This post mostly deals with “releasing” players who are still under contract with Green Bay beyond March of 2021. I’ll take up players who are about to become free agents in a separate post.
Packers players under contract past 2020 with the highest cap hits are: Aaron Rodgers (37.6M), Za’Darius Smith ($21.5M), David Bakhtiari ($19.3M), Davante Adams ($16.8M), Preston Smith ($16.0M), Adrian Amos ($10.05M), and Billy Turner ($8.03M). While Preston Smith is vulnerable, most analysts think the other six top-dollar guys are safe – though this is where contract restructuring is most likely to occur.
In a group with cap hits from $4M to $8M are: Christian Kirksey ($7.6M), Kenny Clark ($7.0M), Dean Lowry ($6.3M), Rick Wagner ($6.0M), Mason Crosby ($4.5M, and Rashan Gary ($4.3M).
Those with lesser salaries, who seem most likely to be released include: Devin Funchess ($2.4M salary cap); Josh Jackson ($1.99M), and Oren Burks ($1.15M). As for Funchess, consider this disloyal slacker gone. Enough time has been spent on trying to develop Jackson and Burks, second- and third-round draftees in 2018 – releasing them would reduce the team’s salary cap number by $2M or $3M – every little bit helps.
I would note that a team’s salary cap is based on the contracts of the top 51 players. As the 2020 season nears its expiration, the team has 61 players under contract. Fourteen players have cap hits of $780,000. The team’s fifty-first highest-paid player, tackle Zachary Johnson is in this group.
The question immediately becomes fairly simple: are there any players on the above lists that either are greatly overpaid versus how they performed in 2020, or have a backup(s) on the team who is less expensive and nearly as good.
After I had drafted this post, using “cap hits” as the primary reference, I saw that Packers Wire had published something similar, but using a unique calculation for “cap savings,” which is a much better measuring stick than cap hits. So, when I now refer to cap savings, credit Ken Ingalls and Packers Wire for those figures.
Foremost of those in the cross hairs for possible outright release would seem to be Preston Smith. Smith’s stat line on last season: 42 tackles, 4 sacks, 11 QB hits, 3 passes defended. In 2019, Smith had 56 tackles, 12 sacks, and 23 QB hits. In his 4-year contract, Preston Smith got a $16M signing bonus and a $16M guarantee. Ken tells us that releasing Smith would result in $8M in salary cap savings.
Someone else in the top-seven pay group who could be in some jeopardy is Billy Turner, who just finished the second year of his 4-year deal. His contract features a $9M signing bonus, a $9M guarantee, and an average annual salary of $7M – and his cap hit is $8.03M. Ken adds that a restructure for Turner could create up to $2.2-3.6 million in savings.
In that next 6-player group, with cap hits from $4M to $8M, I could foresee the Packers releasing Christian Kirksey, Dean Lowry, and/or Ricky Wagner – but probably all three. Against the Bucs, the team preferred Krys Barnes, with a club cast over his hand, over a healthy Kirksey. Ken says cutting Rick Wagner would free up $4.2M, whereas cutting Lucas Patrick would only free up about $2 million.
Adrian Amos has the team’s sixth highest cap hit, but Ken says cutting him would create a savings of only $4.4M. Amos arguably had his best year as a pro in 2020.
Another strong possibility for release is Dean Lowry ($6.03M cap hit). Consider his competing interior defensemen, and their PFF player grades and rankings among 130 NFL interior defenders: Kingsley Keke 69.1 and 46th ranking; Billy Winn 68.9 (unranked); Tyler Lancaster 66.4 and 61st; and Montravious Adams 63.1 (unranked). Lowry’s grade was 60.0, and his ranking was a dismal 81st. Ken says that letting Lowry go would only create $3.3 million in cap space.
