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Packers’ Salary Cap Situation Ain’t What It Used To Be

Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy

The Green Bay Packers have always managed the salary cap deftly, but like the old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be.

The Packers currently have slightly over $10.6 million in salary cap space with their draft class still to sign. Their rookie salary pool is slightly over $5.3 million. So if you do some quick subtraction there, you can see the Packers will be left with around $5.3 million once everyone is under contract.

That will be about half of what the organization had to work with in 2015.

Ultimately, the numbers will work out to be something a bit different. During the offseason, only the team’s top 51 salaries are counted for salary cap purposes, so that $5.3 million under the cap number isn’t calculated in such a simple manner and thus, isn’t exact. In fact, the Journal Sentinel says the offseason number will actually be around $9 million.

That’s really not an important number, though.

Once the regular season begins, then all of the team’s players’ salaries and bonuses are counted against the cap. That includes guys on injured reserve and the practice squad.

Since we don’t know exactly who’s going to make the roster, we can’t give you the Packers’ exact 2016 salary cap number.

This number — the regular season number — is the important one.

What we can see is the amount of cap space the Packers will have to work with is almost certain to be lower than it typically is. Entering the 2015 season, the Packers had more than $11 million in salary cap space available. Entering 2014, they had $8.5 million available. Back in 2013, they had around $14 million.

Why is this significant?

The Packers are entering a season in which a long list of players will be playing out the final year of their contracts. Some of those players are stalwarts, like Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Eddie Lacy and David Bakhtiari. Others are valuable role players, like J.C. Tretter and Nick Perry.

And what if someone who hasn’t played that well before suddenly finds his groove? We’d bet former first-round pick Datone Jones ends up falling into that category now that he’s a full-time outside linebacker.

Simply, the Packers are going to have a lot of guys they’d like to pay and they’re not going to be able to pay all of them.

They’ll have very little wiggle room to give anyone an extension before or during the season. This tactic is used by teams so they can count part of a player’s signing bonus on the current year’s salary cap, thus creating more room in future years.

That’s not to say that it can’t happen. It just looks like it will be tough.

Fortunately, there’s relief on the horizon. Several big-money contracts will come off the books in 2017, including those of Julius Peppers, Sitton and Lang.

Those three deals alone will create a little over $23.4 million in cap space. You can see where this is going, though.

Keeping that cap space means those three guys are done in Green Bay.

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Joseph Bonham

Joseph is a fiction writer when he isn't doing this. In his spare time he likes to do manly things like drink beer and procreate.

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10 Comments

  1. Skinny May 5, 2016

    See, I don’t understand this. How the fuck do teams like the Browns, Jaguars and Redskins repeatedly end up with huge piles of cash after every season to spend in FA, and a team like the Packers don’t have shit at the end of the year? That’s never made sense to me.

    1. Savage57 May 6, 2016

      There’s about a gazillion sites that have more salary cap crap than you’ll ever need/want to know out there, so look it up.

      Between the top 6-7 Packers players, salary-wise, they eat up about half the cap number, and QB 1 eats up about 30% of that.

      And that is why there isn’t dick left for the other guys.

  2. Jc May 5, 2016

    See Rodgers, Cobb, Mathews

  3. Chad Lundberg May 5, 2016

    I think this could be a sign that Thompson is working with a much higher sense of urgency. Rodgers will turn 33 this year, which means he longer has the luxury of waiting for his players to develop for a few years. In the last 3 offseason’s Thompson has made a bigger splash in free agency than usual with guy’s like Letroy Guion, Julius Peppers and Jared Cook. Instead of sitting comfortably under the cap, Ted knows he’s got to take advantage wherever he can now. The clock is ticking.

  4. MMTTDCSUCK May 5, 2016

    TT’s latent move into free agency is at record sloth time. He should have been more aggressive five years ago. Three guys in how many years? while free agency has it’s dangers, doing very little to nothing has not worked out for the packers in the playoffs. No ILB’s, no TE’s . . . I still remember C K and the 49ers’ making us look sick. Sometimes this guy has a fucking YEAR to get someone . . . and does not. And once again, his #ONE pick is not getting his option picked up . . . hmmmm, good at drafting as well.

    1. Chad Lundberg May 5, 2016

      I didn’t say he was doing enough, I simply said he’s doing ore than usual. He used to almost never sign anyone at all, even at the risk of letting the season tank. Remember Marshawn Lynch? At least there’s some improvement lately. He should have been way more like this years ago.

      1. MMTTDCSUCK May 6, 2016

        Agreed C L! I was not going after your post, I was just adding my two cents to it.

  5. Howard May 5, 2016

    The way the Packers extend or resign their drafted players has a large impact on the current cap numbers. The Packers in every recent case give the extended or resigned player a large signing bonus. The large signing bonus allows the Packers to spread the bonus over the length of the contract and reduce the players initial first couple of years cap hit to be low. The problem occurs on the years 3 through termination of contract. After year 2 the base contract goes up causing the total cap hit to increase. By the time the player reaches the end of his contract his cap hit to the team is usually its highest. There are several players currently that are in that spot including Rodgers, Matthews, Sitton, Lang, Burnett, shields, and Nelson. In addition Cobbs cap hit increased quicker than most.

    Contracts will come to a close, contracts will need to be terminated or redone, once new contracts are signed if players are deemed worthy then the cap hit will go down for a couple of years.

    When you draft and develop the team must either resign the key guys and or hope they have drafted well enough that they have a younger and better player to take over with less cap hit. The 2011 and 2012 draft did not help replenish with youth. Then you have to overpay for guys like Neal, Raji, jones, Burnett, Bulaga, etc.

  6. Shawn May 5, 2016

    What this article fails to mention is that the salary cap is expected to rise about $12 million for 2017 and about $12 million the following year. Therefore, the Packers don’t need as much room to work with.
    The Packers currently only have about $113 million committed to the 2017 cap, which is expected to be around $166 million. Do the math. The Packers will have plenty of money to sign whoever they want to sign.

    1. Phatgzus May 6, 2016

      Contract prices will rise with the cap as well, probably not at the same rate, but something to consider.