How bad a shape is Green Bay in, in relation to salary cap rules? Real bad. I’ve previously indicated that ever since 2014 the Packers have been splurging on the contracts of their best players. If anything, my previous post understated the crisis.
Rather than try to analyze 32 teams, I’m going to take a look at the three teams Packers fans are most familiar with: the Vikings, Lions, and Bears.
Starting with the Bears, they have just one player making double-digit millions in 2018 – newly acquired Allen Robinson, who will earn $11.1 million. They also only have four players making over $7 million. The result of this frugal spending is that the Bears have almost $40 million available under the salary cap, which ranks them seventh most in the league.
You probably saw the melodrama over Bears’ cornerback Kyle Fuller just play out. The Packers offered Fuller a contract of $56 million over four years, which gave the Bears little choice but to match it in order to keep Fuller. That averages out to $14 million per year, slightly less than the deal Davante Adams got.
Fuller is not on Chicago’s list of top earners for 2018 because the Bears spread out his pay like this: $6.5 million in 2018, then $13.5 million, then $17.5 million, and finally $18.5 million in 2021. Interestingly, Fuller was the 14th overall draft pick in 2014 – the same selection that belongs to the Packers this year. The only reason I can think of for them doing so is that they have plans to do a lot more dealing before training camp gets underway.
The Vikings are sitting pretty with almost $30 million in cap space. They currently have six players earning $10 million or more this year: QB Kirk Cousins ($24 million), CB Xavier Rhodes (second highest at $13.4 million), OLB Anthony Barr, DE Everson Griffen, LT Riley Reiff, and FS Harrison Smith.
How did the Vikings get to be so flush? In 2017, the Vikings had two of the statistically best receivers in the league, but this year they are only paying Adam Thielen $5 million, and Stefon Diggs is getting under $2 million. Diggs is set to become a free agent at the end of the year, so we’ll see if the Vikings will award him with a deal like the one the Packers just gave to Davante Adams.
The Packers currently have the 14th highest cap space availability, three behind 11th-ranked Minnesota. As I pointed out before, Green Bay has six players making from $10 million or more, and two others are lurking: Mike Daniels is getting $9.8 million and Jimmy Graham’s three-year $30 million deal hasn’t yet been apportioned year by year.
Detroit is slightly below the league average: their $19 million of cap space money ranks them 19th in the league. They have three stars earning over $10 million this year DE Ezekiel Ansah ($17.1 million), QB Matthew Stafford ($16.5 million) and former Packer T.J. Lang, who’s raking in $10.9 million.
Pay vs. Performance
For all of the Packers’ big payouts, how many All-Pros have they assembled? For 2017, they have but one, second-team All-Pro David Bakhtiari. Yes, Aaron Rodgers was injured, but he wasn’t an All-Pro when healthy in either 2015 or 2016.
In contrast, the Rams had six All-Pros, and the Steelers and Vikings had four.
No other NFL team has invested as heavily as the Packers in its highest-paid players. They have six players making $10 million or more, as do the Vikings and Jaguars. The Giants, Steelers, and Falcons are next, with five each. Those six players don’t count Mike Daniels, at $9.8 million, or Jimmy Graham’s 2018 salary, which has yet to be announced.
The norm is to have three players earning $10 million or more – I counted 10 such teams, and seven more have four such high-pay players. Teams with tight purse strings include the Titans, 49ers, and Jets, with two each, and the Bills and Bears, with just one each.
The Packers’ largest player contracts over the last few years are preventing the team from significantly upgrading the roster in 2018. If that’s not bad enough, many of these massive contracts were bad deals – the performance of these players have often not justified how much money they are being paid.
So great job, Russ Ball.