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Salary Caps, Part Five: Gutekunst Has Few Options for Getting Under the Cap

Regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its effect on the salary cap, the Packers were going to be in a pickle this month.

The crisis that the Packers are days away from resolving dates back to March 14, 2019. On that day, new General Manager Brian Gutekunst inked contracts with four free agents totaling $183 million. The repercussions of those daring deals are being keenly felt at the moment, and will continue to affect the team for at least the next two years.

While some might now be questioning Gutekunst’s deal-making, it’s hard to conceive of the Packers playing in two consecutive NFC championship games without the services of Adrian Amos, Billy Turner, and the Smiths.

The fact is that Gutey had and has very few alternatives in getting from about $30 million over the cap to under the cap. It was clear that he had to release Christian Kirksey and Rick Wagner, just like he’ll have to do to Preston Smith. At this point no one believes that Corey Linsley will still be a Packer in a couple weeks. The same is almost sure to happen to Dean Lowry, Josh Jackson, and the semi-retired Devin Funchess.

It’s also clear that contracts of some of the team’s top six or so earners still need to be restructured. To date, there’s been just one such adjustment, to David Bakhtiari’s deal, which freed up about $8.3 million. Two or three similar deals might still be forthcoming.

The Great Unknown

The only significant salary cap cliffhanger is the fate of Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones. Most forecasters originally didn’t see a way for Green Bay to retain him, but the league’s announcement that this year’s salary cap would be a minimum of $180M gave fans of Jones a glimmer of hope.

In the past few days, both Gutekunst and Jones himself have indicated they are trying mightily to keep Jones in Green Bay – even if only for one more year via the franchise or transition tag. Whether this happens might well hinge on what the salary cap for 2021 ends up being. We’ll find out by March 9 if the Packers use the tag on Jones or anyone else.

In view of recent comments, my belief now is that Jones will remain with the team for at least one more season. If the tag is not employed, the only way I can see the Pack keeping Jones would be to first release Billy Turner. Should it come down to that difficult choice, I’d elect to keep the running back, as it is the more impactful and game-changing position.

Once it is known whether Jones can be re-signed, there will be some other adjustments to be made, but I think that retaining Jones would give the team its best chance of reaching the conference championship for a third straight time under Matt LaFleur. The Packers should do whatever it takes to open the season with Jones and A.J. Dillon in the backfield next to Rodgers.

Should the Packers retain Jones, that choice could quickly have repercussions on about a half dozen current Packers: Jamaal Williams (if Jones stays, he goes), Lane Taylor, Marcedes Lewis, Oren Burks – maybe even Mason Crosby. It could even lead to trading Jordan Love, though I can’t imagine Gutekunst taking such a step so soon after making that chancy investment.

Salary Caps, Part Four: Can Restructuring Save the Day for Green Bay?

Salary Caps, Part Three: Shall We Sign Up Some More Stars

Salary Caps, Part Two: Cap Hits and Cap Savings

Rob Born

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



  1. Howard March 8, 2021

    If the Packers tag Jones, and I think they should if they have no other option, it does not mean the Packers will be able to keep Jones. If the Packers use the exclusive franchise tag then yes they lock up Jones, but I think the exclusive franchise tag will cost more than the little over 8 million that has been discussed. The non-exclusive franchise tag may be a little over 8 million for Jones. The non-exclusive doesn’t stop a team from offering Jones a contract that the Packers can’t match. Would the Packers receive two #1 picks? I don’t think so, but they would probably receive at least one high pick for Jones. We should not forget Rosenhaus is Jones’s agent and Rosenhaus will get Jones out of Green Bay if it means Jones can get a much larger contract and signing bonus elsewhere.
    In news this morning, the NFL may extend the last day for teams having to put in franchise and transition tags. The extension would be required because the NFL has not finalized the 2021 salary cap number.
    Tonyan is the other salary cap cliffhanger. Just like Jones no matter what RFA offer the Packers make, 2nd or 1st round, another team can sign Tonyan to a long term contract and I don’t think the Packers will be able to match the contract offer.
    The only way that both Jones and Tonyan remain Packers is the Packers work out extensions with both prior to free agency. The only way I see the Packers tagging Jones and offering Tonyan a first round RFA tender is for Rogers and/or Adams to receive contract extensions.

