Packers: A Reduced Salary Cap Makes 2021 Even More Challenging

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images /

The 2021 offseason could become even more challenging for the Green Bay Packers with a potential major reduction in the salary cap.

The good news is that the NFL and the NFLPA appear to be making progress in their negotiations as it looks like both parties will agree to a deal that will allow training camps to begin. However, in these discussions, along with setting safety measures for the 2020 season, something else that needed to be addressed was next year’s salary cap.

With reduced fans or possibly no fans in attendance at games this season, NFL teams, including the Green Bay Packers, are going to lose a lot of revenue. That, in turn, can have an impact on the salary cap.

So as part of these negotiations, Lindsay Jones of The Athletic reported that it appears that both sides have agreed to a salary cap floor in 2021 of $175 million. For comparison’s sake, this year’s salary cap increased by $10 million to $198.2 million, and under normal circumstances, it would have likely increased again in 2021.

Now, it’s worth noting that the aforementioned $175 million is the floor and the worst-case scenario. It could be higher; it just all depends on how 2020 plays out.

When it comes to the Green Bay Packers, any sort of salary cap reduction in 2021 is going to hurt them, but if it plummets to the $175 million range, Brian Gutekunst and Russ Ball’s offseason just became exponentially more difficult.

In a recent article, I highlighted how the 2021 offseason was already going to be a challenging one for Green Bay, given their free-agent class and the fact that they already weren’t going to have much cap space. With Kenny Clark, David Bakhtiari, Aaron Jones, Kevin King, and Corey Linsley all as free agents, they realistically are only going to be able to re-sign two of them. And that doesn’t take into account other positions they may have to address as well.

If the salary cap does fall to the $175 million mark next offseason, salary cap guru Ken Ingalls has the Packers top-51 contracts nearly $7.9 million over the projected cap. However, as Ken has taught us, there other costs to factor in, such as the draft class, the 52nd and 53rd players on the roster, in-season spending, and the practice squad. With these additional costs, Ken has Green Bay at $13.75 million over the cap in this scenario.

Now, there are, of course, ways to create more cap space, and one way is moving on from players who have a higher cap hit than a dead cap hit. And in looking at Green Bay’s 2021 roster, there are four players who come to mind, Billy Turner, Christian Kirksey, Dean Lowry, and Rick Wagner.

If the Packers chose to cut all four players next offseason, they would save $17.1 million, according to Spotrac. Another avenue to save some money is to restructure Za’Darius Smith’s deal, for example, or sign Davante Adams to a contract extension as 2021 is the final year of his current deal.

Below, Ken covers a few other ways that teams can increase cap space along with a look at Green Bay’s cap situation with a $175 million salary cap in place:

While it’s easy to see why the Packers may move on from the names mentioned above in order to create more cap space, there are scenarios where they may have to move on from players like Preston Smith or Adrian Amos.

If Rashan Gary takes a big step forward in 2020 and Green Bay needs additional cap space, they’ll save $8 million by moving on from Smith. And with Amos, they’d save $4.55 million. By no means am I predicting that this is Smith and Amos’ final year in Green Bay, but if the salary cap plummets, I don’t think it’s that unrealistic either given that the Packers have Za’Darius Smith and Rashan Gary at edge and Darnell Savage at safety.

Ultimately, we won’t know the ramifications until the 2020 season has played out, and hopefully, we don’t see the salary cap reduced that much. While all teams are going to be affected, this would really throw a wrench into the Green Bay Packers’ already complicated 2021 offseason.

Next. Salary Cap Update Heading into Training Camp. dark

In order to navigate this, it’s going to take some master roster construction and financial gymnastics from Gutey and Ball. Fortunately, each of them has proven to be very good at both.