In 2021, the Green Bay Packers took some uncharacteristic steps to search out their strategy to a tenable place with respect to the NFL’s wage cap. The dropping cap, which fell to a $182.5 million base worth for the upcoming season, places most groups in a troublesome place, however the Packers particularly so.
Normal supervisor Brian Gutekunst and monetary guru Russ Ball have been artistic over the previous few months, shifting cap house from the approaching season into future years to liberate sufficient house to first get underneath the cap for the offseason. With the necessity to preserve some extra flexibility to signal draft picks and different gamers in the course of the 2021 season, the Packers will nonetheless must liberate extra house in some unspecified time in the future within the coming months.
Nevertheless, one other powerful cap yr is looming in 2022. After the gymnastics that the workforce has carried out to get underneath this yr’s cap, a troublesome scenario is more likely to come up subsequent season as properly. On Monday throughout feedback to the media forward of the 2021 NFL Draft, Gutekunst acknowledged that the Packers’ plan to deal with the dropping cap is in essence a two-year plan for 2021 and 2022. Due to the heavy reliance on these voidable years in among the contracts and bonus conversions, Inexperienced Bay will face a troublesome interval subsequent offseason as properly.
However whereas that’s true, Gutekunst’s phrases replicate a basic supervisor who’s intent on holding Aaron Rodgers round as his quarterback by these troublesome monetary occasions.
Rodgers’ cap hit is simply over $37 million for 2021 and $39 million in 2022, an enormous quantity for any single participant. And whereas a lot digital ink has been spilled questioning why the Packers haven’t prolonged Rodgers or carried out an analogous bonus conversion on his deal, Gutekunst appears unfazed by the chatter.
“That’s type of one thing we’re working by — it’s one thing we’ve talked about fairly a bit as we’ve labored by the wage cap scenario,” Gutekunst mentioned of Rodgers’ contract. “We’ve labored by quite a lot of various things and that’s one in all them.”
Gutekunst would go on to make use of a well-recognized phrase about Rodgers, later saying “Aaron’s our man, he’s going to be our QB for the foreseeable future. We’re excited in regards to the sorts of issues we’re going to attempt to accomplish over the following few seasons.”
Nonetheless, the workforce has not taken any steps but this spring to additional guarantee Rodgers’ future in Inexperienced Bay. However in response to a later remark, it’s a matter of if, not when the Packers do alter Rodgers’ contract, and they’ll more than likely want to take action with an extension:
“There are plenty of contracts that we might want to tackle over the following 4 to five months, and (Rodgers’ is) actually one the place we are going to most likely tackle that as properly.”
Whereas solely the Packers really know in the event that they wish to decide to Rodgers past 2021 and even 2022, feedback like this point out that they’re telling the reality after they say that they do. If the Packers would merely convert a few of Rodgers’ base wage to a signing bonus and unfold it out over the following three years, they’d be first ballooning his already-brutal $39 million cap hit in 2022, a yr that’s already established to be an issue. That may create tougher conversations subsequent offseason and, relying on Rodgers’ play and the workforce’s standing, it may result in tensions that might be far worse than these perceived this spring.
As an alternative, the Packers transformed cash to bonuses for different gamers, realizing that these selections can be simpler to execute and doing so for gamers who’re admittedly much less integral to the franchise. That purchased them the time to get underneath the cap by the beginning of the league yr on March seventeenth, permitting them to concentrate on free company and the NFL Draft earlier than possible diving full-bore into negotiations with Rodgers and possibly Davante Adams in the summertime to offer the workforce the cap flexibility to handle the common season.
Moreover, it’s not exhausting to think about the workforce taking the identical strategy with Adams, if he have been signed for an additional yr past 2021. The Packers may have even labored out a cope with Adams in March to transform base wage into bonus cash by utilizing voidable years beginning in 2022. Nevertheless, they didn’t, an indication that the workforce nonetheless intends to signal him to a long-term contract extension that can assist maintain his cap hits decrease in 2021 and 2022 as properly.
Managing the wage cap is a year-long puzzle. Within the case of the Packers, it seems that when up towards a decent deadline, the workforce performed with the figures that needed to be negotiated instantly (like a brand new deal for Aaron Jones, for instance), have been comparatively easy to barter, or that required no negotiation in any respect. That then left them the flexibility to attend on the the more durable, longer negotiations for a later time — this summer season, in all chance — when all events can be higher in a position to put within the time and the work to come back to agreeable options.
Maybe the Packers’ resolution to attend to restructure Rodgers’ contract is in truth a stronger signal that they wish to maintain him round long-term than if that they had already carried out so.