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Can Gutekunst Keep Rodgers and Keep the Team’s Roster Mostly Intact?

Following sports blogs has become a daily ritual for diehard Packers fans – even in the off season. Maybe someone ought to create awards for the Packers’ Blogger of the Year and Best Individual Blog.

If there were such an award for the 2021-22 season, I’d vote for Zach Kruse’s blog of February 18, titled “How the Packers can stay all-in for 2022 while saving $90 million on the salary cap.” (Here) Kruse has been a prolific writer/blogger of Packers’ news and views for years. He’s currently the managing editor of The Packers Wire, a product of USA Today Sports.

The salary cap topic is what everyone has talked about, and worried about, for gong on two years now. Kruse gives by far the most detailed analysis on this critical topic that I’ve seen. Instead of just guessing which current players will and won’t be back for the 2022 season, Kruse provides estimates of how much cap space savings can be achieved by keeping, restructuring, or releasing various key players. Because Kruse has proven to be a thorough and knowledgeable guy concerning the Packers for several years, I’m assuming his numbers are realistic.

It’s a monumental work of research. I’m sure that some of his speculations won’t be what GM Brian Gutekunst will do in the next few weeks; regardless, the central premise of his posting is well supported: that the Packers can retain Aaron Rodgers for another year, while still getting under the salary cap, and while still maintaining a viable playoffs-caliber roster.

By extending contracts, Kruse sees a potential cap savings of $17M re Rodgers, $8M re Preston Smith, and $7M for Jaire Alexander.

By restructuring existing contracts, he foresees a $10M savings re Kenny Clark, $7M re David Bakhtiari, $4.7M re Adrian Amos, $3.5M re Billy Turner, $3.1M re Dean Lowry, and $2.5M re Aaron Jones.

Next, he projects some big cap savings by releasing certain players. There would be an estimated $15.7M savings re Za’Darious Smith, $6.7M re Randall Cobb, $5M (total) for Marcedes Lewis and Mason Crosby, and $2M re Ty Summers.

In the two weeks since Kruse posted his plan, several of his notions have already been closely borne out. Reportedly, Kenny Clark’s contract has been restructured, creating a cap savings of almost $11M; so has David Bakhtiari’s, for a $9.3M savings; and so has Aaron Jones‘, for a $3.85M savings.

Dec 25, 2021; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) celebrates with teammates after completing a touchdown pass making him the all time leader in touchdown passes in the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Samantha Madar/Green Bay Press Gazette -USA TODAY NETWORK

Would all these hypotheticals erase Green Bay’s current salary cap deficit, which has varied from over $50M to just under $40 million over the past month? Using Kruse’s numbers, they would not only do that, but they would get the club about $40 million UNDER the cap. That’s money that could be used to go after Davante Adams, and/or to take a shot at soon-to-be free agents such as Marquez Valdes-Scantling, De’Vondre Campbell, Rasul Douglas, and Robert Tonyan.

Players already under contract for 2022 include Rashon Gary, Elgton Jenkins, A.J. Dillon, Darnell Savage, Jordan Love, Josiah Deguara, and Jon Runyan. Additionally, last season’s draft selections who are set to return include: Eric Stokes, Josh Myers, Amari Rodgers, Royce Newman, T.J. Slaton, and Isaiah McDuffie. The salaries of both of these groups are already figured into the current salary cap total.

There are also these restricted- or exclusive-rights players, several of whom are likely to be re-signed: Allen Lazard, Krys Barnes, Yosh Nijman, Chauncey Rivers, Jake Hanson, Dominique Dafney, Henry Black, Randy Ramsey, and Malik Taylor.

Though not a complete list (and I might be mistaken as to the status of some), that’s a lot of firepower! All of the above is based on Aaron Rodgers returning in 2022. If he departs, the Packers’ will have a lot more under the cap money to strengthen the rest of the roster, but they would be without an MVP-quality quarterback for the first time in 30 years.

Is Kruse’s scenario realistic? Kruse himself states: “It won’t be easy. But it’s not impossible.”

