The Green Bay Packers have around $17 million in cap space this year, but that does not mean the team will go on a spending spree before the regular season. Green Bay’s cap management tends to be conservative. While some mechanisms were needed because of COVID-19’s impact on the cap, the Packers try to maintain their financial flexibility.
Historically, Green Bay’s biggest free-agent moves are in-house extensions. It’s a formula that has found plenty of success. Recent studies by PFF indicate that extended players tend to generate more value than outside free agents and players on rookie deals.
Therefore, it is important to analyze which Packers players can receive new contracts, not only now but in the next 12 months.
Jenkins has only one year left on his rookie deal because he doesn’t have the fifth-year option. However, it’s a tricky situation because of his knee injury, and there isn’t total clarity on where he will play when he returns.
Tackles are more expensive than guards. The top guards on the market in average salary per year are Brandon Scherff (Jacksonville Jaguars, $16.5 million), Joel Bitonio (Cleveland Browns, $16 million), and Joe Thuney (Kansas City Chiefs, $16 million).
If the Packers decide to establish Jenkins as the left guard, he might force his way out to hit the market as a tackle — and Jenkins has proven he can play well even at left tackle. Therefore, the best move may be to extend Jenkins as soon as possible for right tackle money, especially because it’s still uncertain how healthy Bakhtiari will be. Jenkins can be the RT of the future and also an insurance policy for the left side.
The Packers also drafted Gary in 2019, like Jenkins, but he has a fifth-year option as part of his rookie deal because he was taken in the first round. Gary is under contract for two more years — $5 million in 2022 and $10.9 million in 2023. Because of that, I wouldn’t expect them to reach an extension this offseason, nor during the regular season.
Talks will probably start this year but will advance through 2023. If Gary has another season as good (or better) than he had in 2021, his contract may be as high as $28 million to $30 million per year because that’s what top young edge defenders are getting. Therefore, it would be wise to re-sign him in 2023, using the $10.9 million to mitigate the initial costs.
A four-year, $120 million contract, for instance, has a $30 million average per year in new money. But it would truly be a five-year, $130 million deal, dropping the average to $26 million. It’s expensive, obviously, but that’s the price to pay when you have a potentially elite player in a premium position.
The Packers have multiple motivations to extend Adrian Amos next season. They have the safety, a rare case of free-agency success, signed through 2022 under a cap number of $7.3 million. But the Packers restructured his contract two years in a row, so if he’s gone in 2023, the team will still have $7.95 million in dead money to absorb.
Therefore, the best possible scenario is to reach an extension before the void date to keep past restructures prorated for the following four years. Moreover, safety is not a premium position in the market, so extending Amos without spending irresponsibly is feasible.
Amos has been one of the best and most reliable defensive players for the Packers since they signed him in 2019. He is 29 years old, so a shorter extension might be best for both parties.
Lazard is a difficult market proposition for now. The Packers haven’t touched his contract after signing the restricted free-agent tender, but the best way to open cap space this year is by doing a simple restructure. If the idea is to reach an extension, the Packers would still be able to open some cap this year, but probably not as much.
It could be wiser to wait and see how Lazard’s first full season without Davante Adams can impact his value and role within the organization. Next offseason, Lazard will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career, so the Packers might feel forced to arrange a new contract during the 2022 season if he’s playing well enough.
Tonyan was impressive in 2020, with 586 yards and 11 touchdowns. The 2021 season had been good, too – even if it wasn’t that prolific – until he suffered an ACL injury against the Arizona Cardinals. That turned his market situation into chaos because it was much more challenging to define a price when there was uncertainty regarding when and how he will play.
The good news? They reached a one-year, $3.75 million contract. The bad news? It’s a one-year deal. Because of that, Tonyan will be a free agent again next offseason, so the level of his play in 2022 will determine his market. But Tonyan is an essential piece to the offense — and, at least until Tyler Davis proves himself, he’s Green Bay’s best receiving tight end by a significant margin.
Nijman will be a restricted free agent next offseason because 2022 will be his third accrued season in the NFL. He was crucial in 2021 when Bakhtiari and Jenkins were injured, and he started eight games as the left tackle. This year, Nijman might start the season as the right tackle if Bakhtiari is back and Jenkins is not for Week 1, which would increase his value to the team a little more.
If that’s the case, the Packers might be willing to use a second-round tender on him. He is an undrafted free agent, so the rights of first refusal are the other option, and the original-round tender doesn’t make sense. However, in this case, if another team makes an offer the Packers aren’t willing to match, there is no compensation.
Sometimes, teams prefer to make a long-term extension right away, but the Packers haven’t done this type of deal. They’ll probably use the tender to keep Nijman through 2023 and see how things go from there.