The Lass Word: The Cap Space Is Simply Not Going To Be There

Packers can't extend everyone.  Like it or not, change is coming.

Sometime between now and the end of training camp, the Green Bay Packers will hopefully announce the extension of Davante Adams’ contract.  It figures to be huge, at least approaching, if not equaling, the DeAndre Hopkins deal, which averages around $27 million per year.  Adams would join David Bakhtiari, Aaron Jones, Kenny Clark and Za’darius Smith as players with contracts at or near the costliest in the NFL at their positions. 

 

As you might expect, the large pacts have Green Bay’s salary cap bulging at the seams.  But the financial challenges are just beginning.  In order to bring quarterback Aaron Rodgers back, the team may have to increase his pay to make him the top at the position.  That would mean his number would have to exceed the average of $45 million per year being paid to Patrick Mahomes.  The Packers may also need to guarantee a major portion of the deal. 

 

But there’s more.  There is a drumbeat among Packer fans to extend Jaire Alexander.  The Pro Bowl  cornerback has a year left on his rookie agreement, and the Packers have already committed to a fifth year option to keep him.  However, many believe he will only get more expensive in the next two years, as his reputation of being one of the best shutdown corners in the game becomes more prevalent.  Better to lock him up now, the thinking goes, to hold down the expense.  As it currently stands, Alexander would be in line to get something resembling the league-leading $21 million per year deal being enjoyed by the Rams’ Jalen Ramsey. 

 

Za’darius Smith has already indicated he wants a new arrangement.  Presumably, he wants more than his current $16.5 Million per year average.  The Packers tweaked his deal to save over $7 million in cap space this year, but the restructure pushed $28 million into the 2022 cap.  No way the team will be good with that, so Z will most surely be extended either during or after the season. 

 

Tight end Robert Tonyan will be up again after this season.  If he continues to emerge as a top talent, he will be expensive to retain.  Marquez Valdes Scantling is in his final year.  Though I personally don’t see it, many Packer fans seem to think MVS should be a re-signing priority.  And looking forward, the front office has to begin preparing to deal with the contracts of players like Elgton Jenkins, Billy Turner, Adrian Amos, and Allen Lazard.  All may be expensive if they continue to play key roles on the team. 

 

The franchise tag is an alternative for one of these situations, but the Packers are loathe to utilize it, and rightfully so, as it locks them in to an expensive outlay, and generally makes the player unhappy.  

 

So the question over the next two or three seasons becomes:  Where in the world is the salary cap space going to come from?  Yes, I understand how re-signing these guys actually reduces their cap number in the short term.  But that deferred money has to land somewhere.  Yes, the cap is expected to show a healthy expansion when the new TV network contracts kick in in 2023, but that doesn’t mean it will be able to accommodate one big hit after another. There is a limit. 

 

Overthecap.com currently lists the Packers as already being more than $34 million over the projected cap for 2022.  That does not include any cap hit for Davante Adams because he is not presently under contract for 2022.  No doubt his deal, and any adjustment for Aaron Rodgers, will be friendly to 2022, but that will just shove more burden into 2023. 

 

It becomes painfully obvious the cap space simply isn’t going to be there for Green Bay to retain all of the key players they have now, let alone be active in the free agent market.  Some will have to go.  But who?   

 

Well, the elephant in the room is the Rodgers deal.  Trading him this year will save around $16 million off the cap.  Trading him after June 1, 2022 would save over $25 million, per Overthecap.  That would solve a lot of problems.  But if you are among those who believe dealing away the three time MVP is unthinkable, where do you go from there?  To stay viable, you pretty much have to bring back Adams, Alexander and Smith.  Jenkins and Amos have to be planned for as well.  I have trouble seeing a long term future with the Green and Gold for guys like Tonyan, Lazard, MVS and Turner, as well as somewhat overpaid performers like Preston Smith, Kevin King and Dean Lowry.  The Packers seem to be anticipating these departures with the drafting of folks like Josiah Deguara, Amari Rodgers and a slew of young offensive linemen. 

 

The irony of it all is not lost.  The salary cap, which for decades has been the helper and protector of the Green Bay Packers’ viability amongst the big city bullies, is now the same vehicle that seems destined to pry the boards of their near-championship caliber team apart.  It seems likely that the team we will watch this fall will be significantly different from the one that takes the field a couple of years from now. 

