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Packer Cap Issues Could Hamper 2021 Team

The Green Bay Packers made bold moves in 2019, signing a number of free agents. Brian Gutekunst sent the message, he would not be shackled by Ted Thompson’s philosophy of free agent restraint. There is no way Gutekunst and the rest of the Packer brain trust could have foreseen a Covid-19 pandemic. Nor could they have seen the drop in revenues that would sweep away packed stadiums and fan ticket opportunities . Well, the Packers are about to feel the pinch of that change in philosophy and just like this pandemic, it will not be pretty for Packer accountants or fans.

The Size of the Problem

Overthecap.com has the Packers projected as being $32,694,727 over next year’s NFL salary cap. Now, that is a projection, because the NFL has yet not set the cap for 2021. But everyone in the business knows that revenues dropped through the floor and into a cold, uninsulated basement when fans were banned from stadiums. How bad the damage is has not been officially announced, but Marc Ganis, co-founder of Sportscorp, a consulting group out of Chicago, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying the total losses were between 3 to 4 billion dollars. That averages out to between $90,357,500 dollars to 125 million dollars per team. The Packers, who rely heavily on fan revenue, could be one of the hardest hit.

Besides perhaps needing another stock sale, the Packers will need to drop significant salaries to eliminate 32+ million from their salary cap. To illustrate, take a look at Overthecap.com’s salary cap numbers for the top eleven salaried 2021 Packer players.


Player 2021 Salary Cap Salary Savings If Cut
Aaron Rodgers $37,202,000 $.  5,646,000
Z. Smith $22,000,000 12,000,000
Bakhtiari $19,297,059 ————
Adams $16,787,500 13,187,500
P. Smith $16,000,000 8,000,000
Amos $10,300,000 4,300,000
Turner $8,406,250 3,906,250
Kirksey $7,609,375 5,609,375
Clark $7,006,250 ————
Lowry $6,300,000 3,300,000
Wagner $6,000,000 4,250,000


After Wagner you drop to Mason Crosby at $4.5 million. As the numbers show, losing 32 million can’t be done without taking big hits. In addition, the salary is not what counts for the cap. Cap savings (simplified) is the difference between salary and future guaranteed money owed. The difference is defined as “dead money” because it does not give you salary cap relief.

To put a real world, real player name, perspective, on this is the only way to know how deep the cuts will be. First the cuts to players with high salaries cap savings that underproduced in 2020.

Player 2021 Cap Savings
Devin Funchess $1,265,625
Josh Jackson $1,333,104
Oren Burks $ 945,000
Dexter Williams $ 850,000
Christian Kirksey $5,609,375
P. Smith $8,000,000
Total: $. 18,003,104

Eliminating all of these players leave the Packers needing to cut around 14 million dollars in additional salary. If you cut Gary, Savage, Love, or Dillion, there is no cap relief. Eliminating Wagner and Lowry still leaves you with 6.5 million to cut. Jace Sternberger would give you $628,368 in relief. MVS would give an additional $2,183,000 in relief. St. Brown adds $850,000. Cutting their punter, J.K Scott would add $920,000. Long snapper Hunter Bradley would save $920,000. Mason Crosby’s cutting would save $2.5 million. Any way you slice it, you are cutting past the bone. One way around these cuts would be to cut Za’Darius Smith which would save $12,000,000.

These cuts are just part one of any plan the Packers have to target the correct number for cap relief but the Packers still need to field 53 players and their top 51 count against the cap. Plus, we haven’t even begun to talk about how dead money could impact 2022 if these cuts are made. I am not a cap guru but I can add and subtract. In 2021, the Packers salary cap counters, Russ Ball and company, will be mostly subtracting.

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) breaks away for a huge run in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Rams during their NFL divisional playoff game Saturday, January 16, 2021, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

Part two of the Packer plan outlined above would also require the Packers to cut loose every current free agent. Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Big Bob Tonyan, Corey Linsley, Lane Taylor, Marcedes Lewis, Kevin King, Montravius Adams, Tyler Lancaster, Chandon Sullivan, Will Redmond, Allen Lazard, Tim Boyle, Raven Greene and the list goes on.

