Threading The Needle - How Much Cap Can Be Pushed Into 2022?

I have been advocating for taking an aggressive approach to keeping the 2020 team as intact as possible for the 2021 season.  Back-to-back 13-3 squads do not come around very often.  Once GB allows some of their RFAs and UFAs to walk, they likely cannot get them back.  For example, Tonyan, Sullivan, Lancaster, Redmond, Greene, and Boyle played 2,405 snaps last year.  GB probably will try very hard to retain Tonyan (638 snaps), so that still leaves 1,568 snaps.  The Packers should tread carefully here if they decide to watch some of these players walk away.  They won't cost that much, but they can play.  Some of them perhaps can be replaced by internal development, and perhaps the Packers can figure on replacing some of them in the draft, but rookies usually have a learning curve.

The Packers have already lost Wagner (the best backup offensive tackle they have had probably since Bulaga was a rookie) and Kirksey, who while disappointing, looked better when he was moved to the "Will" spot.  Things are uncertain still, but it appears as if the Packers will lose an elite center in Linsley and an elite running back in Aaron Jones.  

The primary ways to avert personnel losses due to the cap situation are releasing players and altering contracts to push cap hits into 2022 and in some cases beyond.  Should the Packers convert $15million of Rodgers' scheduled cash to a signing bonus, that decreases his cap number for 2021 but increases by $5 million for 2022 and by $5 million in 2023.  One can hope the cap limit greatly increases for 2023 anyway, and it might increase significantly for 2022, but those are uncertainties.  The Packers could add a void year or extend Rodgers' contract to cover 2024 so that the increases in 2022, 2023 and 2024 would be $3.75M. 

Some of the other players with big salaries are only under contract for 2021 and 2022 so the additional cap charge from their restructures would fall solely into 2022.  The Packers could elect to extend some of them, such as Zadarius Smith (who just issued a tweet indicating that he would like to be a Packer for life), and also Amos.

So, what does 2022 look like?  The Packers have $180.774 million dollars committed to 28 players for the 2022 season, which is one of if not the highest numbers in the NFL.  Surely they will have 51 players under contract, so it is necessary to adjust that even higher.  Judging by 2021, the Packers might have five players making the 2022 minimum of $705,000 and eighteen making the $825,000 minimum for players with one credited season.  

5 Players at the rookie minimum $705K      $3,525,000
18 Players with one credited season $825K    $14,850,000
28 Players already under contract per OTC Various $180,774,874
Top 51 in 2022 Various $199,149,874

One should also look at the projected unrestricted free agents for 2022.  The table below shows the names listed by Spotrac with my rough estimates.  There are no RFAs and just six ERFAs (not listed for space considerations):

Player AAV? '22 Cap #
St. Brown   $1.035M
H. Bradley   $1.035M
Oren Burks released released
K. Russell released released
J. Jackson released released
D. Funchess Unknown Unknown
JK Scott $1.5M $1.25M
L. Patrick (age 29) $4.8M $3.00M
Valdes-Scantling (28) $8.5M $5.1M
J. Alexander (25) $13.3M/$21M $13.3M
D. Adams (30) $24M $20M
Total:   $44M

I do not know if St. Brown or Bradley will even make the 2021 team.  Scott probably will but I do not know if he will make the 2022 team.  I really am only interested in Lucas Patrick, Valdes-Scantling, Alexander (who is listed at his projected 5th year option cap charge) and Davante Adams.  Nor do I want to get bogged down in disagreements as to each player's value.  Patrick might well get more money since he is only 29 and might easily be viewed as a mid-range starting guard if he plays well again in 2021.  Valdes-Scantling's value is also very dependent on how he plays in 2021, but he probably has a base of not less than $5 million.  

The Packers cannot really reduce the cap charges for Patrick, Valdes-Scantling, or Alexander to gain any cap space in 2021.  I expect all of those players to get offers after December when it does not count against the 2021 salary cap.  It is possible that Stepaniak, Runyan or Hanson show enough to allow the Packers to let Patrick walk.  Adams likely will be extended, possibly before the new league year and if not sometime well before the 2021 season starts. 

A quick word on Davante Adams.  He might get $20 million AAV or he might get more than DeAndre Hopkins' $27.25 million AAV.  I chose $24 million times 4 years which equals 96 million.  He is scheduled to have a $16.78 million cap charge, so one would need to reach $96 plus $16.78, or roughly $112.78 million.  I expect the Packers when they extend his contract to reduce his cap number in 2021 to about $10 million, leaving $102 million for the 4 new years.  I used a progression of $20, $24, $27 and $31.78 million.  It could be something significantly different.