 

 

 

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Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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Comments (48)

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13TimeChamps's picture

July 15, 2021 at 03:49 pm

I've never pretended to be particularly salary cap knowledgeable, but one thing is pretty crystal clear to even us challenged in that area....Having Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, David Bakhtaria, Kenny Clark, Jaire Alexander, Zadarious Smith and Aaron Jones all on the team entering the 2022 season would make the Packers one of the most top heavy teams, salary wise, in the NFL.

Enjoy 2021, with or without AR12. It might be the last time you see this iteration of the Green Bay Packers.

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Stroh's picture

July 15, 2021 at 10:50 pm

More than likely after '21 the Packers will trade Rodgers which should clear 30M or so in cap space. That will go a long way in relieving the cap issues. Along w/ that, the TV deals will be getting done and the cap is going to rise dramatically. The cap issues are short term in nature, almost all of it due to the pandemic. Any deals that get done in the next year are going to be set up to allow the most flexibility in the short term.

But your likely correct, this will be the final iteration of the Packers w/ Rodgers.

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stockholder's picture

July 15, 2021 at 03:52 pm

You sure this Article isn't about the Rich getting Richer? And the poor getting poorer? The NFL cap Is for spreading the wealth around. While a Lamborghini looks great in any garage. My Truck does more work. I Get the need for speed. And also owning a Harley. But the money I'm seeing thrown around. Makes me think your paying for the name, and not the production. Some say Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But greed is in the heart of all men. If we have to cut a legend. Then that example must be used for the rest of the team. Gutey kicked the can down the road. If we overpay anybody. I prefer it to be the QB. If were building for the future. It must be CBs and Tackles. The NFL has changed. It said NO DEFENSE can stop a good Offense now. I hate Free Agency. It's damned if you do. Damned if you don't.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 15, 2021 at 10:25 pm

An Honorable man cannot be bought. Un-bought, Un-bossed

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mbpacker's picture

July 15, 2021 at 04:04 pm

Dark clouds on the horizon! This year could be our best shot at the SB in the near furture if Rodgers returns and repeats close to what he did last year.

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Coldworld's picture

July 15, 2021 at 05:07 pm

That’s what the team seems to have been planning for. The time to pay is approaching. Change is inevitable, the form is not. I agree with Ken that there are going to be departures, perhaps a lot more than some anticipate. I can’t see Rodgers being with us in 2022 now even if he is this year.

The more I think about it the more I think they will shed expensive contracts for older players and try to build a nucleus of younger talent around a young QB that can grow with him. I’m less certain that we end up retaining Adams than ever. I think Tonyan and MVS fit the profile I expect better, in that order. Younger, able to be around for 3 plus years based on age, likely to be valuable pieces who will be cheaper now than later potentially.

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Guam's picture

July 15, 2021 at 06:21 pm

I believe Adams will be 29 in 2022. I don't see the Packers tying up $100 million in an older (third contract) WR who only touches the ball 8-10 times a game. Great receiver and better teammate, but the arithmetic just doesn't add up. I agree CW, both Rodgers and Adams will be gone in 2022.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 15, 2021 at 10:26 pm

Rodgers IN, Murphy and Ball OUT. Balance the sacred scale.

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Irish_Cheesehead's picture

July 15, 2021 at 05:01 pm

The problem with re-working Rodgers’ contract is it leaves little cap left to sign other weapons, which means more whining by the QB and more whining by the press that Green Bay does nothing to surround their star QB with talent. I’d prefer to give him one more shot under his current contract. If he still can’t get past the NFCC it’s time to try something new. Less drama would also be refreshing.

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ricky's picture

July 15, 2021 at 05:26 pm

So, why is it the Packers can't trade Rodgers with a post June 1 designation next year, and let Adams walk? It would save tons of money, and though the team might take some lumps early, remember that when Adams was injured, the team was 5-0. And in the championship game against Tampa Bay, when the Packers got near the goal line with a chance to take the lead, Rodgers could only throw to Adams- double teamed or not. If you're going to retool and rethink the team, which the Packers seem to be doing, you'll need a very good OL; a running game that can pound the ball and break off big gains; some guys who can catch passes to move the chains; and a QB who is a game manager, not a miracle worker. It's time to fish or cut bait for the Packers. They're going to have to make some very unpopular moves, get a lot of criticism, and hope their instincts are right.

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

July 15, 2021 at 06:10 pm

Spot on ricky, I too remember the favorable status of the games when Adams was injured.