There will be some options regarding the Packers O-line players. It is hoped that David Bakhtiari is back by mid-season, and that Lane Taylor will fully recover, and return as a starter, in 2021. If Elgton Jenkins is moved to center, Billy Turner and Lucas Patrick are retained, and Jon Runyon competes for a starting or top substitute job, the Packers might be able to manage losing Corey Linsley in free agency.
Ken says that cutting Lucas Patrick would save only $2M, so that is unlikely. Lane Taylor, after winning a starter’s job last season, is still recovering from a knee injury incurred on Week 1. He’s about to become a free agent.
The team has a surplus of tight ends. Robert Tonyan is a restricted free agent, so he will be retained. Marcedes Lewis had a salary of $2.25M in 2020, but I don’t believe much in the way of cap savings will be realized if he is let go.
The foursome of Tonyan, Lewis, Deguara, and Dafney makes up a potent group of tight ends. I think Deguara and Dafney have passed Jace Sternberger on the depth chart. No big cap savings are available from this group.
Interestingly, there is very little disagreement among analysts as to which players, across the league, are going to be the focus of cuts, restructures, or trades. I believe that this has much to do with Pro Football Focus’s player grading system, which has gained wide acceptance as an invaluable tool in assessing the worth of players.
Even if it means parting ways with some of their loyal foot soldiers, the Packers need to do all they can to retain their best players. Don’t be surprised if most of the following players depart in 2021: free agents Corey Linsley and Aaron Jones, and contracted players Devin Funchess, Preston Smith, Christian Kirksey, Dean Lowry, Josh Jackson, and Oren Burks. On the bubble are Rick Wagner and perhaps Billy Turner. That’s quite a haul, but not the end of the Packers’ world
Everyone agrees that restructuring of contracts will be attempted by most teams that have salary cap problems. While it is easy to guess who the Packers’ front office will be approaching (including Rodgers), there’s no way of knowing how receptive the various players will be to tampering with their wages. Restructuring usually involves by shifting some of the payments to the latter years of a contract. Sometimes it involves getting a player to agree to settle for less money than his current contract calls for.
Trades are of course always possible – we’ve already seen a glimpse of that with the Goff-Stafford deal.
If the Packers are somehow able to keep either Aaron Jones or Corey Linsley, I’d count that as a great blessing – but I doubt that it’s doable. The best hope is for the team and player to extend these existing contracts in the next few weeks – before these players actually enter free agency. If Jones departs, the Packers should get a third-round draft choice in 2022 as compensation – which helps ease the pain a wee bit. No compensation would be forthcoming if Linsley departs, as he is a 7–year NFL veteran.
The matter becomes a bit more complex for players who have an amount of pay contractually guaranteed by the Packers in 2021, whether or not the player is still on the roster. Many of the team’s best players are in this position.
Going by cap hits, I had estimated that releasing Preston Smith, Kirksey, Lowry, Jackson, and Burks would slash about $35M from its salary cap total. It is much more accurate, however, to go by a player’s cap savings, as did Ken of Packers Wire. In this case the savings of letting the above five players go is only about $20M. If Jones departs, there’s not much cap savings there, as he’s finishing up his cheap rookie contract. I’m not sure about the cap savings re Corey Linsley, though his average annual salary has been $8.5M.
The salary cap for the 2021 season will be announced before free agency commences. Until that is known, teams are in the dark about how much roster trimming they’ll have to do to get under the salary cap.
Next up: the 2021 free agency period will be a frenzy.
I find it mind boggling, that the Packers have 36 year old Mercedes Lewis under contract for 3 season….catching 28 passes for 302 yards and 4 TD’s during that time.
I know, i know….he’s a blocker…blah blah blah blah
15 seasons…32 TD’s
But home grown draft product Jordy Nelson his last 3 seasons….catches 248 passes for 3,506 yards and 33 TD’s, but all that GUTE can muster to offer this 33 year old is an insulting veteran minimum.