The point is that the Packers will have to budget for signing some of the UFAs in 2022, and some of those numbers will be big.  Above we reached a figure of almost $200 million.  I had no trouble reaching over $38 to $44 million more for the 2022 UFAs.  It could be less.  I do not expect Preston Smith's $16.5 million charge for 2022 or Dean Lowry's $7.3 million charge to still exist, but I do not see many other possibilities, and the ones I do see (Crosby and Sternberger) are pretty low numbers.  Thus, the Packers are looking at $200M plus $38M minus $23.8M (P. Smith and Lowry gone) for a net of $214.2 million in committed salary cap charges for 2022. 

So, how much salary cap can the Packers move from 2021 into 2022?  I do not know: what will the 2022 salary cap be?   Mike Florio reported here that the two extra wild card playoff games increased revenue by $150 million, with $70 million added to the salary cap ($2.18 million in extra salary cap per team). I have read that the NFL received over $5 billion from its national broadcasting rights in 2019.  How much will revenue increase from adding a 17th game/18th week?  I do not know.  I did a lot of math despite a paucity of facts and lots of shaky assumptions to reach $6 to $7 million.  The cap in a normal year would have added $10M to reach $208 million in 2021 and then another $10 million to reach $218M in 2022.  The extra playoff game plus the extra week of games might be another $7 million.  So, perhaps $225 million?  By how much did the owners prop up the 2021 cap?  The 2022 supposedly will be reduced by one third of that amount.

Despite how tight this looks to outsiders, GM Gutekunst recently said that he expected Preston Smith back, and there has been continuing speculation that the Packers are still trying to sign Aaron Jones.  Since the sticking point supposedly in the Jones contract talks was guaranteed money (usually done by Green Bay with a signing bonus - which keeps the first year cap hit down), how in the world would the Packers fit Jones in under the cap in 2021, let alone 2022?  Aaron Rodgers has $25 million as a base salary in 2022, and Clark has some significant cash along with Zadarius Smith, but at some point that needs to stop since all of those players have big cap hits scheduled already, and that is before any alteration made in 2021.

Mark Murphy and GM Gutekunst surely have a much better idea of what the 2022 salary cap is likely to be.  It looks to me as though the Packers will have to make some real reductions through releases or trades in addition to pushing cap hits into the future.  The Packers will have to thread the needle but outsiders do not know how big the eye is in that needle.

 

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Comments (33)

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EnemyTerritory's picture

March 11, 2021 at 08:11 am

Going to post some heresy here so be nice. Not a salary cap guru either. That being said theFront Office is committed to Love. Removing AR cap hit and taking dead money for a year or two fixes the salary cap. Look for new WRs in the draft and FA in 22 to replace Adams. Or whatever GB receives for Aaron in a trade.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 11, 2021 at 08:52 am

Them's fighting words, but not worth a downvote by me!

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Leatherhead's picture

March 11, 2021 at 12:25 pm

The front office better be committed to a guy they traded up to take.

And removing the cap hits of Rodgers and Adams from the 2022 cap creates a lot of space. Stand pat in 2021 and decide next year who you want to be part of the future at WR.

Yeah, people are gonna hate that idea.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 11, 2021 at 09:16 am

I suspect that the next article I write won't be until the Packers make a concrete move. They only need to clear $9.4M or so by March 17. That kind of money could come from a number of sources. Zadarius' tweet about wanting to be a Packer for life makes one wonder if he is in talks to significantly extend his contract. The Packers may wait until legal tampering starts to get an idea of what things look like, but extensions take time. The terms have to be negotiated, reduced to writing, reviewed by attorneys to ensure no mistakes, signed, and sent to the NFL.

The math on figuring what the cap might be is long and tortuous. Essentially I guessed that the NFL might have earned $4B in rights for the regular season. That's $235M per week, so I used that for the new 17th game/18th week. $235M times .48 = $112.8M divided by 32 teams is $3.52M per team in salary cap space. If they got the 70% increase they supposedly negotiated for 2022, then it would be $5.99M. Then the playoff game is worth about $500K per team in salary cap space. The NFL also will send some money from the LA Stadium Project and revenue from gambling at NFL stadiums will also be included. No clue what those latter things are worth.

We have 100, nay thousands or sports reporters and not one of them has reported what the NFL salary cap would have been but for the owners propping it up. But it does explain why the franchise tag is so low: perhaps it isn't based on $182.5M but upon the real cap limit had it not been propped up: that would be about $156M. IDK.

https://awfulannouncing.com/nfl/three-ways-that-the-new-cba-will-change-...