Another way to reduce salary is trading high salary players for draft picks. But high salary player trades do not usually mean salary cap relief due to the acceleration of un-accrued signing and other bonuses. Besides Rodgers and Z. Smith, is there a Packer that could be traded for a high draft pick or picks?

Overthecap.com estimates 13 teams are at least 10 million under the cap. The Jaguars sit atop a 73 million dollar nest egg. The Colts and Jets top the Patriots which rounds out the top four teams. The Pats will have over 58 million, but they can’t get Brady back for that and Matthew Stafford apparently already vetoed them as a trade option. He won’t be the last free agent QB to feel that way. The Saints have the biggest problem with $120 million needed in cuts. That is two-thirds of the projected cap for 2021.

While the Packers are not facing the worst cap dilemma in the NFL, they are in the bottom five. That position could feel like the cold northeast winter winds off the Bay, making the chances of a 2021 title run about as likely as a smooth flowing Fox River.

Paul Edwards

Paul Edwards is a lawyer, victim advocate, writer, and long term Packer fan and Packer history enthusiast.



  1. Howard February 4, 2021

    I don’t think Over the cap or Spotrac have included a rookie pool dollar amount at this time. Every team has to set aside a pool of money to sign each years draft picks. I’m not sure what this years rookie pool will be for the Packers, but dollars will need to be added for the rookie pools for every team. The rookie pool will put the Packers in deeper salary cap red ink than currently stated.
    One way to help the rookie pool for the Packers would be to cut a player such as P. Smith before roster bonuses are due, and designate him a post June cut. The Packers could then save the 8 million on salary and split the other 8 million in dead cap between 2021(4 mil.) and 2022 (4 mil.). The Packers could not use the 4 million until after June 1, but after June 1 could sign 2021 draft picks using the 4 million. I believe teams are only allowed 2 designated post June 1 cuts a year.

  2. Tim H February 4, 2021

    This is not as bad of a problem as it seems. Restructuring contracts can save cap space as well. (Sorry if I’m spoiling your next article.)

    Cut P. Smith, Kirksey, Lowery, and Wagner. 2021 cap savings – about 21M

    Rodgers (3 years left) in 2021 has 15M in salary and 6.8M in a roster bonus. Extend him 1 year, and convert 20M to a signing bonus. 2021 cap savings – 15M

    Z Smith (2 years left) has 10.25M salary and 5.5M roster bonus. Extend 1 year, convert 15M to signing bonus. 2021 cap savings – 10M

    Convert D-Bakh’s (4 years left) 11M roster bonus to a signing bonus. 2021 cap savings – 8.25M

    Davante Adams (1 year left) 12.25M salary. Extend at least 3 years, convert 12M to signing bonus. 2021 cap savings – 9M

    Ther’s 63.25M saved.

    The draft class will only cost about2M toward the 51 spot cap, since they will replace other players who make about 750k each.

  3. PF4L February 4, 2021

    This isn’t really my forte but…
    These projections are a worse case scenario, that the NFL may or may not let happen.
    My guess is…they flatten out and reduce the cap in more mild parcels over a few years to lessen the hit.
    But…if they didn’t. To Rob or Howard…Couldn’t they redo a bunch of contracts before depleting the teams talent?
    Redo Rodgers, Z. Smith, Adams, Amos?
    I expect Kirksey to be gone where the Packers would gain 5.6 million.

    I think P. Smith might have been gone anyway to make room for Gary ( i think it’s about time) If they don’t think a 12th overall pick is a starter, then why draft him?
    So if they go with a 176 million cap, keep in mind that cap rises a projected 51.5 million in 2022.

  4. Pandabucks February 4, 2021

    Great, great, great article. I am so tired of Packer writers acting like this will be an easy offseason and Green Bay is still a serious contender. I just want to say, “Dudes, are you even looking at the numbers? Even if the NFL relaxes the cap some, we’re still in bad shape!”

