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Packers Are Strangling Under Salary Cap Limits

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.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. Empacador March 20, 2018

    Imagine if Ball was named GM. Great jobs by Murphy and Ted too.

  2. Eric March 20, 2018

    You are kind of cherrypicking here and not looking at the contracts individually but as a conglomerate of players who are getting paid around market value. Using all-pros to measure if players are performing is ridiculous, as there are only a few elite players who can obtain that level. Just cause Mike Daniels doesn’t go all-pro does not mean he has a bad contract, do you really expect him to compete with Aaron Donald, Suh and other future Hall of Famers. Also, Randall Cobb and Clay’s deals are expiring with no long-term ties. If you look at the contracts individually I would say these ones are good or at least fair, A-Rod (Obviously), Davante (pro bowl), David Bakhtiari (all-pro), Mike Daniels (pro bowl), Graham (pro bowl with an easy out after year 1). The 3 underperformers are Cobb, Matthews, and Perry. Cobb and Matthews have expiring contracts while also still being strong contributors. Perry’s likely is a bad contract, but give these defenders a year under Pettine before you make all of these judgments, and at 12 million a year he has a lower cap hit than most elite rushers. All of these contracts also have outs for the packers. I wouldn’t blame the financial team, we just haven’t been able to hit on some of our recent draft picks that would provide more of the cheap depth that would help the defense. Calling this a crisis when we have 20 million in cap space seems drastic and most of the deals make sense.

    1. PF4L March 20, 2018

      Well…we’ll give Perry another year under Pettine. But i’m not so sure Pettine can keep Perry off the injury list 14 weeks like last season. what do you think?

      Yes, the Packers have out’s in contracts, the million dollar question is, why don’t they ever use them? Cobb’s production has taken a deep fall off a cliff since his big contract in 2015. Cobb has averaged under 5 tds a season since, and has averaged 693 yards a season. And all we had to pay him for that, is a little over 30 million. IDK….lets give him another year, he’s earned it, amirite?

      Yes, Graham has an “easy” out after one year, after we’ve paid him 13 million, and…carry over 7 mill in dead cap money later. Nothing easy about that.

      No Daniels doesn’t have to make All Pro. But making a play or two in the playoffs wouldn’t hurt, especially after mouthing off. What do you think?

      Nick Perry….almost 20 mill in dead cap money. No “out” there yet. Do you realize, that Perry has only played one season into his contract, and he’s already pocketed over 25 mill? Not bad cash if you can get it amirite?

      Is that looking at their contracts individually?

  3. Jimbo1 March 20, 2018

    TT is out so on to new targets? So please do tell who you would release and who you would replace them with. If Cobb, Mathews and Perry suck so bad who would yoh swap them with to improve the team and save money. Otherwise your point is meaningless.

    1. PF4L March 21, 2018

      None of us gets paid millions of dollars to figure that job out. But we still know when people have bad contracts, we still know when they’ve fucked the pooch in the draft for years.

      So how about, the guy that makes millions of dollars because that his his job, figure it out? And throw in the guy that gets paid do make sure that guy does his job well.

      Our point isn’t meaningless, fans that cry….”well, who would you get”…that’s meaningless.

      Or should we all just shut up and let the Packers brass do our thinking and follow them blindly? Seen and not heard?…fuck that.

  4. Jimbo1 March 20, 2018

    The Packers could cut Cobb and Mathews to gain $20 million in space would that be worth it? Who would replace them?

    1. PF4L March 20, 2018

      You can make the argument either way. But for me, i say replace them in a heartbeat, under all but one scenario.

      First, i think you need to look at what you’d lose in production against what your spending.

      Then, you have to figure what you will gain from the players taking those spots, assuming the new player filling in should have “some” good plays so there is a gain. Which therefore reduces your net production loss of those high priced players.

      Example: Cobb makes 10 million…Catches 4 td pass and 650 yards and gets 30 first downs.

      VS. New player who makes 400K to 2 million…. has 3 TD’s 540 yards, and gets 23 first downs.

      Your net production loss is minimal, but you’ve gained 8 million plus.

      The scenario to keep, is if you are on the cusp of going to the Super Bowl. The way i see it, that wouldn’t be an issue with this team.

      The NFL is the one major sport, that lets you get out of bad contracts. MLB and NBA owners would kill for that luxury. But even still, some NFL teams just keep paying, and paying, and paying, and…

      1. tupac March 21, 2018

        Do any of you ever take scheme into account! Your $2M replacement for Cobb only takes a rookie slot CB to cover, leaving Adams doubled every play. Your minimal net loss from Cobb just ruined the entire offense to the tune of 10 points a game.