10 seasons…72 TD’s. Led the league in TD catches at age 32
You break up the NFL’s most lethal WR/QB tandem unless he accepts the veteran minimum? Brian Gutenkunst is an asshole.
I’ll give credit to when Gute makes a positive move, because i’m a stand up guy.
But i can’t, and won’t respect or like him.
Gute tried his hand recently at dealing with Rodgers in a certain way, but then something Gute didn’t expect to happen…. happened.
The 2nd highest QB rating in NFL history, and an MVP trophy.
“We don’t need a first and fourth round pick to help us win now….we have Jordan Love.” – Brian Gutenkunst
“I find it mind boggling, that the Packers have 36 year old Mercedes Lewis under contract for 3 season” “but all that GUTE can muster to offer this 33 year old is an insulting veteran minimum.”
Raiders paid Nelson nearly 11 mil for one season in which he caught 3 TDs in 15 games and then retired. It’s not an insult to not pay someone who is no longer a top player. Lewis’ salary last year was only 2.3 and is a TE. They’re not comparable.
Catching passes from Derrick Carr with one off season vs. nine years of chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. Not comparable.
Leading the league in TD’s with Rodgers immediately before having to deal with Brett Hundley. Not comparable.
Jordy was willing to take a pay cut to stay in GB. Instead Gute gave him a slap in the face offer that even a stand up guy like Nelson couldn’t accept. Good thing they signed Jimmy Graham to do next to nothing for a boat load of cash.
“Raiders paid Nelson nearly 11 mil for one season in which he caught 3 TDs in 15 games and then retired.”
Yep…and Graham was paid 13.2 million for 2 TD’s in 2018
….and Randall Cobb was paid 9.2 million in 2018 for 2 TD’s
This concludes today’s lesson.
“If Jones departs, there’s not much cap savings there…” “I’m not sure about the cap savings re Corey Linsley, though his average annual salary has been $8.5M.” The cap savings on free agents is 0. Their average salary is irrelevant. They are not under contract; therefore, no savings.
“No compensation would be forthcoming if Linsley departs, as he is a 7–year NFL veteran.” This is not true. https://overthecap.com/the-basics-and-methodology-of-projecting-the-nfls-compensatory-draft-picks/ ‘Players who have ten or more accrued seasons may only yield a maximum of a 5th round compensatory pick, even if their actual value would otherwise be assigned higher.’ That is why Bulaga is likely netting the Packers a 5th this year.
“I think it’s about time we find out the name of Rodgers fiancé so we have someone to blame for the Packers not getting to the Super Bowl” – Mordecai
I’m with you PF4L! Steven A. Smith hit the nail right on the head 5 years ago, again 2 years ago, and still today; when he says——” the problem in GB is upstairs” .” How the hell do you justify paying big money to a franchise Q-back, a record setting Q-back; and not provide him the necessary talent to succeed? ” As many people in this blog have stated before—–Gute is in over his head!
By the way;;;;; good article Rob!
Did you see me write that this morning on a different site about that quote from Stephen A?
Because if you didn’t, it’s a hell of a coincidence.
February 07, 2021 at 09:29 am
Apologize to Rodgers, not us.
“Don’t be disrespectful!!” – Stephen A. Smith.
“The world would be a better place if intelligence and wisdom could be store bought” – PF4L
Seeing now its being reported Barry wasn’t even LaFleur’s choice. Front office again fucking around it looks like. Fire everybody on the Packers board. Those egotistical bastards dont deserve this power.
Peter Bukowski. Very inside with Packers information. They wanted Leonhard but they fucked him on salary so he said no thanks. Just terrible.
I appreciate the name.
But instead of playing hide and seek, can you source where to find it.
Maybe i should have been clearer with my request as to where it was reported.
Hint: It will be where you read it.
I haven’t seen anything on that. If it is true, it wouldn’t surprise me that MM dug his fingernails into somewhere they don’t belong.