  5. PF4L February 5, 2021

    rebelgb February 4, 2021
    I remember when rookies werent expected to help a team for 2-3 years. Now you people seem to think a draft will get you a SB that year. Rediculous. Can you point to what TB or Chief draft choice helped them get to the SB this year? I didnt think so.
    Tristan Wirfs..Tampa Bay Right Tackle….PFF grade: 82.2
    Games played: 16
    Games started: 16
    “I thought he should’ve been in the Pro Bowl,” head coach Bruce Arians said before the Wild Card round. “He’s a guy that’s given up one sack all season as a rookie
    Welcome back Rebel, thanks for participating

    1. PF4L February 5, 2021

      PF4L February 4, 2021
      It’s not just about drafting. But if you claim to have a goal of winning now, wouldn’t you draft players that can get on the field to help? Not draft 1st rounders two years in a row to sit on the bench?

  6. Howard February 5, 2021

    PF4L. I agree with you the NFL is going to do something to flatten the cap impact. The NFL wants to keep a quality product on the field. Maybe it is wishful thinking, but I think the final 2021 cap number is over 185 million.
    I like Tim H’s comment above. Tim lays out the different options very well. I would probably cut all the players Tim addresses and convert Bakhtiari’s 2021 roster bonus to a signing bonus. The rest of the extensions may not be needed, but if the Packers are going all in and Rodgers, Adams, and Z. Smith are in the Packers long term plans then do at least try and extend. It will obviously take both parties to extend those last three players.

    1. PF4L February 5, 2021

      Yep…Close enough…i figured about 190.
      Could be we find out shortly (1,2 days) after the Super Bowl, once they are officially through this season.

  7. Mick February 5, 2021

    No matter how much the salary cap gets reduced, Gute and Ball will need to be on their “A game” to keep this team in contention for the foreseeable future. If several starting players are released, or are leaving in free agency; the vision of how you draft really changes. Now you are forced to patch the holes that have just been created, not to mention the needs before these releases. With a tight cap; you are probably forced to fill holes with 2nd or 3rd tier free agents, again. Add in the possibility that some players may not want to re-negotiate, this is gonna be tough!

  8. PF4L February 5, 2021

    “When we went into the season, we weren’t talking about getting to the Super Bowl, we were talking about winning it again” – Patrick Mahomes

    1. Cheese February 10, 2021

      Meanwhile, Gute and Murphy are talking about how to get back the the NFCCG. Murphy even thinks the divisional round would be nice.

  9. Tim H February 5, 2021

    The 2021 cap figure will be a battle between the owners and the union. The owners will want to recover the 2020 loss ASAP; the union will want to spread it out. It may take some time to resolve, and uncertainty favors the owners. If everyone gets vaccinated, the stadiums should be full in 2021 and the shortfall will be a one-off event. Long term cap growth is driven by TV contracts and that won’t change. Restructuring contracts kicks costs down the road, of course, and may screw up previous plans. (The cap hits from Rodgers and Clark skyrocket in 2022, and the Pack will have to pay Alexander, Savage, and maybe Gary in later years.)

    Restructuring contracts requires the agreement of the player, of course. Most will be OK with an extension, bet Aaron might just try to exact concessions. Like input on draft choices.

    I’m personally looking forward the the Aaron Rodgers 2021 Beautiful Mystery Tour.

    1. PF4L February 5, 2021

      For some reason, i don’t think Rodgers is going to try to bully his way into the draft war room.

  10. PF4L February 5, 2021

    Britt Reid…RUH ROH
    Talk about putting a black cloud over your Fathers head on one of the best days of his career.
    I love Andy Reid, but at least 2 of his kids have been serious fuck ups and embarrassments for him and his wife.

    1. Mick February 6, 2021

      Not that there is a good time for a screw up to happen, but talk about screwing up at the most highly public event of the year. I feel bad for Andy, but this is gonna stain the whole Chiefs org! Not only that but, the media is gonna ride this like a 6 legged mule. Very irresponsible!

      1. PF4L February 6, 2021

        The media will do it’s job, reporting relevant storylines. It will no doubt leave a stain whenever it’s brought up. But it is, in no fashion, the media’s fault.
        Yea Mick…it’s a shame Reid has to have his Super Bowl Sunday turned over on his head.

  11. Mick February 6, 2021

    Feb 6th, Packers Wire reported the DC job was offered to Jim Leonard last night. and that he has turned it down. Leonards’ ties to Madison were strong, and that his desire is to stay at UW. So, the search continues!

    1. Howard February 6, 2021

      Reports are Joe Barry as new DC.

      1. KILLER February 6, 2021

        Historically, Joe Barry is an absolute nightmare. I almost can’t imagine a worse yet still plausible resume. Two horrific years with the Lions as DC including the infamous 0-16 year. He helped make that happen! Then, later, a couple 28th ranked defenses with the Redskins, two in a row and he was booted out done.

        People can learn and can change and he was just this year an assistant on the #1 defense (but not DC). Still, honestly, I am surprised he even got an interview let along the actual job.

        Maybe he’s a new man and maybe I’ll be stunned, but it looks — looks! — like a disastrous move. We won’t know in 2021. Defenses tend to coast off their previous coordinator for a year or two. The players did learn things and don’t just unlearn them. It takes some turnover. Bears were OK, at first, when Vic Fangio left. Then? They are busily declining. Same thing with the Bengals when Zimmer left. A year later about the same, the year after that, bad, then, cliff.

        We won’t know the result of Barry until 2022 at the earliest but I’m suspecting a 22-32 ranked D by 2024.

        1. PF4L February 6, 2021

          KILLER February 6, 2021
          Historically, Joe Barry is an absolute nightmare. Muck like my Minnesota Vikings quest of winning a Super Bowl for over the last 5 decades.

          1. PF4L February 6, 2021

            Who could argue.

    2. Skinny February 6, 2021

      Im back. Had to chime in on the DC announcement. I told you all earlier in the season if Pettine gets fired or leaves for whatever his reasons the only guy that can replace him is Jim Leonhard. That means if you’re the Packers you do whatever you gotta do to get him the building. More money, more responsibilities, etc. They didnt do that if he said no. Classic Packers, and now they have to settle for long time assistant/friend of the HC for the job. Man this is disappointing.

  12. PF4L February 6, 2021

    I don’t know Joe Barry from a banana. So as i do, i look at past performance.
    He was the Def. Co with the Lions in 2007, 2008
    Then was Def. Co for the Redskins in 2015, 2016
    Before i got into it, my first impression was he lasted 2 years each. That’s usually not a good sign.
    Then looking, i found his defense finished 32nd in both 2007, and 08.
    In 2015,and 16 with the Skins his defense finished 28th both seasons.
    I’m guessing that won’t be blowing many fans skirts up

    1. KILLER February 7, 2021

      I admit it, I am thrilled by the Packers’ choice for DC.

      32nd, 32nd, 28th, and 28th is pretty good, right?

    2. KILLER February 7, 2021

      32nd, 32nd, 28th, and 28th are good rankings, right?

      But seriously, as a Vikings fan I am thrilled with your hire for DC.

      1. PF4L February 7, 2021

        As a non viking fan, i’m thrilled the vikings offered you a job of cleaning and polishing the teams Lombardi trophies.
        When do you start?

        1. Kato February 11, 2021


  13. Howard February 6, 2021

    Barry doesn’t get me excited. Barry deserved to get fired in his second year as DC for the lions. Everyone gets fired when you go 0-16. The roster for the Lions was a mess.
    I would look more at the Skins to see if Barry can improve a defense. The Skins were 29th in opponent points per game average in 2014, the year before Barry took over. In Barry’s first year the skins defense ranked 19th, 2nd year 18th. The year after Barry left or was fired by the Skins, they went back down to 27th. It would appear that Barry helped make the Skins defense better.
    McVey and Barry were the coordinators for the Skins in 15 and 16. McVey brought Barry with him to the Rams as a linebacker coach and assistant head coach. That says McVey didn’t want to lose Barry to another team as a DC. The question to me is why didn’t McVey in four years make Barry the Rams DC? This year the Rams DC, Staley is hired as the new head coach of the Chargers. Staley hires Barry away from the Rams and makes him a pass game coordinator and linebacker coach. Why did Staley not hire Barry as his new DC? I don’t know that I like the answer to those questions.
    This is a big hire for LaFleur. I don’t think LaFleur messes it up. I guess we will see.

    1. Skinny February 7, 2021

      If Pettine was fired or left, whatever. You dont replace him with Joe Barry. LaFleur honestly can go home and look himself in the mirror after this move? Come on. Joe Barry? That was his back up plan? Hes full of shit if it was. What happened was the Packers again as they’ve been known to do in the past refused to pay up for the right guy.

  14. Mick February 7, 2021

    Joe Barry?????? There were quite a few people in this blog, including myself; that mentioned LaFleur should have the power to pick his own coaching assistants. I still believe in that process, but this hire has me scratching my head, just like Gutes’ drafting process. I like what Howard has stated above. Why would Staley offer the pass game coordinator and linebackers coach job to Barry, and not offer the DC job; especially when the two have worked together for 4 years? This tells me that Barry isn’t trusted to be the DC. Now, I try to put a positive spin on things, and I do believe in giving a guy a chance to prove himself; but this seems like a desperation hire. It is reported that LaFleur did all the interviews, and if this is true; this hire is all on Lafleurs’ shoulders!

    1. PF4L February 7, 2021

      Seems like a short list they were working with.
      Was it two prospects?
      If so, and the 1st one turns you down, you either, keep looking, or hire the last option.
      Should be interesting how they spin this to being positive, like they got their man.
      Maybe the positive is they go to a 4-3 and quit playing smoke and mirrors.
      Maybe even stop drafting tweeners.
      Let Preston Smith eat like he wants and play Def. End.
      Plus…that way Smith doesn’t have to go back and try playing back in coverage. Wish granted.

      1. Howard February 7, 2021

        I’m fairly certain that Barry can run a 4-3 as he was a position coach for Monte Kiffin. I’m not sure what defense Barry ran in Detroit as I burnt those tapes ;-). I was able to look at some game film of the Skins defense under Barry and he ran a base 3-4 defense.

      2. Mick February 7, 2021

        Depends on who is doing the reporting. I’ve heard there was 7 or 8 candidates at the start of last week. Then from another source, it was whittled down to 4, then to 3. Before Barry was selected, I heard it was between Barry, Leonard and Evero from the Rams. Then Packers Wire said the finalists were Evero and Leonard. Surprise, surprise, It’s Barry!

        1. PF4L February 7, 2021

          So, was Leonard interested enough in going through the interview process, or did he turn down LaFleur at the simple request of job interest?

    2. Howard February 7, 2021

      Mick to me it is interesting that young head coaches such as McVey and Staley want to have Barry’s experience and voice on the team, but don’t want to allow him to call defensive plays. McVey wanted to keep Barry on the staff and made it difficult for another team to sign Barry, by giving Barry the assistant head coach title. Staley to a lesser degree did something similar with the pass game coordinator title.
      Maybe Barry is like that public defender on My Cousin Vinny that sounds good, can make a good case, but has a speech glitch when put under pressure in front of an audience. ;-).

      1. Mick February 7, 2021

        Lol! Could be, I also heard that Barry has some traits of the Fangio defense that he runs from time to time. So, I guess we’ll find out down the road. Also, LaFleur has stressed the importance of rushing 4, and Barry having experience in both the 3-4 and 4-3 bases, might have swayed the coach in this direction. Word has it that he is really good LBs’ coach, and hopefully that comes to fruition with this defense.