    1. Mick March 8, 2021

      Ya, you may be right Howard. I’m thinking it all depends on if Gute sticks to his plan of winning now, or prepping for the Love era. We will get an idea when the draft rolls around, as his picks there, and what he does in FA will tell the tale.

  2. Mick March 8, 2021

    It’ll be interesting to see what transpires with A. Jones. He is a special back with great instincts and speed, but at what cost do you draw the line; especially in this covid situation with the cap. If they retain him, I agree there will be repercussions; Williams and Burks would be gone. However, Lowry, Jackson, Sullivan, Redmond and King should be looked at if they’re worth keeping at their price also. Maybe Barry has ideas on some of those players, but, until we see improvement from those players; they all could (should) be expendable. Then again, you really take a hit in the depth dep’t. Thoughts,,,,,,, Gute?

  3. PF4L March 8, 2021

    It’s a big G D mess is what it is……
    No matter how you slice it, when it’s all said and done, they will be losing talent, and depth.
    They also will be relying on the draft more than ever this season. What i mean is….Gute will be drafting for players he hopes can play…and quick. The same thing they were relying on in the latter stages of Teds reign. They slowly transformed from draft and develop, to having to rely annually on the success of the draft class.
    Gute didn’t draft that way last season, but he will be this season. I’m a bit surprised that the article didn’t mention King. I believe that corner position is the most dire need. To make things worse we have no back ups with any potential to replace King.
    I’ll go to my grave believing two things. King is largely responsible for the failings of the Packers in the NFCCG, and….King has no business being a starting cornerback. He’s a liability…plain and simple.
    If that hasn’t already been proven, nothing i can say will change your mind.
    Rob mentions going to a 3rd NFCCG this season. It’s possible.
    But lets examine the reasons the Packers went to the last two.
    Just my opinions……
    1) Aaron Rodgers…wasn’t MVP. but certainly wasn’t horrible considering a 1st year offense and no #2 receiver
    2) Aaron Jones…19 TD’s…picking up the slack in a huge way of not having anyone proven except for Adams.
    3) The defense improved 6 points in scoring a game. that’s large in one season.
    4) Strength of opposition schedule was weak. Got lucky, didn’t have to play MVP Patrick Mahomes.
    1) Aaron Rodgers…MVP
    2) LeFleur, Hackett and Rodgers…Increasing offensive scoring by 8 points a game….in one season.
    3) Aaron Jones and Robert Tonyan- 22TD’s……Adams…18 TD’s
    4) Strength of opposition schedule was weak, again. Lets keep it real, Tennessee looked like they never saw snow before and didn’t have a clue.
    Why they lost those games is a different animal, another day perhaps.
    I’ll look forward to clarification on Franchise tag cost….i saw on NFL Network RB was 8.1 million. They (i) could be wrong i guess.
    Nice write up Rob, good to see ya again.
    Next time you want to take 2 weeks off, please clear it with Mick first.
    We were worried :)

  4. Skinny March 8, 2021

    Pack gonna owe Rodgers 100 mil for a season with this Dak news. 75 fucking mil for one season of Dak? How in the fuck can Jerry look anyone in the eye in that organization? Jerry kicking in his oil money? Seriously, someone ask Murphy in those Q and A he does how much we have in the sled hill account. We’re gonna need it.

    1. Mick March 9, 2021

      Wow! Report has it that Prescott signed a 4 year deal worth 160 mil; possibly worth up to 164 mil. Some where in California, Rodgers is sitting back, reclining in his easy chair, sipping scotch; and thinking hhhhmmmmm! Meanwhile, back at 1265 Lombardi Ave, the Packers brass is thinking——- OOOHHHH SHIT!

      1. Howard March 9, 2021

        Below is a link that shows Prescott’s contract. The contract is for 6 years for cap purposes. The Cowboys have Prescott tied up for only 4 years. The Cowboys needed the extra 2 years to reduce the salary cap hit on at least the first two years of the contract. The Cowboys are now just barely under the cap. Several teams that go “all in” are putting voidable years in contracts for certain players. I would be surprised to see the Packers do such, but with certain players it may show an all in attitude by the Packers.

        1. Mick March 9, 2021

          OK, I was just going by what the morning talking heads were talking about Daks’ contract. There was no mention of the 6 years in the deal. I should have looked a little deeper into it,,,,, my bad! Thanks Howard.

