Total Packers may not be the most highly-credentialed Packers’ news source, but I’ll put our record, as prognosticators and truth tellers, up against any of the-renowned media organizations and on-line sites. I’ve gone back about a month on the TP site, and we’ weren’t the guys who day after day ran long articles or podcasts advocating that Green Bay sign up soon-to-be free agents who were expected to get contracts averaging from $10 to $20 million annually.
Over the past few weeks, various pundits – some dedicated solely to Packers content and others who cover the entire NFL, have tried to lure readers into thinking the Packers were pursuing, or should be, any number of NFL stars who were completely out of the team’s price range.
What follows is a quick list of players who others spotlighted, most of whom were about to become free agents; in some cases the players were under contracts, but the hope was the Packers would acquire them via trades.
Allen Robinson was thought to be who the Packers needed. The Bears ended up placing the franchise tag, for $18M for a year, on him.
Corey Davis signed up with the cash-rich Jets for 3-years for $37.5M. His cap hit will only be $9M this season, but will balloon to over $15M in 2022.
Will Fuller, after being with Houston for his first five years, was picked up by the Dolphins for one year – his contract price, cap hit, and dead cap were all $10.625M.
Curtis Samuel, a former Panther, on March 18 signed a 3-year $34.5 deal with the Washington Football Team
DE Leonard Williams the 6th overall draft pick in 2015, chose to stay with the Giants. His 3-year deal is for $63M. For the upcoming year alone, he has a cap hit of $11M and a dead cap of $45M.
Five-time All Pro and Pro Bowler J.J. Watt’s 2-year deal was for $28M.
Nine-year veteran Stephon Gilmore is in the midst of a 5-year deal for $65M, and he carries a cap hit of over $15M into the 2021 season. The Patriots now say they are not actively shopping him.
Patrick Peterson agreed to a 1-year deal with the Vikings for $10M, including incentives not likely to be met.
Kyle Fuller’s 2-year deal, for $27M, with a 2021 cap hit of $20M was set to expire next year. Instead, the Bears released him and he quickly agreed to a 1-year $9.5M deal with Denver.
Kenny Golladay and the Giants have agreed to a 4-year $72M contract. Golladay’s loss will be a significant one for the Lions.
Others prominently mentioned as being possible signees by the Packers have included CB K.J. Wright, WR Golden Tate, RB Chris Carson (when it appeared Aaron Jones was departing), and WR Emmanuel Sanders (the 34-year-old went to the Bills). While none of these outcomes was or is likely, at least they aren’t sheer fantasy.
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Instead of writing fantasy articles, TP writers have been speaking the truth: the Packers were then, and still are, tapped out due to the salary cap. There was no way Green Bay team was going to acquire players who would command such substantial salaries.
The only possible way, short of releasing, say, David Bakhtiari or Davante Adams, to get such players and remain under the salary cap would have been to resort to even more restructures, which would have jeopardized the team’s prospects for years to come. In my opinion, the Packers reached a nice balance with their restructuring efforts.
As I’ve been saying, the team already has too many star players. So many big contracts – starting with Aaron Rodgers, who has the league’s biggest salary cap hit this season – are the cause of the financial crisis we’re seeing.
We’ve got enough stars. What the Packers realistically need are some solid, middle-of-the-road player additions – guys who can capably man the positions most in need while the front office works its way back to financial solvency.
Back to the Future
Let’s get back to reality. For the team to return to financial health, I can almost guarantee that over the next two seasons, the front office will have to let go or trade at least two more of their current or emerging stars. I doubt that will happen to Rodgerrs, Adams, Bakhtiari, or Alexander, but it might well happen to any of the four who created the problem: the Smiths, Adrian Amos, and Billy Turner.
Other candidates include Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Robert Tonyan in 2022, and Elgton Jenkins, Darnell Savage, and Rashan Garry in 2023. When their current contracts end, these five players all might be in store for deals like the one Corey Linsley just got from the Lions. I’d note that I’m keeping my fingers crossed until April 23, which is the final day another team can make an offer on RFA Tonyan.
It might sound like I blame Brian Gutekunst for the Packers current financial struggles. A good case for that can certainly be made, but I’ve come to terms with the general manager since he came on board in 2018. Gutekunst had a definite plan in 2019, it was risky, and he boldly executed it. That he managed this month to keep Aaron Jones on the team, while only losing one key veteran, was yet another example of bold but brilliant decision making by the GM.
At this point, I’d have to say that Gutekunst’s bold moves have more than offset his blunders. Where the GM has faltered has been in his draft selections. But with 10 draft picks this season, he’ll have a chance to improve on that record in just over a month.
Gutekunst’s moves have resulted in two trips to the conference championship game, and I view a third consecutive trip as likely this season. I’m sure that Gutey had a good idea of what the repercussions of acquiring four upper tier players in 2019 would be in 2021, 2022, and even 2023.
What he didn’t predict was the pandemic, which caused the salary cap going down rather than up. I’m not about to blame him for that.
Breaking News: Kevin King has be re-signed for one year for $6,000,000. I can only hope that King’s enormous drop-off in ability has been largely due to injuries he’s tried to play through.