I’m on record as prophesying that, due to the team’s salary cap crisis, the team would be moving on from Rodgers. Since looking at Kruse’s analysis, however, I’ve changed my opinion. All of the accounting and labeling tricks that Green Bay’s front office has employed the last few weeks make it plausible that Green Bay can keep Rodgers AND compile a quality roster of players.

I was mistaken. Furthermore, the past two weeks have given fans ample reason to believe Rodgers will indeed stay in Green Bay in 2022. GM Gutekunst has already juggled several contracts in order to push payments back to 2023 and 2024. Both Rodgers and the front office are making nice to each other. And at Wednesday’s pre-combine press conference, Gutekunst confirmed that Rodgers played a role in the hiring of Tom Clements as the new quarterbacks’ coach. What else would you need to predict where things are headed?

We should know for sure by mid-March. But it now appears that it’s All-in Year Two in Packerland.

Tags:
Rob Born

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

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8 Comments

  1. rebelgb March 4, 2022

    I still dont hear anyone saying how things will be different in 2022 when it comes to winning playtoff games? Fewer injuries? I guess. I mean with Adams on the team still Arodge will once again have goggles on…

    Reply
  2. Andrew Lloyd Peth March 4, 2022

    NO.

    Reply
  3. PF4L March 4, 2022

    Nice report Rob……
    .
    Contrary to a viking fans opinion that Rodgers is as good as gone, signs point to Rodgers staying.
    Like i’ve mentioned, i think Rodgers and the Packers are in a good (better) place relationship wise.
    Plus, as i stated, we haven’t heard boo as far as trade rumors.
    .
    This doesn’t mean i agree with the Packers keeping Rodgers.
    I think it’s almost foolish and i’ll tell you why.
    I’m a Packer fan first and foremost….
    This is not in the best interest of the Packers.
    .
    Each season the goal is to what, improve the team?
    Last season we watched the team try to keep the roster intact.
    Losing Linsley and Wagner in the process.
    .
    What we have now is three-fold i believe…..
    1) An obvious loss of faith in Love being anymore than Gute’s high hope’s of finding the Packers 3rd blue chip QB.
    2) This off-season made the most sense to get out from under Rodgers contract, that’s if you don’t count last off season like i did.
    3) Now…the plan apparently is….trying to keep Rodgers and Adams (for another shot at gold?), trying to keep most of the roster intact, but at the same willfully losing on field talent (think Z Smith).
    Aside from that…the Packers seem to be picking up last year’s trick of pushing money down the road…again, pushing far more money down the road to deal with (later)
    Pay now….or pay later.
    .
    So instead of giving Love a chance, reaping the assets of a Rodgers trade.
    Instead of keeping the salary cap healthy and manageable to keep a strong core team.
    The Packers decided to go another way…
    1) Keep together, what isn’t working….
    2) While losing on field talent and pushing 10’s of millions of salary down the road.
    .
    In 2017 the Packers had Nelson and Adams…a strong #1 and #2.
    In early 2018, the Packers sent Nelson packing.
    In early 2022, the Packers still don’t have a #2 receiver, or a proven tight end?….really?
    .
    Yea….Lets mortgage the future and the current growth of the team and give it…another Super Bowl shot?
    They aren’t trying to win a Super Bowl…they are trying to keep the band together.
    At a heavy cost.
    .
    As much as i love Aaron Rodgers…..this is a bad move….in the future interest of the Green Bay Packers.