          1. Howard March 9, 2021

            Mick, everything you wrote is correct and as reported. Agents love to show how much money they procured for their client. 40 million a year for 4 years. The only problem is the salary cap restraints require the Cowboys or team to spread those costs over 6 years, even though they only have the player for 4 years. Prescott is really getting 160 million in 4 years. The Cowboys just have to pay for those 4 years in a 6 year time frame.

          2. PF4L March 9, 2021

            It looks like a 4 year contract that financially spills over into the 5th year.

          3. Howard March 9, 2021

            The Cowboys have the 6th year so they could potentially restructure/push out Prescott’s 2022 base salary. The Cowboys know they have salary cap problems next year. It is no wonder based on some of the contracts the Cowboys have entered into the last few years.

      2. PF4L March 9, 2021

        Mick….i’m not so sure sticking it to the Packers is Rodgers angle in wanting a new deal.
        I think it has more to do with guaranteed money (commitment) to end his career here.
        That’s not to say he won’t get a raise, but i would like to think that’s not his objective now, even in light of Daks deal.
        I understand greed is sometimes human nature, but i have long wondered, how much….is enough for some of these guys?
        If Rodgers plays out his contract, he will have earned 315 million from the Packers. Not counting his endorsement income or investments.

        1. Mick March 10, 2021

          I agree Rodgers main objective is commitment and security. He has mentioned repeatedly the need for more talent at WR and other areas on the team. Now, he might be facing the probability of losing A. Jones, a real cog in that offense. My comment above, OOOHHHH SHIT; is aimed at the Packers brass. Meaning the FO might now have to cave in and provide AR with the help he has been wanting;;;; to help keep him happy. After all; I’ve never heard him complain about his contract, or money for that matter; but he has been hinting that more talent is needed to put this team over the hump. We all know winning another SB would make him happy.

  5. Howard March 9, 2021

    So Funchess is taking a pay cut? I think that will be the first of many salary related Packer news items coming out today.

    1. PF4L March 9, 2021

      I think the NFL is giving the teams an extra day to report tags. I’m not sure if that includes extending the league year by a day, it might.

      But i’m typing blind as i haven’t read anything about the NFL other than here, and down the hall 3 doors on the left.

    2. PF4L March 9, 2021

      Looking at Spotrac, it looks to me the Packers paid Funchess 1.2 million last year.
      Am i missing something there Howard?

      1. Howard March 9, 2021

        I thought the same. It was my understanding the 1 million dollar signing bonus was paid last year plus some other minor costs. 1.2 looks close to me. The original contract amount was 2.5 million with some performance incentives.
        My question when I saw the 750,000 cut was isn’t the six year veteran yearly minimum more than $550,000?
        2.5 million – 1.2 million equals 1.3 million. Minus 750,000 pay cut equals 550,000. Something doesn’t totally add up.

        1. PF4L March 9, 2021

          It looks like the 6 year vet minimum last season was $910,000. 7+ years is a hair over a million.
          I think he might have gotten the signing bonus, a $50,000 workout bonus (not sure he worked out, but ok).
          Then they gave players $150,000 who opted out. So there is 1.2 million.
          I don’t know how his pay cut effects the minimum in the eyes of the NFLPA, i don’t have a clue.
          What i don’t understand is, $750,000 doesn’t exactly move the needle much in salary cap relief.
          Did he he offer it, or did they tell him he was going to be cut if he didn’t accept it?
          I’m guessing the latter.

          1. Mick March 10, 2021

            Yup, I’m guessing it’s the latter also. After all, the man hasn’t played a snap in almost 2 years a/c injury and covid. That, and the fact he received very little attention last year in FA.

  6. PF4L March 10, 2021

    I can’t believe the Packers wouldn’t franchise tag Jones at 8 million.
    I mean….is it too much money for him, has he not earned it and then some?…..Gute?
    “Jones, 26, is one of only two players in NFL history to post 3,000-plus yards rushing (3,364) and 35-plus rushing touchdowns (37) with an average of 5-plus yards per carry (5.2) in their first four seasons. Jim Brown is the other.” – Rob Demovsky
    Whatever happened to we take care of our own?….Murphy?