Yea…when you ask where it was reported…and the answer is just a name? Is that not a flag? Like …am i supposed to chase his articles and social media down until i find it?…lol
I didn’t ask “who reported it”?
I asked…”Where it was reported”
Somebody needs to improve their reading skills.
So far….i call bullshit
It would be easy for me to agree with skinny’s statements simply because i’m not a fan of the front office.
But i don’t do easy. I need real facts to voice an opinion.
Fiction…doesn’t live in my sports world.
Rob, good article. I could be wrong as the new CBA may have changed the rules, but I believe the Packers would receive a compensatory pick for Linsley. Linsley is an unrestricted free agent as is Jones, Williams, and Lewis so there is no cap saving for those players. There could be compensatory picks for those players (Lewis excluded) depending on the terms of new contracts with other teams. I think the Packers try and resign or extend Williams if the price is right.
I have never heard about the 7 year rule for compensatory picks.I believe the rule is as follows:
“if a UFA who has 10 or more Accrued Seasons leaves for another team, they can only net you, at best, a Round 5 compensatory pick, even if the player is strong enough that you’d normally get a Round 3 or 4 pick. The exception to this exception is quarterbacks, for whom you can still get full value (that’s why Brady netted the Pats a Round 3 compensatory pick).”
Linsley has only 7 Accrued seasons so the Packers would not get docked in any compensatory pick status for Linsley.
Good follow-up Howard, I second your opinion. I would expect the Packers get a 3rd round compensatory pick for Jones, and a 3 or 4 on Linsley, depending on free agent spending across the league. This season I anticipate they receive a 4,5, and 6 for the 2021 draft: Martinez, Bulaga, and Fackrell. Good call on Bulaga as he had only 5 complete games played this season due to injury.
Go Bears! Trade for that stiff Wentz!!! He leads the league in turnovers, reminds me of someone…he used to be on a “Reality” show with a hot babe that is now banging some comedian a few weeks after they broke up. Wentz is the perfect add to that dysfunctional team.
Congrats to the Bucs, Brady, Bruce and especially the defense, you are what i’ve said you are.
On a larger scale….Congrats to the NFL on a full season, their NFL Covid Protocols, 32 teams, and all the personnel around them.
Very well done.
The Bucks brought in a QB , we had one.
The Bucks brought in the players he wanted, we didn’t.
Congratulation to the whole Bucks organisation.
When I heard the Chiefs’ lost both of their starting OTs’ before the super bowl, I thought they were toast. Hell, that Bucs D is a handful against a starting quality OL , let alone a patchwork group. I figured the Bucs would win by two scores; turns out, it was a blowout. Mahomes, much like Rodgers, can only do so much without a quality OL. Send all the defensive coaches to Tampa to learn how to play aggressive, but smart defense. Then, send MM and Gute down there to confer with their GM on how to acquire talent. Sorry for the sarcasm; but I was trying to make a point.
An Associated Press reporter found himself alone with Brian Gutenkunst at the Super Bowl.
Reporter: Brian…looking back in retrospect, do you wish you had drafted for immediate need vs a QB for the future?
B. Gutenkunst: Are we starting with the hard questions first?
Reporter: Well…do the best you can Brian.
B. Gutenkunst: Ok thanks….i’ll pass
Reporter: Well Brian, let me rephrase the question then. Both LaFleur and yourself have expressed your opinion that Rodgers will be here for some years to come. Would your resources have been better spent drafting players that could play now?
B. Gutenkunst: That question isn’t any easier. Did anyone from the Packers approve these questions?
Reporter: How about we just move on.
B. Gutenkunst: That sounds good, i want to answer but i’d like to confer with Mark Murphy before i do. He has final say around Green Bay.
Reporter: Ok, moving on….Is it true that 7 months before the 2020 draft you flew out to scout Jordan Love playing against LSU and spent a fair amount of time on the phone getting feedback on Love from his old coaches? Some people speculate that Love was your guy going into the draft, especially trading up for him.
