Green Bay Packers’ salary cap situation heading into 2021

After falling short in the NFC Championship Game, what is the salary cap situation for the Green Bay Packers entering the 2021 NFL season? Let’s take a look at the Packers’ salary cap situation, as well as which players they could release, restructure, or extend to create additional salary cap space in 2021.

The Packers project to be around $6 million over the salary cap in 2021

As of March 5, the 2021 NFL salary cap projects to be around $185 million. The Packers will carry over $3.7 million in cap space to the 2021 season. Therefore, the Packers’ current salary cap projects to be $186.8 million.

As it stands, the Packers have around $190.4 million in commitments to their top 51 highest-paid players, with an additional $4.1 million in dead money. As such, the Packers are currently around $5.8 million over the salary cap heading into 2021.

To view the most up-to-date numbers for the Green Bay Packers’ salary cap space, check out our team by team 2021 salary cap space article, which is updated daily.

Green Bay has limited options for releasing players

With the Packers needing to clear salary cap space in 2021, Green Bay does not have many options for opening cap space by releasing players.

Could either of the Smiths be released by the Packers?

With Rashan Gary’s development as a pass rusher, the Packers could find themselves able to move on from either Za’Darius Smith or Preston Smith.

Related | Top Green Bay Packers’ pending free agents in 2021

Za’Darius Smith expects to count $22 million against the Packers’ salary cap in 2021. While none of his salary is guaranteed, he is due to be paid a $5 million roster bonus on March 20. Releasing him prior to that date would leave the Packers with $10 million in dead money but create $12 million in salary cap space.

Similarly, Preston Smith will count $16 million against the Packers’ salary cap in 2021. His $4 million roster bonus is due March 20, but if the Packers release him before that date, they can save $8 million in salary cap space in 2021.

The Packers have a decision to make with Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Valdes-Scantling has had a mixed career since entering the NFL in 2018. He has 97 receptions, 1,723 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns. In 2020, he scored 6 touchdowns and averaged 20.9 yards per reception. However, he dropped 7 passes last season, giving him 15 drops for his career. He expects to count for $2.23 million against the Packers’ salary cap in 2021. If they were to release him, Green Bay would save $2.18 million, with just $54,389 in dead money.

The Packers have players they can extend or restructure to create cap space in 2021

The majority of Green Bay’s cap space is likely going to have to be opened via restructures or extensions.

Would the Packers be willing to invest in Aaron Rodgers further?

The Packers appeared to be positioning themselves to move on from Rodgers after drafting Jordan Love. However, Rodgers won the NFL MVP in 2020, and now that plan may have changed.

Related | The highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL in 2021

Entering the 2021 NFL season, Aaron Rodgers’ contract counts $37.2 million against the Packers’ salary cap in 2021. The Packers could restructure his deal and save as much as $14.5 million. Yet, it would make it harder for the Packers to move on from him in the coming offseason.

Preston and Za’Darius Smith could both be restructured if they are not released

If the Packers decide not to release either of the Smiths, they could restructure both deals. A restructure for Za’Darius Smith could save $7.8 million, while Preston Smith’s restructure could save $5.3 million. However, those restructures would make it more costly to move on from one or both in the 2022 offseason.

Jaire Alexander and Davante Adams are likely looking for contract extensions this offseason

The Packers need to thread a thin line between locking up their top names and not increasing their salary cap number. One option would be to extend both Adams and Alexander by putting guarantees into the next two or three years of their deals.

With Adams’ contract, the Packers could reduce his 2021 salary cap number by around $9.3 million. They could then take that money and guarantee it, with new money in 2022, 2023, and 2024. The balance for the Packers is weighing how much they want to commit to Adams after he passes age 30.

Related | 2021 NFL Free Agency: Top 100 NFL Free Agents of 2021

The Packers have the option of simply picking up Alexander’s fifth-year option. However, if they extend him this offseason, they could knock $1 million off his number for 2021. While that may not seem significant, with the Packers looking to challenge in 2021, every small degree of cushion can make a big difference.

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Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN