Green Bay Packers: Report Suggests 2021 Salary Cap will be $180M

Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst speaks March 14, 2019, at a press conference at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.Gpg Packers 031419 Abw079
Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst speaks March 14, 2019, at a press conference at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.Gpg Packers 031419 Abw079 /

Even going back to last offseason, a major talking point — and concern — was the salary cap for the 2021 season. Due to the lack of fans in the stands and the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, over the summer, the NFL and NFL Players Association (NFLPA) agreed to a cap floor in 2021 of $175 million. This would be a significant drop that would affect every team, including the Green Bay Packers.

In 2020, the salary cap was $198.2 million and had increased by at least $10 million every year for the last seven seasons. So as you can imagine, a decrease of over $23 million would have a major ripple effect through the NFL as teams try to construct their rosters with less money to spend.

Now, $175 million is the floor; it could be higher. In fact, a recent article by Sports Illustrated interviewed several NFL agents, and they all suggested that the salary cap would get much closer to the $198 million mark than what many think. This would be accomplished by borrowing from future salary caps.

However, recently Pat Leonard of New York Daily News reported that the NFLPA doesn’t feel the same way as some of these agents. The Players Association is projecting a salary cap in 2021 of $180 million, which again is a projection; nothing is official yet.

So I guess the good news is that the Players Association doesn’t expect the cap to be at the floor, but it’s still going to lead to a challenging offseason.

One agent from the aforementioned Sports Illustrated article had this to say about what would take place if the cap were to plummet:

"“It’s going to be a massacre,” one agent said.“It’s going to be star money and young money and nothing in between,” another said, with the expectation that the midpriced veteran would go extinct as teams try to fill a roster around its high-priced stars.”"

In the Green Bay Packers’ case, they like many other teams would have to make some serious cap-saving moves to get under $180 million.

To get an idea of where the Packers stand, Ken Ingalls, who independently tracks Green Bay’s salary cap, currently has them $41.77 million over the cap limit. Now, this is under the assumption that the salary cap is $175 million and not $180 million, but you get the idea.

For comparison’s sake, Spotrac is projecting a salary cap in 2021 of $178.75 million, which by their calculations, still puts the Green Bay Packers almost $32 million over the salary cap.

Of course, there are ways for Green Bay to create this needed cap space. The first and most well-known is by cutting veteran players who haven’t lived up to their contracts. There are two key components to an NFL contract, and they include the cap hit and the dead cap hit.

The cap hit is what is on the books that season if the player is on the roster. The dead cap hit, on the other hand, is money that still counts against the salary cap, even if the player is cut or traded. Dead cap money is typically part of a signing bonus that is paid out in Year 1 of the deal, but teams are able to spread the cap hit out over the life on the contract rather than absorbing it in one season.

So I said all of that to say this: if a player has underperformed and their cap hit is more than their dead cap hit, they are a potential cap casualty. A few names for the Green Bay Packers that could fall into this category include Preston Smith, Dean Lowry, Rick Wagner, and Christian Kirksey.

Another avenue to cap savings that teams can take is through a contract restructure. What this essentially does is converts a portion of the player’s salary from that season and turns it into a signing bonus, which, as mentioned above, can be spread out over the life of the contract. Thus lowering the cap hit in the current year. The downside is that you then create higher dead cap hits in the coming years.

Two players that could have their contracts restructured this offseason are Za’Darius Smith and Aaron Rodgers.

Lastly, teams can extend a player beyond their current deal. Again this is a way to restructure the deal and often makes the contract very cash-heavy in that first year with a big signing bonus. Teams then spread the cap hit from the signing bonus out over the life of the contract and create a smaller cap hit during the current season. One prime candidate for a contract extension is Davante Adams, who is entering the final year of his deal.

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As GM Brian Gutekunst told reporters during his season-ending press conference, “tough decisions” are going to have to be made. But as highlighted above, there are several ways for the Green Bay Packers to get under that salary cap figure — whatever it ends up being — and they are still in a much better position than many teams out there.

"“It’s a unique year, it’s very challenging, obviously we’re not the only team that has these challenges. I feel really comfortable, we’ve been working on this all year, getting ready for what’s going to happen over the next three or four months,” Gutekunst said via Packers Wire."