B. Gutenkunst: So we’re staying on the same subject?
B. Gutenkunst: Well…let me be clear, for the record, just so there is no misunderstandings i’ll say this. I knew who Jordan Love was before the draft.
Reporter: Ok, thanks for that insight. Lets switch gears for a bit
B. Gutenkunst: Thank you!
Reporter: Is the power structure the same as when you were hired, does everything still have to be approved by Mark Murphy, or can you and LaFleur now make changes without his approval?
B. Gutenkunst: Russ Ball also has input, he’s 2nd in charge with all his new fancy shmancy job titles. But i can tell you this much, to answer your question with complete accuracy i’ll have to get back to you on this.
Reporter: I have an easier one for you. How’s the 2021 draft shaping up for?
B. Gutenkunst: It’s been fantastic! We already know who we’re picking in the first round.
Reporter: May i ask who?
B. Gutenkunst: Well, i can’t give you a name, but we will outsmart every other team out there. We have our eye on a long snapper that we really believe can be a very capable corner in this league. With about 3 years development he should be a starter that we think can shut down the other side of the field.
Reporter: Isn’t that a long time to wait to get a 1st round pick on the field?
B. Gutenkunst: We’re not afraid of having a top pick develop for 3, or 4 years when we think….he’s our guy. I’ll trade up for him if i have to.
Reporter: Ok, thanks, that should do it. Congrats on the season.
B. Gutenkunst: Thanks…i did what i could.
According to a Dutch news site ( the same that spoiled the outcome of the NFC champions game) Aaron Rodgers is engaged to actrice Shailene Woodley. There you have it.
Packer scout Sam Seale, the same cud chewing scout who went to visit Jordan Love with Gutenkunst.
August 01, 2020 at 01:13 pm
My question is what the Packers do to check on college players before they draft & sign them. Do they even bother…….”
Reporter: What is Cole Madison like to talk to? (3.07)
Seale: i haven’t talked to him.
Cory’s Corner: Joe Barry Needs Defensive Weapons
Defenses can still win championships
YES!!!…….After using the 1st 3 picks for offensive players to help us win a Championship in 2021
Can we get back to drafting for defense? We’ve been doing it since 2012 and…..we’re not finished yet.
You can never have enough corners, ilb’s and D-lineman….Lets do this!
You can never spend enough money on 3 def. players in free agency at one time…154 million
Enough attention has been given to the offense, receivers and O lineman, isn’t that what UDFA’s and 5th – 6th round picks are for?
Can we finish building the defense we started building in 2012?
Mel Kipers Mock Green Bay Packer defensive completion date……2029
That’s the end result when you don’t address the obvious needs on your team, instead; you are always looking for the best player available, or the gem in the latter rounds of the draft. We’ve heard myths like he was a great value at that spot in the draft. Maybe he was, but did that pick help to fix your obvious need. Throw in moronic statements like Gutey made following the end of the Packer- 49er CG when he stated “we don’t look at one game when we make personnel decisions to improve our team” WHAT? The 9ers just showed the whole league what this Packers team was lacking. And still, you don’t do a GD thing to place a priority on those obvious needs. I understand you upgrade your team thru the draft for the present, with an eye towards the future. Somehow, someway; this isn’t the way the Packers do business. That is why the team keeps coming up short against quality competition. It’s the reason it will keep happening that way, if things don’t change. This is also the result of the Packers not having a PROVEN FOOTBALL MAN , as GM. A more in depth look at the 2020 draft is proof of that. I know every team has its’ screw ups in handling and acquiring talent. But, this organization seems to have more than their fair share of over evaluating talent, and in even worse; over paying for them. Also, this team is really good at over reaching for players with valuable early round picks, and sometimes; giving up even more for unproven prospects that won’t see the field in the near future, if they develop at all. CONCLUSION; This is Murphys’ world; and as fans, we all live in it!