Here one solution: Trade Adams THIS year, don't wait for his contract to be up. We could surely get some good draft picks and someone good on defense in exchange. Plus not have to worry about his cap hit next year.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

July 15, 2021 at 06:38 pm

I have been saying this for sometime now.

Geez... you think this might piss off Rodger's? LOL!

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 15, 2021 at 10:43 pm

Who was the opposition and the outlier being a Covid year and NO FANS on the road games to heckle and disrupt the yin or the yang.

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porupack's picture

July 16, 2021 at 04:51 pm

Right, just when we have a SB caliber team, and finally addressed about 4 perenially weak position groups, you want to dismantle the 3 year project, and start a rebuild? Just win the damn SB this year. Tomorrow is too full of unknowns.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

July 15, 2021 at 09:10 pm

They can trade Rodgers in 2021, they'll just get a lot less value. They can't get any 2021 draft picks, so they'd have to wait for 2022 draft picks same as if they traded him after having him for this season.

This league is about having high preforming players on rookie deals to mix with your veterans. In a 2021 trade the Packers would have to take more veterans with heavier contracts which is less beneficial to the Packers than rookie deals. It's also less beneficial for the other team. Why trade for Rodgers for a SB run if you have to give veterans? You don't want to. You want to give draft picks and keep your veterans.

If the Packers trade Rodgers I hope it's in 2022 for picks and players on rookie deals. Absolutely no middling veterans like Teddy Bridgewater in the deal.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 15, 2021 at 10:44 pm

They already blew the trade scenario.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

July 16, 2021 at 12:58 pm

There are really only 2 scenarios where the Packers are going to get the full value of trading Rodgers.

1. Hang tight on Rodgers, and let him and his agent know they are free to start seeking a trade partner for next year that would happen BEFORE the draft, and hope that it motivates him to repeat his performance from last year.

2. If a QB suffers a devastating injury during camp a la Bridgewater in MN, and they feel like their team is a QB away from the playoffs, they may bet the farm on this year.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 16, 2021 at 07:37 pm

Post-June designations are not allowed in trades.

GB could reach an understanding that a trade will happen on June 2 with an acquiring team. AR would miss just the first OTA with the acquiring team. But the salary cap savings would not accrue or be usable until June 2. GB would have to get under the salary cap in March while AR's contract was still fully on the books.

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wildbill's picture

July 15, 2021 at 05:34 pm

I love Adams but no way we can put $100 million in a WR. We won all six games he missed the last two years. Pay him his money this year and franchise tag him next year. At that point the Rodgers situation will have played out and both Adams and Rodgers may be gone. Tough choices will be made with the long term future being the key. Having watched the 70/80s I’m not looking forward to a big reset but don’t want to turn into the Saints either

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TarynsEyes's picture

July 15, 2021 at 05:41 pm

'REALITY' hurts!!!

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Galacticat's picture

July 15, 2021 at 06:13 pm

As much as I love Davante and Big Z, the Packers have got to prioritize their young blue chip players needing a second contact versus the older blue chip players. Jaire has got to be priority in my book. You can’t sign Adams or Smith if it means letting Jaire walk.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 15, 2021 at 10:46 pm

Who makes the TDs happen? Who whiffs and gives up the big play?

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fish's picture

July 15, 2021 at 07:15 pm

We all love the top tier guys and want to see them remain in Green Bay, but think logically on these things. If players are scored on a scale, lets say 0 to 100, where does each player listed above rank vs. his replacement. The ones with the largest difference are the priorities.

Rodgers is already under contract.
Jaire would probably score a 90 or more and the replacement maybe around 50 (average). That is the priority. Hands down.

Jenkins would probably be about 78 - 82 and the replacement 58 - 60. Less of a priority.

By the way, I pulled these numbers directly from the source of most of my facts, my back pocket. :)

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Renllaw's picture

July 15, 2021 at 07:54 pm

This is why there are many fans that think a Rodgers Trade packaging Adams to bring back a slew of draft picks and a young talent or two to replace older expensive talent is not a bad idea. I made a post about how the packers were loyal to a fault once. Keeping front office and coaches too long like Capers, MM, & TT. But, they have almost always let the players go a year or two early (Cobb, Nelson, Sitton) and that has kept our cap in line. I don't want to see that loyal to a fault mentality hit the roster just because 12 is an all time great. Players just don't finish their careers with their original franchises anymore. Those days are forever gone. I totally agree that the roster will look different. Now Gute has to decide if it's 12, Davante, and some young guys with a shitty future cap, or if it's the majority of our talent minus 2 of our current best offensive weapons, but a cap situation that can keep more overall in house talent.

