in waiting)=CB, Barnes=T, Runyon=DT, Dillon=ILB ,Martin=Slot WR/returner.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 22, 2021 at 05:14 am

I wrote that GB did the minimum plus signed Aaron Jones. One could say that they also signed Bakh and Clark. I think I could reformulate things. Signing a team's young stars to second contracts is fairly standard operating procedure, and Jones and Clark fit that bill. Signing aging, though elite players, is another matter. Perhaps it might have been more accurate to say that GB did the expected/required plus signed Bakh. IDK. Bakh is so good that letting him walk or trading him is hard to do. Signing RBs to second contracts is more impressive. Signing Clark was a no-brainer. Signing Bakh was a little risky, as was signing Jones. If there is an "all-in" element to Gute's moves, Bakh and Jones have to be the discussion (so far).

As for the players snaps lost, I think the general consensus of fans is that Dillon can replace Jamaal, Dafney is better than Lovett plus Deguara returns, Ervin or someone like him can be signed for vet min. (cost is perhaps 200K to 300K more than any number of guys in the top 51), Austin won't be missed, Love can kneel down as well as Boyle. The house opinion seems to be that the OL will be okay but needs some depth. OT (Wagner) is a bit of a problem, at least until Bakh returns, and maybe there is some uneasiness even when that happens. Haven't heard much about Marcedes. My friend keeps pointing out one or two TE prospects who can block and catch but aren't exactly gazelles.

I haven't sensed any real concern about the defensive losses, perhaps because fans are too busy decrying how lousy it allegedly was. Kirksey wasn't even adequate, but not sure I like Summers and Burks as the depth. Barnes and Martin are somewhat unprepossessing, but we shall see what another year in the league does for them. Fans clearly see the need at CB. Perhaps fans think Scott and Black can replace Redmond and Greene? Fans clearly see the need at DL, even though replacing Winn and Lancaster with a cheap FA who can stuff the run and do little else seems kind of assumed. Adams only played 163 snaps, but that is still 10 per game. He seemed pretty stout and sometimes flashed some pass rush: I suppose that is why he signed for up to $2.5M as he might still have upside. Maybe he does.

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Coldworld's picture

March 22, 2021 at 08:30 am

To me, the only positions where the draft seems inadequate alone are CB, where I think we need experience as well as youth, and DL, where serviceable players to stop the run can be picked up affordably but penetration usually means the draft or big money.

It looks to me like we will have the chance to pick up a corner post draft (when there may be further cuts), but that would seem to be likely to suggest a high draft pick to come in behind ideally. May not be much of an upgrade on King of last year initially. That’s based on no sign of big additional savings allowing a higher cost acquisition.

DL I think will see FA activity in the summer. For me, last year indicated that we can upgrade cheaply there, if only we’d play the players more. Adams was carrying an injury, but the rest was as much down to Pettine’s player usage as actual ability.

The rest of your list seems like classic draft fodder. As to the likes of Redmond and Greene, we may see some back depending on how the draft falls, or we may see Gute picking up minimum contract talent in the summer. Generally he has been both active and successful weeding through players falling through the cracks. A couple on developmental contracts may be in the plan too, including a big DT and blocking TE.

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PeteK's picture

March 22, 2021 at 10:24 am

I would think 80 TKLS, 6.5 TFL for a rookie and playing with a club for a game, appealing.

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Harold Drake's picture

March 22, 2021 at 05:30 am

Your comments may be well intended but they are beside the point in the sense that it is obvious and imperative that the Packers will have to re-structure Rodgers' contract in the
coming weeks. I have grace doubts that AR12 would agree to play this season unless he receives more guaranteed money and an extension.

I'm not sure why you have not examined the Rodgers contract issue since this is most likely the next hurdle Gutekunst is facing. Rodgers has maximum leverage against the team and the Packers will have no choice (for salary cap reasons and otherwise) but to re-structure and extend him.

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PatrickGB's picture

March 22, 2021 at 06:00 am

If a team has drafted a replacement for its starting but very expensive QB, then why would they extend his contract into dead money years? And why would that same QB agree to it when he expects to be released anyway?

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stockholder's picture

March 22, 2021 at 06:29 am

And why would we only care to be the best in the division and not the NFL?

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Guam's picture

March 22, 2021 at 07:44 am

The Packers drafted a POSSIBLE replacement for their HOF QB. Given that Love has taken zero snaps in the NFL to date, I doubt the Packers really know what they have yet. Gute could easily extend Rodgers as long as the money is not guaranteed until he knows what he has with Love.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 22, 2021 at 07:49 am

The team probably wouldn't extend in that scenario.
The player: only if the team was crazy enough to give more $.