  7. Howard March 10, 2021

    Tampa bay is currently about 3 million over the cap, mainly because they put the franchise tag on Goodwin. TB yesterday also signed Lavonte David to a 2 year 25 million dollar contract with 20 million guaranteed. David’s contract is not included in the salary cap totals for TB yet. TB will be well over the cap once David’s contract is finalized, or will it? So how can TB sign David to a 2 year 25 million dollar contract? TB gave David a 2 year contract with 3 additional void years. So the contract payment length is really for 5 years.
    I have wrote about voidable years before including what the Rams did with Leonard Floyd last year. To me TB is going “all in” with the contract to David, while they still have Brady. Until I see the Packers sign quality veteran player(s) with voidable years I don’t think the Packers are going all in while they still have Rodgers. Maybe Russ and Murphy have a more genius plan to go all in besides voidable years, but I have not seen it yet.

    1. PF4L March 10, 2021

      I don’t need veteran signings w/voidable contracts to determine if the Packers are all in.
      When they spend multiple high draft picks on players they won’t even use, or will use as bench players, that tells me all i need to know.

  8. PF4L March 10, 2021

    Plus…because of the fact the Packers will be up tight against the salary cap this year, that is also NO indication they went all in.
    It’s an indication of Covid and it’s effect on the cap.
    As i’ve done the past 7 years, i’m biding my time with my favorite team in the world.
    Until they can rid themselves of the cancer left in the front office.
    If anyone wants to point out the fact that the team has been successful lately with two Division Banners and two NFCCG appearances, that is your right, have at it.
    People often say a team is a SB contender. You can’t contend for a SB, if you can’t get to a SB. Once you reach the SB, you are THEN, contending for a SB.
    I often said during the season, the Packers have to “prove it”. Meaning…winning an NFCCG.
    NOBODY…should ever brag that their team went to, and lost two NFCCG’s. that is a losers mentality.
    Could you imagine Vince Lombardi ever bragging about that? Me neither.
    My viewpoint is they “peaked” winning two Division playoff games in two seasons with one of the best QB’s of all time in NFL history.
    There are no trophy’s given for losing two NFCCG’s, no banners, not even a t-shirt.

    1. Mick March 11, 2021

      We’ve often heard Ron Wolf saying his greatest regret about being the GM in GB, was not providing Favre with enough help at the WR position during his tenure. You would think that the former GM, and the current GM would have put 2 & 2 together and learned from Wolfs’ mistake. You would think that since the NFL game has changed to a passing league, that WR is a premium position in the game. You would think that with the rules favoring the offenses, and rules hampering the defenses, that WR would be a priority on any offense. You would think that with the rules protecting the QB, rules favoring high scoring games; that WR would be an attractive addition to the team. The last WR Green Bay took in the 1st round, was Javon Walker back in 2002. We’ve had 29 years of stellar QB play and only 2 SB wins to show for it. Now, not acquiring top talent at the WR position is the only reason for the NFCCGs’ loses; but they can’t seem to solve the defensive woes either. They spend and spend draft picks on players that can’t seem to grasp a starting role, or picks that ride the bench, and hardly ever place a premium on obvious needs. So; if that’s Gutes way of going all-in; they don’t even deserve the T-shirt! CLUELESS!

      1. PF4L March 11, 2021

        I won’t go so far to say the last NFCCG loss is due to not having a receiver. I’m also not saying it couldn’t have made a difference.
        What i’m saying is there were 3, maybe 4 really bad plays giving up 21-28 points on defense caused by two players.
        The (maybe) fourth play i’m thinking of is the 20 yard Fournette TD run where Amos just wiffed. I say maybe because, they might have scored regardless.
        Ron Wolf and Brett Favre are a unique situation and relationship.
        Ron Wolf can’t speak highly enough of Favre. Favre is almost the same in regard to Wolf.
        It seems likes Wolf speaks like he wouldn’t have reached his legacy of success without Favre. The same the other way around.
        Both might be true to an extent, but…it’s not that simple.
        I think it may be plausible most of the credit goes to Mike Holmgren.
        Favre was delivered to Holmgren as a raw, alcoholic, goof off.
        I think Holmgren had to provide being a teacher, mentor, and life coach to Favre during that time, also a football coach.
        Not to mention….having the patience of an angel.
        It took a few days to trade for Favre. It took years to mold him into a NFL QB.
        Favre’s interceptions…might have been Holmgrens lone failure with him.

  9. Howard March 12, 2021

    Tampa Bay signs Brady to a four year contract extension. The final three years are void to spread out payments, and allow Tampa more cap space this year. Tampa Bay is “all in” this year. Will the Packers try and keep up by extending certain player contracts and/or signing quality veteran free agents and using voidable years in the contracts?

