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.
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.