    Reply
  4. Dean March 4, 2022

    Replying to rebelgb – The special teams should be better with a quality hire of a new special teams coach…

    Reply
  5. Tom M March 6, 2022

    Our very own cap guru, PF4L, tells us we’ll trade ZaDarius Smith using the bevy of draft picks to strengthen our roster with cheap rookie labor thereby getting us under the dreaded salary cap. Because 30 yr old pass rushers with recent back surgery and a 16 million dollar cap hit always fetch top dollar. Of course ZaDarius gets released. That’s hardly a revelation. He even said thank you and goodbye after the playoff loss. Not unlike what Rodgers didn’t several weeks ago on a social media post. Thanking everyone under the sun. Management is actually playing this the right way. Saying we want you back little Erin, but the decision is all yours. That way Gutekunst can tell all you Aaron Rodgers fanboys, he made the call, not us. He isn’t retiring. That leaves him two options. Return or get traded to Denver where a tentative compensation package is likely already in place. If he stays, he’s got to make a decision by Tuesday, the last day to franchise tag Davante Adams. And if he stays, his contract has to be worked so Adams gets paid. Not unlike Randall Cobb but on a much bigger scale. Aaron Rodgers stands at a crossroads. Rodgers is no longer universally loved or revered. The Denver Broncos and their fans will expect immediate results from a trade. Expectations will be astronomical. And if Rodgers can’t deliver, and he won’t, he’ll draw the ire of not only Bronco fans but reinforce all those that have said Rodgers wilts in the playoffs and can’t win the big game. No longer will he be able to blame the Packers. The other option, he stays right where he’s at. Collects his stats, loses in the playoffs, and a subset of Packer fans continue to love and adore him no matter what. Blaming Kevin King, special teams, or the evil Brian Gutekunst for Rodgers playoff failures. He won’t get that kind of unconditional love in Denver, Pittsburgh, or anywhere else. In short Aaron Rodgers plays it safe. Unfortunately for Packer fans, staying is looking like the call. Where we can expect another two years like the last three. Oh goody!

    Reply
  6. PF4L March 7, 2022

    Gee…after telling us for months Rodgers is gone and even where he’ll be playing next year,
    Tommi now says Rodgers staying is “looking like the call”.
    Gee Princess…wrong again…go figure.
    .
    Your bullshit is as believable as you telling everyone, what i said….in your make believe world….
    *****************
    Now Goober is crying that us Packer fans are stuck another two years with Rodgers.
    “OH GOODY”
    .
    Question is….why would this self professed ex Packer fan care so much?
    .
    Maybe…..because his vikings team sucks and he has nothing better to do with his life.
    ***************
    Two more years of Rodgers Princess?
    You should be happy about that.
    That gives you two more years of something to bitch about everyday in your miserable life.

    Reply
  7. Dean March 8, 2022

    Tom should have listened to me months ago when I said Rodgers will be back or retire :-).
    .
    Seriously, I have great respect for Rodgers because he stood up to the mask & vaccine fake science and was a true American Patriot.
    .
    America, Canada and the whole world needs more people to stand up for our freedoms. Bank accounts where frozen by the dictator in Canada on people who peacefully protested mandatory vaccines to drive a truck!
    .
    Our freedoms are way more important than football; however, I for one will be looking forward to training camp and the next season.

    Reply
  8. Mitch Anthony March 8, 2022

    Yeah Dean, who knew? Who knew that this ending of the pandemic was due more to high gas prices and low, low poll numbers? Trust the science, trust the science. Apparently it is political science that needs to be trusted.

    In the US we had buildings burn, businesses torched, at least two dozen dead, police cars and precincts burned, some $2 billion in damages during our summer (2020) of mostly peaceful protests. Nobody froze the bank accounts of any of the financial backers who supported that fun and bailed those people out of jail so they could do it again. If anyone suggested sending the troops on them or calling it an insurrection,…oh holy cow! You fascist dictators you.

    Our kinder gentler neighbors to the north had a bunch of truckers show up and peaceful like, blocked some streets, played street hockey, set up bouncy houses for kids, grilled out and they got the Castro treatment from the fella with the suburban mom hairdo. No buildings burned, they didn’t curb stomp anyone for simply taking their picture, nobody got ripped out of their vehicle and knifed or shot for disagreeing with them. Not like they had a whole “trucker autonomous zone” where the Mounties wouldn’t dare go. But hey, they deserve to have their whole livelihood ruined going forward. What aboot that?

    Well, their football is a bit different from our football after all, so I guess for some it all works.

    Reply

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