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 11, 2021 at 07:30 pm

So I see three upvotes. I just realized they could be for my "promise" not to write another article until GB does something! LOL.

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Since'61's picture

March 11, 2021 at 09:17 am

TGR, great job as usual. All I can say is we haven't reached the SB but it appears to me that we have definitely found our way into cap hell! Stay safe. Thanks, Since '61

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canadapacker's picture

March 11, 2021 at 09:40 am

I agree with the great job comment but not necessarily with cap hell. When you have a great quarterback - ie one of the best in the NFL you need to pay him. But other than a few poor seasons when AR was hurt - we have always gotten value for the money spent. And we have not had a whole bunch of dead money. Cap hell is when you need to cut good players and have overspent recklessly and have a bunch of dead cap into future years. Dont know how New England hid Brady's salary but there must have been some way of getting around it - or maybe with a wife who makes big bucks - he just didnt care about how much other QBs earned and just wanted to win. Right now we just need to find a way to improve the defence and special teams and yet still protect AR under the cap. Some pretty good Oline vets have been released. Maybe one of those guys if the guys like Runyon and Hansen cant do it an be under the cap. Goal still needs to keep the win now team together as much as possible even though we know some guys will need to take their payday - Linsely and Jones.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 11, 2021 at 09:58 am

Every team is in some difficulties. GB needs the cap limit to rise a lot in 2022 and perhaps even more in 2023.

Looks like we will lose Jones and Linsley. Oh well, we should know more in a week or so and them more in a few more weeks.

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Since'61's picture

March 11, 2021 at 12:46 pm

Canadapacker, I was responding to TGR’s aemrticke that we will likely need to do a lot of cutting and/or restructuring for the 2022 salary cap. And we may well need to let some good players go.

As it is for 2021 we’re likely to lose Linsley and Jones. We’ve already released Wagner. That’s 3 pretty good players IMO. It’s still not settled if we can retain Preston Smith and we could be outbid on Tonyan.

We have plenty of exposure to our roster both this year and 2022 and not much cap space to work with. Your definition is that we need to lose good players to get under the cap. Well so far it looks like we’re losing them. By this time next week we will have a better idea of how bad it will get.
Thanks, Since ‘61

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stockholder's picture

March 11, 2021 at 09:52 am

The Bottom line was Bahks big salary. So we now punch holes in the roster everywhere. I thought two were better then one. Seems that is not Gute's thinking. So yes. Let's be the Indian giver. But first. GoodBye- St.Brown, Burks, Lowrey , and Bradley.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 11, 2021 at 09:55 am

There’s a lot of speculation in this article about 2022 that is based on some assumptions that I do not share.

I agree wholeheartedly with keeping our relatively low cost ERFA and UDFA players. Tonyan,Lazard, Lancaster, Sullivan are gameday contributors. Patrick is probably starting for us at guard this year. So keep these guys around for another couple of years.

As regards pushing debt in 2022, the Packers could simply decide to trade Rodgers,go with Love and save $40 million, which would give us more than ample cap space and probably some good draft picks, too. We could replace Adams with a superduper rookie who is taller and faster and younger and $15 million cheaper, and who could grow with Love.

So I don’t have a real problem with borrowing against next year to keep these good, young, cheap players around, because I know we can create space next year, especially if we fall short again this year. At some point, you have to try something different. If we win the Super Bowl, then who knows, or cares, what happens in 2022.

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Guam's picture

March 11, 2021 at 10:09 am

I don't see your third paragraph happening LH. Rodgers and Adams are playing too well to trade away. I am also less sanguine about Patrick and Lancaster. Both are adequate players, but Patrick is perhaps replaceable with Runyon or Stepaniak and Lancaster by a draft choice.

I would like to see the Packers keep Tonyan, Lazard and Sullivan and they should not be too expensive.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 11, 2021 at 10:10 am

Well, you made me laugh. Not in derision, just too tired to butt heads today. Way too much math and research looking for info on revenue.

The other funny thing is I was on another site discussing Prescott's new awful deal and how Dallas would navigate the cap next year. My solution was for Dallas to draft the best WR they can and cut Amari Cooper to gain $16M in cap space! My advice to Dallas sounds like your advice to GB. The difference is that Dallas has the 10th pick so they can probably find a stud WR. Maybe Chase is gone in the top 5 and Detroit scoops up Devonta Smith at #8, though?

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canadapacker's picture

March 11, 2021 at 10:18 am

Agree and they got one this year - that Cee Dee Lamb is a keeper.

