The Green Bay Packers have already started creating salary cap space in the 2022 NFL offseason. However, they still have further moves they need to make heading into the new league year on March 16. Let’s examine the current situation for the Packers and what options they have to open up more cap space in the next couple of weeks.
Update: Aaron Rodgers and the Packers agreed to a four-year contract on March 8. The deal is expected to reduce Rodgers’ cap number for 2022.
Packers’ salary cap outlook for 2022
All numbers are from Spotrac and correct as of 5 AM on February 27.
The Packers are currently $28.25 million over the projected salary cap for the 2022 season. Not included within that number is the salary they would take on if they franchise tag Davante Adams — which they are widely expected to do. Therefore, the Packers would need to go from $-28.25 million in cap space to around $20 million in cap space. That means they need to clear around another $50 million ahead of March 16.
Green Bay has already started to open up cap space this offseason. Let’s look at which players they have already restructured and summarize the impact of these moves on the cap.
- DT Kenny Clark
Converted $13.615 million to a signing bonus and added two void years
Opened $10.892 million in cap space for 2022
- RB Aaron Jones
Converted $3.85 million to a signing bonus and added two void years
Opened $3.08 million in cap space for 2022
- LT David Bakhtiari
Converted $11.58 million to a signing bonus
Opened $7.72 million in cap space for 2022
How can the Packers open more salary cap space in 2022?
As Packers shareholder and Twitter cap guru Ken Ingalls tweeted on February 26, Green Bay has now dealt with the “low hanging fruit & obvious” contract moves. Those three were the eligible veterans whose deals run beyond 2022. Now, the Packers have to make the more difficult decisions and need players to agree to any restructures. Indeed, Green Bay would require the players’ agreement to add void years and “alter” the contract.
Let’s look at some of the Packers’ options for potential roster moves in the next couple of weeks.
Will both Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith be on the roster in 2022?
This pairing is currently set to count around $47 million against the Packers’ salary cap in 2022. That equates to around 22.5% of the cap, and coupled with Rashan Gary, it’s a big slice of the cap pie. Therefore, with both entering the final year of their deals, the Packers have some choices to make. Do they cut one (or both), extend one (or both), or just restructure the deals and add void years?
The decision is tough. Both are the same age, but Za’Darius missed 2021 due to injury, while Preston played 16 games. Za’Darius is arguably the more consistent producer on the field, but he would also likely cost more to extend. PFN’s NFL Insider and Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline reported on February 26 that Za’Darius Smith is a potential cap casualty.
Releasing Za’Darius would save the Packers $15.28 million in cap space. Meanwhile, a restructure with added void years would save around $11 million but leave the Packers with that much in dead money in 2023, regardless of whether Za’Darius Smith is on the roster or not.
Preston Smith has a cap hit of $19.72 million, with potential savings of $12.47 million if the Packers released him. It seems unlikely they would release both, so potentially an extension for Preston is a solution. The Packers could bring his cap number down as low as $8.5 million. Nonetheless, it would likely go a little higher in 2022 to reduce the impact in 2023 and 2024.
Could Randall Cobb be on his way out of Green Bay?
A year after trading for Cobb in an attempt to placate Rodgers, releasing him would seem an odd decision. Combine that with three other receivers being unrestricted free agents, Allen Lazard as a restricted free agent, and Malik Taylor as an exclusive rights free agent — letting another receiver leave would render the WR depth chart vulnerable.
The Packers could put the ball in Cobb’s court. He is due over $8 million combined in base salary and roster bonus. None of that money is guaranteed, and it seems unlikely Cobb would earn that much on the open market. Therefore, Green Bay could present Cobb with a potential pay cut to reduce his cap number. If that does not work, they could keep him on the roster with a restructure to save about $5.55 million by adding three extra void years.
Could the Packers offer extensions to Jaire Alexander, Rashan Gary, and Darnell Savage ahead of the 2022 league year?
Alexander, Gary, and Savage are in the final years of their respective deals. Gary would likely have his fifth-year option picked up, so he is at least under control through 2023. Savage is also eligible for his fifth-year option, but his future is less certain. He will count just $3.98 million against the cap — the Packers may not want to do anything until after this season.
Meanwhile, Alexander is set to play on his fifth-year option in 2022. That comes at a cap number of $13.29 million. Focusing on Alexander and Gary, they are set to count just over $18 million against the cap combined. Yet, only $2.39 million of that is in prorated bonus.
Therefore, the Packers could sign both to extensions and bring that combined cap down to $10 million or less, depending on how they structure the deal. As with the extensions above, it would be a delicate balance between getting the right value in 2022 versus pilling a lot of cap commitments into 2023 and 2024.
Offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins is also set to play in the final year of his rookie deal in 2022. His name lacks the star power of the others here, but he is an extremely valuable piece that the Packers will almost certainly want to keep long-term. His contract has a cap number of just $4.72 million in 2022. Consequently, it’d be tough for the Packers to sign him to an extension and reduce that cap number in 2022. He could be a candidate for an extension later in the offseason.
What are the Packers’ other options to save salary cap space in 2022?
There are a number of players who could be released or have void years added to their deals in restructures. Some options for potential releases include:
- S Adrian Amos
Dead money: $7.33 million
Cap saving: $4.65 million
- OL Billy Turner
Dead money: $5.81 million
Cap saving: $3.36 million
- DL Dean Lowry
Dead money: $3.99 million
Cap saving: $4.08 million
- K Mason Crosby
Dead money: $2.34 million
Cap saving: $2.40 million
- TE Marcedes Lewis
Dead money: $2.08 million
Cap saving: $2.45 million
Some of those players could be on their way out, while others will likely either get an extension or be offered restructures with void years.