How the Packers can create more cap room ahead of free agency

Green Bay Packers, Za'Darius Smith (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers, Za'Darius Smith (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

By restructuring David Bakhtiari’s contract, the Green Bay Packers were able to create over $8 million in cap space.

While this is a good start, the Packers are still a way off getting under the salary cap ahead of the deadline next month.

So how can the Packers not just get themselves under the cap, but also create enough room to make signings when free agency opens?

Let’s look at some moves they can consider to create cap room for 2021.

Note: All salary cap numbers are according to Over The Cap. They project the Packers to currently sit at $19.89 million over the salary cap.

Releasing players

One way to create room is to release players with big cap hits. While in most cases the team will still have to pay some money in dead cap, the key is finding ways to get the most savings.

Unfortunately, a star from the 2019 season, Preston Smith, could be a cut candidate. After a quiet 2020 season but now set for a $16 million cap hit, moving on is one of the most obvious moves Green Bay can make to create cap space. Releasing Smith would save $8 million.

Other cut candidates include Christian Kirksey (would create $5.6 million), Dean Lowry ($3.3 million), Devin Funchess ($1.27 million), and Josh Jackson ($1.33 million). Given how well he played in 2020, a less likely option would be to release Rick Wagner, although doing so would create $4.25 million.

While it seems unlikely they’d release every player listed above, doing so from their current situation would leave them just $92,577 over the cap.

Restructuring deals

Clearly, it’s not ideal to release players. The Packers will want to do as little of that as possible. As we saw with Bakhtiari’s contract this week, another option is to restructure deals.

Aaron Rodgers will be a name to watch. And, no, not for a potential trade. But using Over The Cap’s calculator, restructuring his contract could save as much as $14.5 million on this year’s cap.

The one concern with making that move is it would push his 2022 cap hit from $39.85 million to $46.67 million. The more money is pushed into future years, the greater the challenge it could be to transition to Jordan Love down the line if that is indeed the plan.

Other players who could restructure their deals include Za’Darius Smith (potential $7.76 million saving) and Adrian Amos ($2.95 million).

While releasing players or restructuring deals will likely be the most obvious moves, there are other ways to create some room for 2021 such as extending contracts and pushing money into future years. Davante Adams, whose contract is up after next season, would be a candidate for a new deal.

Bakhtiari’s restructure will be the first of many roster moves the Packers have to make to ensure they are under the cap before the deadline. Fortunately, they won’t be forced to cut key players on the roster and have plenty of options.