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fastmoving's picture

July 16, 2021 at 01:33 am

They let go Cobb, Nelson, Sitton just at the right time. No way too early. None of them did anything at all after they left...........

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Starrbrite's picture

July 15, 2021 at 10:18 pm

Worry, fear, regret. woes is me—is that all Packer fans can ever intimate. As one so-called expert said, “The cap is a myth”. Don’t sweat the cap—it works itself out.

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SanLobo's picture

July 16, 2021 at 09:58 am

There’s a 4-part SI article by Connor Christopherson about how teams manage their Cap. The Cap is real, but the better teams seem to find a way around it every year. “These three methods, rebalance, restructure and re-sign, are ways of manipulating cap space that are employed heavily by teams every year in order to maximize how they use their cap space. In using these methods multiple times over the course of an offseason, a team will be able to do a lot of things with little cap room.”

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Starrbrite's picture

July 17, 2021 at 07:12 pm

Bam!! —many teams work around it!!

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MarkinMadison's picture

July 16, 2021 at 08:21 am

I have to agree that I don't really see a future for Rodgers or Adams here. Both mostly because they seem to be making noise like they want out. So don't expect their best this year - they won't risk a serious injury.

The cap is a transitory problem. Find your way through 2022 and the grass gets a lot greener. New TV money coming in 2023. Very few players under contract after 2023. The future is uncertain, but it is also wide open. If Rodgers and Adams want out then there will certainly be more than enough money to go around.

Letting Jaire, Gary or Jenkins walk would be dumb. Past that, a whole lot of debates can be had.

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13TimeChamps's picture

July 16, 2021 at 09:06 am

When exactly has Adams "made noise" about wanting out? I missed that.

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MarkinMadison's picture

July 16, 2021 at 05:26 pm

You think he has no part in all that chatter from Oakland? Then there is this:

“That’s my guy,” Adams said of Rodgers on “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd. “That’s the only guy that I’ve had, other than that 2017 season where he got hurt, that’s the only guy that I’ve played with. We’ve built up a special connection over the years that has put us both in really good positions in our career … we established a lot together.”

“It would change a lot. It doesn’t mean I’d be gone, but I’d definitely have to do some extra thinking if my guy wasn’t here.”

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 16, 2021 at 07:44 pm

Tough crowd. Accurately quoting a player gets a downvote.

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Coldworld's picture

July 17, 2021 at 12:03 am

That is a partial quote. Read the whole thing and my take was typical Adams: not claiming no relationships with Rodgers but making it clear that he was not antagonistic to the team. Adams has insistently very carefully distanced himself from neither party and left his options only.

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MarkinMadison's picture

July 16, 2021 at 07:25 pm

Players currently under contracts that expire after 2023 (NOT including rookie deals):

Aaron Rodgers - expires 2024
Aaron Jones - expires 2025
Kenny Clark - expires 2025
David Bakh - expires 2025

The cap problem is a short-term problem.

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HarryHodag's picture

July 16, 2021 at 08:50 am

Until the average fan understands how the salary cap works all you are doing is treading water. The Packers are close to cap hell. 2021 is basically 'do or die" before some drastic cuts will need to be made.

By 2023 the cap will increase but until then it will be very tight.

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Crankbait's picture

July 16, 2021 at 10:13 pm

Just announced that Goodell will continue with his politicization of the NFL.
Going full woke starting week one by continuing to attack and demonize the brave men and women who wear the badge.
Black national anthem (whatever that is ) will be played
along with the real national anthem and players once again will be wearing names of so-called victims on there attire along with on field slogans to remind all paying customers who happened to suffer the indignity of being Caucasian.
I love the game of pro football but this is insulting and infuriating to millions of people whom enjoy professional sports.
this communist indoctrination crap needs to stop.

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calabasa's picture

July 16, 2021 at 01:18 pm

Sucks to be replaced, eh?

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porupack's picture

July 16, 2021 at 04:57 pm

You are suffering you say? Must be really tough.

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MarkinMadison's picture

July 16, 2021 at 05:46 pm

Bill Russell. Mohammed Ali. Jim Brown. Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Tommy Smith. John Carlos. Bill Walton. Jackie Robinson. Arthur Ashe. Billie Jean King. Craig Hodges. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. Carlos Delgado.