We had people stay in positions longer than they should have.
We had someone in charge who wasn’t/didn’t want to pay attention to what was going on around him.
We had too many bad draft picks and too many draft conversion projects.Thus setting the team back.
Then when a move was demanded, it was finally made.
2018- present…the story is still being written.
It probably wouldn’t hurt to discuss all the ramifications of Rodgers getting a new contract, how it effects the team, the player, the cap, and potential teams trading for him down the road..
There is a world of difference for the Packers in restructuring Rodgers contract, or leave it as is. If the Packers restructured, it will contain guaranteed money, which “could” make it trade prohibitive if they want to move on as they planned. Thereby almost…guaranteeing that Rodgers is here for the long haul. Meaning, playing through the 2023 season, at a minimum.
Why that’s important…..if Rodgers were to play through 2023. Loves 4 year rookie contract is up and the Packers would need to decide whether to exercise his 5th year option at approximately 20 million a year (projected).
This isn’t a nuts and bolts analysis, just a topic idea. If restructuring Rodgers deal does indeed happen, it will be sooner rather than later. It will include numerous pro’s and cons…for anyone involved, or potentially involved down the road.
It may seem like Rodgers has all the leverage. No doubt he has some, but not all of it. Make no mistake….the Packers could play hardball and do nothing. And although he may not show it, the Packers would have one pissed off QB on their hands.
The worst case scenario for the Packers, Rodgers gets injured bad, forcing them to play Jordan Love.
Rodgers says fuck it, i made my money, and retires. Forcing them to play Jordan Love.
I’m pretty sure Rodgers could get a hobby…a gravy TV gig for 10 plus million year. Flying around the Country in a private jet with your fiancé for 20 weeks out of the year. Eating at America’s best restaurants on your expense account while making millions. Having people address all your needs with….”Yes Sir”. I could think of worse ways of making a living.
Or…..just globetrotting around the world as is his passion.
Although it isn’t my first choice, if Rodgers retired this year in training camp, i’d have a shit eating grin on my face looking forward to watching Gutes vision of Jordan Love starting. Karma is a bitch.
Sure it would suck being a Packer fan without Rodgers at QB. But the truth is, i might be happier than watching this shit since 2011.
However it happens….the end is near.
The moves that are gonna be made this off season is going to determine the future of this team, not only in 2021; but years beyond. At what point does management draw the line as far as making Rodgers happy and content? If they pay him more, and or, extend his deal; will he be happy with less talent on the team? If he has less talent on next years team, gets sacked more, or worse, injured for the year; the team is in serious trouble. Will he then, want to be traded. Rodgers value will never be higher than right now coming off his MVP season, considering his age. If they pedaled him in a trade, it will be even less popular than the corona virus. Most fans might line up for therapy. Therefore, how they handle Rodgers, is critical and I’m glad I’m not making those decisions. We’ll see what management has up their sleeves.
Hmmm…..Draw the line? Rodgers isn’t the problem on this team, he’s been the team’s real hope for over a decade. He’s been their largest asset. Whoever comes in 2nd…it’s a distant, distant, distant second.
The biggest detriment to being able to improve this team, would be not re-working Rodgers contract.
Wherever the cap lands, regardless of Rodgers deal. This team is going to lose players…period.
I’ll say it again…5 of the top 8 highest salary caps, comes from Gutes free agents. When you spend 182 million in a week, that money has to be accounted for.
If the Packers don’t want to re-work Rodgers deal, the writings on the wall, this is his last year. I’m cool with that
That just gives me two things to look forward to in 2022.
1) Watching Gute implement his vision.
2) Seeing how Rodgers does with his new team.
Rodgers could leave the Packers today and i’d be fine with it. We had a good run of HOF QB’s and i appreciate that in it’s
historical significance. No therapy needed.
I agree with you, Rodgers isn’t the problem on the team. The problem lies upstairs, and we’ll see what comes of it.