        There are an intimate possible number of variables, the stat line is just one.

        1. PF4L March 21, 2018

          lol….I’ll take Ty Montgomery against a rookie slot corner, all day long.

          1. PF4L March 21, 2018


  5. Carl DeLuca March 20, 2018

    According to this analysis, it’s better to be a shit team like the Bears with more cap space. The biggest reason they have few big contracts is because they don’t have many good players.

  6. Eric March 20, 2018

    Also, the Rams had 6 all-pro, because of their punter, kicker, special teamer made all pro, so they really had 3 that actually mattered.

  7. PF4L March 20, 2018

    The Packers have 6 players at 10 mill plus, going buy the cap number. If you go by average per, they have 8 players.

    Jimmy G has a cap hit of 5.9, but a average of 10/year. Both can be misleading at various stages, but i think the average per is a better indicator, as cap numbers are manipulated so much.

  8. Empacador March 20, 2018

    If you remember correctly, Ted liked to have his little rainy day fund that was carried over year after year. They could have front loaded contracts by using that money, structured in a way that as the cap went up each year, those higher salaries would decrease each year. Instead of being a $15 million cap hit, they become an $11 or $12 million cap hit, gaining say $3 to $4 million salary relief to go along with the $10-$11 million per year cap increases teams have been experiencing for what, the last 5 years or so?

    If they only put that $5-$6-$7 million carried forward into one contract per year, and did it every year, they wouldn’t have to do multiple contracts. And they would still have the same 5 or 6 $10 million plus players they have now, but staggered. Every year they could potentially be gaining $10 million in salary cap relief with no cap hit. The Packers could have maintained some decent cushion, but that would involve more guaranteed money up front. I know, I know, crazy talk because then they wouldn’t have enough money left over to overpay their own free agents.

    The Vikings/Cousins model might very well be the future. Short and sweet, fully guaranteed. Short of something catastrophic due to serious injury happening, you aren’t gonna be bitching about Randy Cobb’s lack of production/living up to his contract 4 years after he signed his deal because it will be finished, not potentially a $3.25 million liability should they decide to cut him.

    1. PF4L March 20, 2018

      The problem is short and fully guaranteed contracts segue into long and guaranteed.

  9. Turbo March 21, 2018

    So the author has 2 recent articles. 1 complaining the packers may be rebuilding… and another bashing them for committing money to keep veteran players. Talk about un pleasable.

    There are a three competitive models in the NFL. The first team to look at is the Seahawks. The last 5 or so years they were a dominant team. Well then they had to pay the quarterback… and never hit their previous heights… currently selling off. Other teams in this position: The Rams (cheap qb relative to market, top d player in league underpaid) they are even considering Suh. The vikings… they can enjoy a year or two more before it implodes.. the same way the seahawks did. These are the “cycle” teams that catch some breaks… make some good moves… and have a relatively small window.

    Then you have the other type of teams the cornerstone qb teams… The packers, Falcons, Steelers. They are able to field competitive teams… have legitimate title chances any season if they can get some lucky breaks and avoid injuries. They tend to fluctuate in roster quality… but will generally retain core players for long periods even at slight overpays.

    Then you have your patriots.

    Also.. if you are going to complain about the packers cap management..you have made some contradictory points.

    #1- The three teams who “spend all their money on top players” were all playoff contenders last year. Weakness of the Roster or not… Pack are a playoff team with rodgers. Maybe the d plays better and suffers less injuries without 3 and outs galore.

    #2-YOu compare them to teams with “only one player making 10 million”…. yet fail to mention the two playoff teams… one being the titans have huge upcoming salaries to dish out… to mariota, Taylor LEwan, and next year malcolm butlers salary hits the stratosphere. The bills got in to the playoffs… then sold off their starting Q. They knew it was a fluke and did the right thing. The rest of the teams (with the exception of patriots handing the niners a franchise qb for literally nothing) are absolute trash top 10 perennial drafters. Ever think they dont have 10 million dollar players because maybe the players the draft suck and they dont retain them?

  10. R.Duke March 28, 2018

    The dead money on Perry…the overpay on Cobb…”we like our guys”….the Cook low-balling…the failure to get impact players on D…the Get Loud Lambeau Placard Holders as surrogates of Fans…What a long, strange trip its been…