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PatrickGB's picture

March 22, 2021 at 08:11 am

I was not a fan of drafting QB last year yet the head office seems to be moving away from Rodgers remaining on the team past 2023. So until then the team will struggle with the cap. My hope is the the coach and players make the best of it.
On the other hand if Love is a dud then I can see the Packers keeping Rodgers and even extending him. Love would not be the first highly drafted QB to not make the grade. And he would not be the first high pick to flame out in the history of the NFL. It’s a wait and see league and the team has time to make an accurate assessment.

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Guam's picture

March 22, 2021 at 09:06 am

Unfortunately QBs drafted in the first round have only about a 50% chance of signing a second contract with the team that drafted them (i.e. not a bust), so Love is not a sure thing by any means. So what the Packers do with Rodgers' contract will be interesting. They need cap relief this year and next, but Rodgers' replacement is still a large question mark. This is where Gute and Ball earn their money........

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Archie's picture

March 22, 2021 at 10:27 am

Paying Clark, Bakh and AJ was the conservative but prudent thing to do. It was NOT going all in.

THE REALITY: Get used to not signing high priced FAs for as long as AR remains a Packer. Do the math:

(1) $20 to 25 MM/yr to both edges, your DT and OT;
(2) $40 MM/yr for your QB; and,
(3) CB1 and WR1 are coming due for their own new $100 MM contracts.

That is 7 guys absorbing 75% of your cap.

Where will $$$ come from to pay top FA talent? Answer: it's not there.

So as long as AR is our QB, the Pack will have to do it the cheap way - through the draft and un-drafted FA.

That will create the pressure that eventually closes the window on #12's time in GB. The first time GB/AR have a mediocre or worse year AND Love shows the potential the FO believes he has in him, AR will have to be traded. And what if we hit the jackpot and win a SB with AR in '21? How can you trade him after that? Stay tuned as all of this drama inexorably plays itself out.

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Razer's picture

March 22, 2021 at 10:46 am

Well laid out Archie. We can't escape the reality of the numbers. Given that we are tapped out with the players and the formula that we are trying to win with, we have to hope that it is a winning formula. Going all-in with Rodgers and his affordable cast of characters on offense AND the average defense that we are able to field on defense is the repeating plan. Is it enough?

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Fabio's picture

March 22, 2021 at 03:37 pm

Nice post Archie.
I object only to three things:
1 - if Gute had drafted a WR instead of Love, this season we could have had a WR2 starter and we didn't have to re-sign AJ
2 - we could have tried to trade Preston with Gilmoure
3 - instead of re-signing AJ we could have invested the same money in MLB or helping Clark.
With these 3 moves the big needs would have been covered with the same money spent up to now ..... the rest we could have done with the draft.
As I have said several times the problem is the choices !!!!
The important thing is to have a roster without holes, then if the players you choose are good but do not perform (or get injured like 49 ers) it is a problem that you can hardly attribute to your GM.
I repeat same money spent, but really complete team on both sides of the pitch
Greetings from Italy
Go Pack Go

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JerseyAl's picture

March 22, 2021 at 10:36 am

For accuracy's sake, it should be "It's just a JUMP to the left, and then a step to the riiiiiiiiiiiight."

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Spock's picture

March 23, 2021 at 10:39 am

"Dammit, Janet"

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flackcatcher's picture

March 22, 2021 at 04:26 pm

Good overview TGR. I am finding myself agreeing with all the comments up thread. Short term, the questions are mostly on the defensive side. More about scheme and player fit. Long term, it's this draft. The core of the next generation Packer's team starts with this draft. Finally, do not look for Cap relief from the new TV deal. According to the Wall Street Journal article last Wednesday, the deal kicks in 2024. Gutekunst and Ball are going to have to find the money in house for the draft this year. We'll see how this plays out...

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 22, 2021 at 08:43 pm

UPDATE PER JASON FITZGERALD @ OVERTHECAP.COM:

"Of the #Packers are having discussions with Rodgers on a restructure there has to be more to it. Either they need void years or they are looking to do an extension. They have the right to convert the $ within the framework of his current contract.
2:08 PM · Mar 22, 2021"

Confirms what Ken Ingalls wrote. Just have to wait to see what, if anything, happens. Still need $9M to quite a bit more to acquire reinforcements.

https://twitter.com/Jason_OTC/status/1374090703953915904?ref_src=twsrc%5...

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Wilment's picture

March 24, 2021 at 08:47 pm

Guys, I dont even concern myself with this. The Packers front office has in the past twenty five years never been in "Cap hell" .They have filielded the third winningest team during that period, and won a pair of Super Bowls. They are consistently in the playoffs. Let those that are paid to keep up with this do their jobs. Be thankful for the Cap, CBA, and Revenue sharing. Without it, the cowboys would still be fielding stacked teams, and the Packers might not have a team anymore . GO PACK!!

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