    1. Mick March 12, 2021

      I’m guessing the Bucs are talented enough to feel confident that they can win another SB right now, even if they lose a few players. Whatever player(s) they lose, they’ll probably fill that position in the draft. They seem to have a crafty GM and personnel man in place and a solid team overall. Their needs are few, which is more than I can say about GB. It may be that only injuries to starters will de-rail that train, for now, at least. I hate to sound pessimistic about GB trying to keep up with TB but, I’ll believe it when I see it. On another note; it sure is quiet at 1265 Lombardi Ave. Thoughts?

      1. Howard March 12, 2021

        It has been quiet. The Packers are going to have to make some moves soon. Usually when cuts, extensions, or salary reductions are being discussed it makes the news. I don’t think there would be much talk about converting roster bonuses to signing bonuses. If the Packers convert all the bigger roster bonuses (due soon) to signing bonuses that would get the Packers under the cap. It would not provide enough cap space to sign all the draft picks, new free agents, or offer tenders to RFAs such as Tonyan.
        It looks like the Packers are going to drop all the salary cap cutting news at one time, and that could mean contract extensions. I know Gutekunst said P. Smith is in the plans, but I don’t see how. On or before February 25th It appeared to me that the Packers were trying to get P. Smith to reduce his salary. I based that assumption on a Smith February 25, 2021 tweet as follows:
        Preston Smith
        They take your kindness for a weakness before you have to show them how strong you are.
        Maybe the tweet had nothing to do with the Packers, but I think the Packers tried to get Smith to take a pay cut. Smith was willing, but the Packers may have went to far in Smith’s opinion. It was not long after that some news outlets reported the Packers were shopping Smith in a trade. Otherwise the Packers have been quiet except for the recent tweet from Z. Smith.

        1. Mick March 12, 2021

          Yup, I imagine all the considerations being discussed are a constant buzz in the organization. I’m just glad I’m not the one making those decisions.

          1. PF4L March 12, 2021

            I don’t know about the Z Smith tweet.
            As far as asking for Preston to take a pay cut. I could see that based on two things.
            1) Preston’s request last off season to only play as a edge rusher.
            2) It’s hard to start Gary, and have a guy averaging 13 million/year and relegate him to the bench.
            That’s almost as odd as signing 2 edge rushers to over a 100 million, then drafting the 12th pick of the draft to sit behind them as he is taught a new position.
            These….are the Days of our Packers.

  10. PF4L March 12, 2021

    Remember when some people thought….Snacks Harrison, that’s what we needed to get us over the hump.
    I’m not saying he couldn’t have helped…maybe 14 months ago against the 49’ers.
    I ran into an article Rob wrote (Feb. 10th), that i highly respect. I thought (the points) came far too late. But it’s righteous in it’s message regardless.
    It was just nice to read something like this, that’s not just coming from me.
    Here is an excerpt……
    “My hope is that Brian Gutekunst begins to grasp the weakest link theory. For three years now, he’s failed to repair the wide receiver weak link. For two years now, he’s done little to fix the inside linebacker weak link. The Packers got very lucky in finding Krys Barnes, but then got unlucky when he broke his thumb – that injury was a lesser-known key factor against the Bucs, as it nullified his tackling ability. And once again, there was no acceptable backup to step in.”
    “Finally, two weeks ago the Bucs made it excruciatingly obvious that in 2020 the team’s weakest link was at cornerback opposite Jaire Alexander. Will the Packers ever learn their lesson, and start directing more attention to the positions on the team that are in greatest need of help?”

    1. PF4L March 12, 2021

      “Will the Packers ever learn their lesson, and start directing more attention to the positions on the team that are in greatest need of help?”
      Simple answer: No
      Or,…. maybe, when it’s finally too late. Which may have come and gone, but it’s yet realized by the powers to be
      Are the Packers going all in, and drafting for need…..this year?.
      Whether Packer fans want to admit it or not. Gutenkunst strategy is puzzling at best.
      Trust me when i say, i’m putting that as nicely as i can.

      1. Mick March 13, 2021

        EXACTLY ! Time, and again I’ve been critical of this team not addressing the obvious needs on the team. I’m in complete agreement with Rob Born on his quote saying “smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a teams positions of greatest need”. In every NFCCG loss this past decade, defense has been the obvious weak link preventing this team from getting over the hump; whether by personnel, or scheme. I’ll be the 1st fan to admit, without regret; Gutes’ strategy is puzzling, at best.