You think mixing sports and politics is new? You think any of these people are communists?

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 16, 2021 at 07:21 pm

Time for your medicine, Adolph.

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Crankbait's picture

July 16, 2021 at 10:12 pm

Good luck with your leftist indoctrination.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 17, 2021 at 06:06 pm

Be Happy. Now, when the other anthem is played, you can show your disrespect for their values.

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13TimeChamps's picture

July 17, 2021 at 06:27 pm

Hey little fella...good to have you back. Has Rodgers been traded!!??

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Leatherhead's picture

July 18, 2021 at 09:10 am

Stalker alert.

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Bearmeat's picture

July 16, 2021 at 07:52 pm

The cap space for 2022 is either going to come from Aaron Rodgers not being on the team anymore, or it will come from multiple cuts (and I mean multiple). I'd guess the former, but if Love sucks, then perhaps the latter with a trade of Love for a low round pick and a re-up with significantly more guaranteed money to ARod. Man I hope that doesn't happen. P Smith, Turner, Tonyan, MVS, probably Jones gone in that case. Adams too.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 17, 2021 at 07:56 am

It won't be fun. There are only so many sources of cap relief available. So, $34.6M. Probably won't be any rollover as the current $5M under only just covers the PS and 52/53rd contracts. Actually will need $3M for churn (IR/PUP concerns) plus $8M more than that in 2022 for that year's 52nd/53rd plus PS plus $3M in for churn. So, need about $45.6M:

$12.5M - Preston
$3.9M ---Lowry
$3.2M ---Turner (age 32 so no extension. 6 OL drafted!)
$4.0M --- Jaire Alexander extension. Can do more if nec.
$23.6M subtotal

$8M Zadarius. Could do $10M or a bit more if necessary - extension.
$31.6M Deficit is $14M or so.

Normally, one would look to the QB for cap relief. $22M would do it easily and allow for some re-signings like MVS and Tonyan. Need almost $4M for Lazard as an RFA as well. GB can get chunks from Clark and Bakh (probably enough for the $14M deficit above plus $4M for Lazard if push comes to shove), and a little from Amos on an extension. Could dump Marcedes and Crosby. Could get a bit from Aaron Jones. Could cut Zadarius for $15.75M instead of the $8M listed above.

There isn't anybody else.

Edited (above for clarity with this added): Still should sign Tonyan as a priority (maybe a $5M first year cap hit on a $9M AAV deal), the aforementioned Lazard because he is cheap (2nd round tender should be about $4M), and probably MVS (something like a first year cap hit of $5M on a $? AAV deal), at least if Adams walks. GB could save $6M this year with an Adams extension but really ought to schedule for something in the area of $16M cap number for 2022 for a net of $10M, but it is hard to see where even ten million more would come from. IF AR made up with the FO, could still get $9M this year from him and $8M next year ($12M minus the $4M proration I'd push into 2022 and 2023). tough choices ahead.

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flackcatcher's picture

July 17, 2021 at 07:13 pm

Yes, that's why Rodgers or no Rodgers, the Packers were facing a rebuild in 2022. Even the new TV contract in 2023 could not stop that reality. I give Gutekunst credit for facing this head on back in 2019. Now, with a little luck, the Packers could be seeing what amounts to a retooling in 2023, but that all depends on how many take the second year jump in performance from this draft group. As you say, nothing but hard choices ahead.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 18, 2021 at 06:56 am

That's too far for me. A happy AR on the Packers with no Jordan Love probably has no problem restructuring in 2021 to the tune of at least $13M (at the moment GB has gotten zero from AR for 2021) and $16M more in 2022 to ease the misfortune that the Covid Cap limit has caused. That would be enough to muddle through 2022 with the team intact to at least get to 2023 and possibly some super bowl appearances in those three years. I've written that the drafting of Jordan Love is the single biggest reason that might not happen. I haven't changed my mind on that.

I do agree that Gute faced things head on in 2019 when, recognizing simple talent deficiencies due to less than stellar drafting in the past, he went out and simply bought 4 starters for the team. It cost a lot but it would have been manageable save for the Covid pandemic reducing the cap by roughly $26M in 2021 and probably another $10M or more in 2022. Gute tried to buy at least three the year before in Graham, Wilkerson and Tramon, but only Tramon was worth his contract.

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