Extra salary cap space is always a useful commodity to possess. The two best remaining sources of salary cap savings in 2022 are Allen Lazard and Dean Lowry. Looking at the numbers, I see very few places to generate salary cap space should the need arise. 9 of the top 15 contracts have base salaries set at the minimum with no roster bonuses. Russ Ball can squeeze those contracts as hard as he wants but he can’t get any more juice out of them. In some cases, a release generates a million or two in cap savings, but these guys are all core players. The Packers could release Marcedes Lewis to get some relief, or Mason Crosby to get $2.9M in salary cap relief, but there are no proven replacements on the roster for them.
Three more potential sources are contracts associated with players that the Packers probably shouldn’t play with just yet: Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage and Elgton Jenkins. It is likely that the Packers will extend Jenkins during the season after he is back on the field and if he is playing at a high level. The Packers could squeeze out a million or two in cap savings with an extension for Jenkins if he is so accommodating as to take what will likely be an enormous signing bonus as an option bonus payable in 2023. That leaves Allen Lazard and Dean Lowry.
Lazard is playing on an RFA tender for $3.986M, all base salary. A simple restructuring with 4 void years would reduce Lazard’s cap number to about $1.57M, thereby saving almost $2.42M for 2022. Yes, that $2.4M would become dead money in 2023 if the Packers chose not to re-sign Lazard. The Packers restructured Tonyan’s RFA tender last year. It may happen yet with Lazard. And it should. Why? Because I perceive no real downside to making this move.
There is no law requiring General Manager Gutekunst to spend the $2.42M that would be saved in 2022. If no opportunity to acquire a sufficiently exciting player during the season arises, then the Packers could simply roll over the $2.42M into 2023. An extra $2.4 M in rollover negates an extra $2.4M in dead money for 2023. If my youngest son were the Packers’ GM, there would be no issue: one needs the jaws of life to pry open his wallet. I do not think Gutekunst is a spendthrift. Yes, he spent a lot in 2019, but since then his acquisitions have been pretty modest and his in-season acquisitions have provided considerable bang for each dollar. I have no issue with giving the discretion and the ability to utilize that discretion to Gutekunst.
There has to be a reason why Dean Lowry is the only player on a second contract whose contract has not been restructured. The two things that occur to me are: 1) the Packers need Lowry’s consent to convert base salary to a signing bonus and/or to add void years to his deal, and he has not given consent; or 2) the Packers wanted to retain the option to trade or release Lowry without taking a cap hit. A straight release or a trade of Lowry at present still saves $5.45M in 2022 without adding any more dead money to 2023 than is already scheduled.
Why would Green Bay want to move Lowry? As noted above, a great opportunity or the perception of overwhelming necessity coupled with the notion that the acquisition of Jarran Reed and/or the emergence of Jack Heflin, Chris Slayton, or faith in Devonte Wyatt have made Lowry superfluous. Opportunity might be just having the wherewithal in cap space to acquire a particularly attractive player in week 2 (when veteran contracts are no longer guaranteed) or at the trade deadline in October. Last year the Packers were not able to make a competitive offer for Odell Beckham, at least not without doing some serious gymnastics with the contract. Beckham got $4.75M and the Packers only rolled over $2.9M.
Necessity might occur due to a significant injury to a main player, the inability of players returning from injury to perform at their previous level, or the failure of rookies and free agent acquisitions to play up to the projected level.
Is Lowry redundant? Justis Mosqueda wrote an interesting article in which he charted where the Packer played each player during Family Night and during the first halves of the games against San Francisco and New Orleans, when they probably faced better quality opponents.
Jack Heflin led all players with 22 snaps at DE, followed by Reed with 15, Wyatt and Lowry with 14 each, and Slayton with 11, and Ford with 6. TJ Slaton, Clark and Ford got all of the snaps at NT. At DT, Heflin came in dead last with just one snap. Slayton (23), Wyatt (15), and TJ Slaton (12) led the way at DT. Note that the starters (Clark, Lowry and Reed) did not play in either preseason game, so their counts are lower because they only played during Family Night. I am more comfortable with the depth on the defensive line with Lowry in the picture. That said, if some other position just has to be shored up with an outside acquisition of a player, Lowry, while perhaps not redundant, might be someone who could figure in a trade at the November 1 trade deadline (just after game 8). The Packers would save $2.778M in cap space if Lowry were traded at the deadline.