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PeteK's picture

March 11, 2021 at 10:34 am

My feeling ( who knows what 2022 has in store) is that Love will need 2022 to further develop and a talented WR like Adams is very hard to find. Now 2023 is a different story and could be a full rebuild or another run if Love pans out. I have recently compared Niners and Pack because they both had back to back HOF QBs. So my question is: would fans be satisfied if Love has a career similar to Garcia's.

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PeteK's picture

March 11, 2021 at 09:56 am

Most Teams are in the same position as proven by all the good players that have been released. If we have any cap space, I would be happy with one of the following players: Tomlinson DT or Griffin CB-- more affordable options, Guy, Hankins or Jenkins ( who was a beast vs us) Butler, Peterson.

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Guam's picture

March 11, 2021 at 10:00 am

Very informative and helpful as usual TGR - thank you!

I appreciate your concerns about your 2022 and 2023 cap calculations, but this is the first reasonable look I have seen at what the future years might be. I think the big X-factor is what the television contracts are going to look like in 2023 as I believe that covers most of the games other than the Thursday night games. There may be some additional room there, but most of your assumptions seemed very reasonable to me. Great work!!!

The Packers are going to lose some talented players and probably have very little room to sign other free agents. We have to hope Gute hits a home run with his draft. Fortunately he will have 10 draft choices.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 11, 2021 at 10:16 am

Thursday Night ends after the 2021 season. All of the other big ones end after the 2022 season. So the new Thursday Night deal with modestly bigger money rolls in for 2022: as far as I can tell that ought to affect the 2023 cap. Sunday, Sunday Night, and Monday rolls in for the 2023 season, and IIRC affects 2024. Got to weather a year or two here.

At any rate, as the Packers make definite moves I will note on the Tracker type article how much that affects 2022 liabilities.

I really think without having any evidence that Gute thinks the 2022 cap will be bigger than I can calculate, either that or he's blowing a lot of smoke.

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Guam's picture

March 11, 2021 at 12:20 pm

Good point about the contract not kicking up the cap until the following year - I wasn't sure when that money got counted.

I don't see any of your assumptions that could change that radically to significantly increase 2022 - some variation yes, but not enough to keep Preston or sign Jones. I think Gute is probably trying to trade Preston and is keeping a brave public face. He really can't do anything else.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 11, 2021 at 07:13 pm

I am not completely sure but usually revenue is counted and then the cap is set for the following year. It looks like the NFL might have bumped up the 2021 cap based on this frantic activity to finalize their TV deals. If not, why would it matter?

Too much speculation on the revenue aspect. When the Packers publish their financials (most articles on this come out in June or July) we shall know more. We'll know how much money the NFL sent to teams in revenue sharing and how much local revenue the Packers were able to salvage.

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flackcatcher's picture

March 11, 2021 at 12:42 pm

TGR, giving what we know, I think your numbers are pretty reasonable. If anything, I'm more grim than either you or Guam on 2023 and beyond. The number of core players that will be in contract years vs the Cap number. How does Gute work that, frankly I don't see it. The only out is the Packers hit on most of this upcoming draft, and pickup on street free agents. Seriously, that's such a long shot with what a FUBAR the college football season turned into. On the other hand, this is Brian Gutekunst we're commenting about. We have seen how quickly he did turn this team around without the dead hand of Mark Murphy hindering the front office. And this is a draft that the Packer front office was made for, so I suppose it's possible. FWIW: I have been told the actual Cap is closer to 148-155.5 million than the 180.5 that the league keeps talking about. It's clear that only a few close to the TV contract talks knows. And they are not talking. One final point. If the Cap crunch does hit, this will provide Gutekunst a real window to remake the roster as he sees fit. The number of veteran 'blue chip' players forced on the free agent market could be stragging. And Gutekunst, a disciple of the Wolf-Thomspon school, this would present a once in a lifetime opportunity.

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Guam's picture

March 11, 2021 at 03:26 pm

Beyond 2023 worries me a little less because the television deal could be a game changer by 2024. But 2022 and 2023 will be very tough. Gute has done a great job retooling a moribund roster in his short tenure, but his biggest challenge is still ahead of him.

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flackcatcher's picture

March 12, 2021 at 01:37 am

The NFL's problem is the revue stream is being chopped up pretty thoroughly. The NFL is not dealing with just three networks. They are dealing with that plus their various streaming services that divide the revue into a million different parts. It's all very new, and how the NFL negotiates with all their current, and now new partners will be interesting to watch.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 11, 2021 at 07:19 pm

Thanks Flack, including the info on the real amount of the cap vs. how much it got pumped up.

