Green Bay Packers: Will Salary Cap Drop Create Free Agency Bargains?

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst, right, chats with Director of Football Operations Russ Ball during practice on Clarke Hinkle Field Thursday, November 1, 2018 in Ashwaubenon, Wis.Uscp 72ky17f5lahcymevj0d Original
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst, right, chats with Director of Football Operations Russ Ball during practice on Clarke Hinkle Field Thursday, November 1, 2018 in Ashwaubenon, Wis.Uscp 72ky17f5lahcymevj0d Original /

As we are all well aware of at this point, the salary cap in 2021 is going to drop and drastically affect how teams operate this offseason, including the Green Bay Packers.

Last summer, with the uncertainty around the 2020 NFL season due to the coronavirus pandemic and a lack of fans in the stands, the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) agreed to a salary cap floor of $175 million. For reference, the salary cap was $198.2 million this past year and had risen by $10 million or more in each of the last seven seasons.

While $175 million is the floor, there have been various reports over the last week suggesting that it might be a bit higher. Last Sunday, Pat Leonard of New York Daily News reported that the NFLPA is expecting the cap to be around $180 million. Then just a few days ago, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that some team officials believe the salary cap will be around $185 million.

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However, Tom would also suggest that we won’t know a final number until potentially just days or hours before free agency opens.

Either way, as Brian Gutekunst said on Monday, when talking with reporters, “tough decisions” are going to have to be made. Ken Ingalls, who independently tracks the Packers’ salary cap situation, has them at almost $42 million over the salary cap if it is at the $175 million floor.

That means veteran cuts will have to be made, contracts restructured, and a likely contract extension for Davante Adams as well–2021 is the final year of his current deal.

But does that mean that the Green Bay Packers won’t be able to participate in free agency? Well, that I’m not so sure of.

Even with the salary cap reduction, the NFL’s top free agents are still going to get big contracts; however, I wouldn’t anticipate the Packers to be going after anyone from this group. The group of free agents that are going to really feel the sting of the salary cap reduction is the middle class.

A player like wide receiver Marvin Jones is projected to sign a deal for three years — $31.69 million with an average annual value of $10.5 million, according to Spotrac. But perhaps in this financial climate, he has to sign a one year deal worth $5 million and enter free agency again in 2022, when hopefully the outlook is much better.

Another example could be cornerback Mackensie Alexander, who is projected to land a three-year contract in free agency worth $25.2 million and with an average annual value of $8.4 million. Similar to Jones, maybe he has to settle for a more team-friendly one-year deal as well.

Of course, these are just hypotheticals, I’m not suggesting this is who the Green Bay Packers will be interested in, but you get the point. The Packers aren’t in a position to bring in top-level free agents this offseason, but if the lack of cap space around the NFL drives the price of contracts down, there might be players available to them who wouldn’t have been options in a normal year.

Back in November, when Green Bay signed David Bakhtiari to his record-breaking extension, Gutey alluded to this, and it’s why they want to remain flexible:

"“The players that might become available to us during the March period may be a little different than it has in the past, and we want to have some flexibility to do those things if we can,” Gutekunst said via the Wisconsin State Journal. “So I think (our approach) is a combination of that. We’ve always believed that we’d like to take care of our own first — that’s very important to us. But we’d also like to have some flexibility to see what the market might bring in March.”"

At this stage of the game, we don’t even know what the salary cap is going to be, so all of this is mostly speculation at this point. And while it is certainly going to be a unique offseason with new challenges, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Green Bay Packers can’t make any additions either.

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Now, as I’ve already said, don’t expect several big signings from Gutey like it’s 2019, but depending on how the free-agent market shakes out, there might be the opportunity to add a veteran player or two to this team that typically may have been out of the Packers’ price range.

"“The situation that our football team is in now, I think we have one goal in mind. And if there’s an opportunity to take some risks to help us win now, we’re certainly in that mode,” said Gutekunst on Monday via Packers Wire."