Restructure: A simple restructuring with 4 void years creates $3.506M in cap space. It adds about $3.5M in dead money for 2023. Again, there is no law that Gute has to spend the cap generated. A restructuring does not make sense if the team wants to trade Lowry now or release him.
DO THE PACKERS NEED MORE CAP SPACE:
The cap right now is in a state of flux. On September 2, I wrote in a comment that the Packers had $6.0M in cap space, but today they have $6.9M, according to Overthecap. The major reason for that is because the Packers released Alize Mack and Nate Becker from the Injured Reserve List after having reached injury settlements with those players. The settlements were probably for just a few game checks each. The Packers still have the following players on IR:
|Player||cap #||Player||cap #|
|Vernon Scott||$915,922||Gabe Brkic||$430K|
|Malik Taylor||$895,000||Osirus Mitchell||$430K|
|Shawn Davis||$825,000||Ishmael Hyman||$430K|
|Akial Byers||$432,666||Innis Gaines||$430K|
These eight players still count for $4,788,588 against the salary cap. [Five players have “split contracts” which lower their cap numbers in case of injury. Byers’ cap number is also $430K plus one third of his $8,000 signing bonus.] The Packers have the medical information on these players, but we fans have no way to know which players have minor injuries or whether any of them are likely to be on the injured reserve list all season. The Packers have 5 business days in which to reach settlements with these players, so the players who waived injuries on August 30 have until roughly September 7th to reach settlements. Otherwise, the Packers will release them when they can pass a physical sometime during the season, at which time some additional cap space will accrue to the team. We can hope for $4M in additional cap space, but it could be considerably less. Kylin Hill counts as $475K ($455K base as a split contract figure plus his $19K signing bonus proration) while he is on the PUP list.
The Packers also have an unusual amount of players with large game active bonuses who missed a lot of time last year. Only $35,294 of Bakhtiari’s $600K Game Active Bonus counts against the cap. If he plays all 17 games, the Packers’ cap space will be a total of $565K less than listed today. [Note that the moment Bakhtiari suits up for his second and each subsequent game, the team’s cap space is reduced by $35K. It is not sorted out at the end of the season: it is immediate.] If they play every game, Tonyan’s cap number will increase by $600K, Cobb’s by $242K, and Douglas’ by $133K. The total additional amount that could count against the cap with extraordinary health from game active bonuses is $1.9M, per Ken Ingalls Other than Tonyan ($1.515M GA bonus) and Cobb ($825K GA Bonus), the Packers would not gain cap space if a player with a game active bonus missed time. If Cobb missed all 17 games, the Packers would save his $825K game active bonus, but they would sign someone making at least $705K to the 53-man roster, making minimal savings. I think a prudent manager would budget for having at least $1.3M less cap space due to game active bonuses that might be earned.
Elevating players from the practice squad costs money. All players on the PS earn $207K (none are veterans). [As a note, teams can no longer pay PS members more than $207K per year for non-veterans, and veterans are earn between $277,200 and $358,200. Teams cannot pay PS players more than those amounts.] Players earn $11,500 per week on the PS, and make $39,166 per week if elevated to the roster, a difference of $27,666. 17 games times $27,666 equals a cost of $470,322 to elevate one player for each game. To elevate two players for every game, the extra cap cost would therefore be $940,644. I think budgeting $692K for practice squad elevations (8 games with two players elevated and 9 games with just one player elevated).
The Packers have $6.9M in cap space, and will likely gain $3M(?) when players are removed from the IR List. The team should budget $1.3M for game active bonuses and almost $700K for promotions from the PS, leaving a net of $7.9M. Some players likely have incentives built into their contracts. Salary cap space tends to melt away during the season, generally to the tune of $3M to $5M, leaving roughly $2.9M to $4.9M as spendable cap space. I intend to document how much “Cap Melt” there is this year. Finally, the Packers would probably like to roll some unused cap space over into 2023.
So, do the Packers have enough?