Green Bay Packers will face major salary cap issues in 2022

Green Bay Packers, Brian GutekunstGpg Packers 031419 Abw079
Green Bay Packers, Brian GutekunstGpg Packers 031419 Abw079 /

After the NFL’s salary cap decreased by eight percent  to $182.5 million in 2021, the Green Bay Packers’ front office had to get to work, clearing a total of $36.5 million in cap space to squeeze under the 2021 barrier.

To do this, the Packers had to release two players, along with restructuring five contracts. Restructuring does not come without a cost however, as “kicking the can” down the road is simply delaying the inevitable.

In total, the team has pushed at least $15 million of cap from 2021 into 2022, and a further $8 million into future seasons.

Let me first off debunk the myth of a “cap spike” next season. It’s not happening. It could happen in 2023 when the NFL’s newly announced TV deals come into effect, but it’s already been agreed that the damages from the loss of revenue in 2020 will be spread over both this year and next year’s cap.

So with that in mind, early projections put next season’s cap at around $205 million, a $22.5 million increase from this season, which is a pretty standard year-to-year increase in the NFL.

Using said projection, Packers salary cap analyst Ken Ingalls estimates the Packers to be a grand total of $45 million over the cap next season. That’s 50 percent more work than they had to do this offseason.

What’s more, the Packers aren’t even done making space yet. They had to get under the limit for the start of the new league year, March 17, which they did. However that doesn’t take into account cap space needed for draft picks, along with an in-season “piggy bank” of around $5 million.

What does the roster look like in 2022?

Due to the many restructures and big-money deals the Packers have made over the past few years, they’re going to be one of the most top-heavy rosters in league history entering 2022.

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, using the 2022 cap projection, just five players will account for 64 percent of the Packers 2022 cap! They are Aaron Rodgers, Za’Darius Smith, David Bakhtiari, Preston Smith, and Kenny Clark.

Granted, they can get creative with some of these contracts again next season but no matter what, these players will still account for a large chunk of the 2022 cap. The icing on the cake? Davante Adams isn’t even under contract next season.

Adams, who has completely outplayed his current contract, will no doubt be aiming to become the highest paid WR in the NFL. He absolutely deserves it, but whether or not Green Bay can afford to give him such a contract remains the question.

If Davante was coming off his rookie contract, it would be a no-brainer to give him his big extension, and heavily backload it. However Adams will be entering his 30s in the first year of his next contract, so backloading it could end up backfiring for Green Bay if Adams significantly regresses.

Also keep in mind that the following season, Jaire Alexander has a strong chance to become the highest paid DB in the NFL. Not to mention Pro Bowl LG Elgton Jenkins queuing up to cash-in too. The Packers roster is incredible right now, but it’s impossible to keep this amount of talent together for years to come.

So what can the Packers do in 2022?

Firstly, it goes without saying that it’s impossible to predict how next season goes. We cannot predict who will break out, or who will struggle. We have simply no idea of knowing the situation 11 months from now.

Per Over The Cap, the Packers can free up as much as $22 million by the extending the contracts of Za’Darius Smith and Kenny Clark next offseason. Smith has already mentioned his plans to be a “Packer for life”, and extending Kenny Clark, who’s still only 25 years old, makes a ton of sense.

The Packers can also release Preston Smith, which would free up $12.5 million of his $19 million cap hit, however the rest of his contract would remain as dead cap in the 2022 season.

They can also opt to further restructure David Bakhtiari’s contract, freeing up roughly $8 million. However as you can guess, that would incur a brutally high cap hit for the All-Pro LT in 2023 and beyond.

As for Aaron Rodgers, he may be the talking point of the 2022 offseason as the Packers did everything in their power to avoid restructuring his mega-contract this year.

Restructuring Rodgers’ contract would’ve basically forced the Packers to commit to him long-term, hence preventing the transition to the Jordan Love era at the end of next season. So by leaving Rodgers’ contract as it is, there’s a chance that this upcoming season may be his last in green and gold.

Now there is still a chance that they alter Rodgers’ contract this offseason, as like I said, they still need more cap space. However restructuring #12 will surge his 2022 cap hit well past $40 million, making next offseason all the more difficult for Russ Ball & Co. Perhaps they could figure out an extension for the 37 year old if he keeps playing at an elite level in 2021.

All in all, it really only gets worse from here Packers fans (from a money perspective). The Packers are primed to stay in Super Bowl contention next season, but the aftermath may be brutal for one of the strongest teams in the league.

Nonetheless we can appreciate just how excellent this roster is. It may feel demoralizing having to constantly fight the salary cap every offseason, however the only reason such fighting takes place is because the roster right now is simply so good.

On paper, this is seriously one of the best Packers teams ever. They have the a top-two QB paired with the very best LT, WR and CB in the NFL. Along with one of the NFL’s top DTs and a Pro Bowl-caliber edge rusher. Oh, and they have top-three duos at running back and safety.

It’s a testament to how well Green Bay has drafted over the years that they’re in a position where they cannot afford to keep everyone under contract.

Overall, the decisions only get tougher for Brian Gutekunst and the Packers as time goes on. This year they saw 2021’s cap problem, and made it 2022’s cap problem. Will they kick the can down the road yet again next year? Or will 2022 be the year that the Packers finally take their salary cap lumps?