I do note that when I calculated the RB franchise tag I got $8.07M (OTC's number) only with a $153.6M salary cap. Now I see sites suggesting that the franchise tag for RBs would be $8.5M or so. That suggests to me that the NFL did not use the propped up salary cap figure to calculate the tags but instead used what the cap would have been without a loan from the owners. That comes out at that high end of your $148 to $155.5M range.

I am wondering if the load was $25M plus the $2M/team from the two extra playoff games. That number is from the NFLPA, the best source I've found in this mess.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 11, 2021 at 07:24 pm

Thanks, Flack, for the kind words and for the info on the cap.

I note that the Franchise Tag for RBs at $8.07M works if one uses a cap of $153.6M. I am wondering if the NFL used the actual cap number rather than the propped up number? Now I see $8.5M as the tag for RBs, so that would be at the upper end of your $148M to $155.5M range. So I am inclined to accept your source as a working hypothesis.

It is just so hard to find really solid info on revenue. It looks like the owners made a $25M loan and includes the $2M+ per team extra income from those two extra playoff games. The $2M is per the NFLPA, as good a source as I've found.

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flackcatcher's picture

March 12, 2021 at 01:07 am

You are welcome TGR. There is some anger coming from front offices over New York's handling of the Cap. For example, will the 'loan' be forgiving by the owners, or will this be front and center in the new contract talks. The amount of uncertainty that Gutekunst and his fellow GM are operating in, was supposed to be reduced by the language and structure of the current NFL-NFLPA agreement. Covid-19 may have been the trigger, in reality it exposed the flaws in the revue structure that both sides papered over. (I was shocked when both guys mentioned the "actual Cap number". The range came from the floor-ceiling that both of their front offices were operating under. They are my friends, I have known them both for over twenty years. And they have never ever talked about the money side of the game)

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flackcatcher's picture

March 12, 2021 at 01:26 am

Before I forget, the "actual cap number" (got to put in quotes) may be far lower than we know. And we still don't know how league arrived at that figure, or what the 20 million plus up means. What? The potential collapse of the NFL isn't the biggest story (sports or otherwise) to come along in years. Where are the "sports reporters". Mostly chasing their rear ends on Twitter.

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canadapacker's picture

March 11, 2021 at 10:27 am

As I have wondered about before - I wonder if we could move down from 29 into the second round - say with Miami and get an extra 2 - I dont know what our first gets from somebody in order to get their 2 and still keep our 2.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 11, 2021 at 07:27 pm

Just barely on the Jimmy Johnson model, but I can't find a team with the right two picks. Looks like trading from 29 to 53 would net the 64th pick, but the team with the 53rd pick does not have a later second rounder.

Not possible on the OTC draft trade chart or on the Harvard trade chart. RJ White and the CBSsports chart suggests it can't be done.

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frankthefork's picture

March 11, 2021 at 12:13 pm

Nice write up again TGR. The changes and unknows of the future with cap and player performance is truly a challenge to plan for, but my guess is that this year the Packers have to let King, Linsley, Lowry, P smith, St Brown, Burks and Williams or Jones go to FA.
Choose wisely and GPG.

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Fabio's picture

March 12, 2021 at 06:33 am

TGR thank you very much for the beautiful article. For those like me who are not very competent in this sport, reading what you have written is really very useful. So I am writing to you a thought of mine that came to my mind.
I think for better or for worse it all revolves around Rodgers. If BG believes in him, he extends the contract, and lets Adams go in the next few years for draft picks. mediocre - this would help Rodgers himself not to look too much at a single WR, but to act more on the basis of the game plan).
If BG doesn't believe in him, next year trade Rodgers (hoping he had another great season) for lots of draft picks, go with Love or acquire another Q (Wilson + picks ??).
Personally, given Brady's performance at the age of 40, I would still go with Rodgers for a long time and perhaps having a WR other than Adams (given the performance of AR in Adams' absence) could paradoxically help AR to raise the AR even more. its performance. In either case, the thing that Green Bay absolutely has to do is build an elite D because ..... "offensive players sell tickets, but Ds win championships !!"
Greetings from Italy
GPG

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 12, 2021 at 09:05 am

Agreed.

If Gute believes AR will be the starter for the next three seasons, then it makes sense to convert a huge amount of his base salary and roster bonus to a signing bonus.

If Gute converts a huge amount, that's an announcement. If it is small, that is telling. If it is middling, that's Gute's current strategy of trying to do just enough for 2021 without cornering himself for 2022 and beyond.

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stockholder's picture

March 12, 2021 at 11:01 am

Rodger's won't be here next year. Gute only extends him, to trade him. Also if a Wr is taken rd. 1 Adams days are numbered. Plan on a CB. Samuel or Newsome.

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