Green Bay Packers

It's Time For the Packers To Extend Rashan Gary

Photo Credit: Dan Powers/Appleton Post-Crescent-USA TODAY NETWORK

The Green Bay Packers decided to restructure Dean Lowry‘s contract, according to ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates. The team had $5.57 million in cap space, so opening up $1.1 million more was not an operational need.

Lowry is in the last year of his contract, so the number opened up this season will hit the cap as dead money in 2023. Therefore, if the Packers decided to adjust their final veteran contract, there is a reason for that – it is the money they need now, not in 2023. Why? Because in a two-year span, there is no impact.

That move might be an extension for Rashan Gary. There are other scenarios: extending another player, like Elgton Jenkins, or even signing an external free agent. But the Gary extension will happen at some point, so it bears discussion.

Defensive impact

Rashan Gary is arguably Green Bay’s most important defensive player. Jaire Alexander is also a top player at his position, but the secondary is more of a weak-link system. One edge defender is a bigger factor for the team, and it’s clear how much the Packers miss Gary since he suffered a season-ending ACL injury.

Green Bay allowed 20.88 points per game when Gary was healthy in the first nine games of the season. Since the edge defender got hurt, the Packers played three games, allowing an average of 31.66 points per week.

Gary still leads the team in sacks (six), ahead of Preston Smith (5.5), Kenny Clark (three), and Kingsley Enagbare (two). Gary is also tied with Smith for most tackles for loss (seven) and is second in pressures (16), even with three fewer games.

He also has the highest PFF grade (82.9) among Packers edge rusher by a large margin. The other full-time starter, Preston Smith, has a 62.1 grade for the season, while Enagbare’s grade is 68.6.

What an extension would look like

Spotrac compares a player’s production to his counterparts to evaluate the player’s market value. For Gary, they established his deal at $20.5 million per season, a four-year, $82 million contract. But the most important factor here is the stats: Gary has a much lower number of sacks per game (0.48) than the highest-paid edge defenders in the NFL — T.J. Watt (0.95), Joey Bosa (0.74), and Myles Garrett (0.9). Gary isn’t as productive as them in tackles, stops, and rating. Gary’s numbers are better in hurries. He’s tied with Bosa and higher than Watt and Garrett.

Nick Bosa‘s projected market value is $27.2 million per season (four-year, $109 million contract).

The Packers expected Gary to be a developmental prospect when the Packers selected him in the 2019 draft. He only became a starter in his third season because Za’Darius Smith got hurt. Gary became the preferred full-time starter just this year, and he played half the season, so the Packers will use those numbers to try to lower his total value. However, Gary’s agents will argue in favor of his production over the last two seasons as a starter because they are as good as almost anyone’s.

Considering Gary’s importance to the defense, it’s realistic to expect his deal to surpass Alexander’s $21 million yearly average. However, it might not be so much that it would put him among the highest-paid edge defenders. And Gary is still under contract for 2023, with his fifth-year option, at $10.9 million — this is a good tool to keep his cap number low.

Gary’s simulated contract if it is signed in the offseason:

  • New money: four-year/$92 million ($23 million per year)
  • Total contract: five-year/$102.9 million ($20.58 million per year)
  • Signing bonus: $33 million (the Packers generally use the Super Bowl as the only guaranteed money)

2023

  • Signing bonus proration: $6.6 million
  • Base salary: $1.1 million
  • Workout bonus: $800k
  • Cap hit: $8.5 million

2024

  • Signing bonus proration: $6.6 million
  • Base salary: $1.2 million
  • Roster bonus: $14 million
  • Workout bonus: $800k
  • Cap hit: $22.6 million

2025

  • Signing bonus proration: $6.6 million
  • Base salary: $8 million
  • Roster bonus: $9 million
  • Workout bonus: $800k
  • Cap hit: $24.4 million

2026

  • Signing bonus proration: $6.6 million
  • Base salary: $15 million
  • Roster bonus: $700k
  • Workout bonus: $800k
  • Cap hit: $23.1 million

2027

  • Signing bonus proration: $6.6 million
  • Base salary: $16.2 million
  • Roster bonus: $700k
  • Workout bonus: $800k
  • Cap hit: $24.3 million
What’s the benefit of doing it now?

There are not many clear benefits if the Packers extend Gary now. The signing bonus proration can’t be longer than five years, so the cap hit will be the same in 2023. The difference is the signing bonus would hit the cap immediately; that’s why Lowry’s restructure was a need in this scenario. The Packers would stretch it until 2026, not 2027, so there would be a little bit more future flexibility.

However, the free-agent market is the biggest benefit for the Packers securing Gary right now.

Other edge defenders drafted in the 2019 first round will also fight for new deals — Nick Bosa, Brian Burns, and Montez Sweat. If they receive extensions from their team, the market could be better for Gary and more expensive for the Packers. The team might get a more favorable long-term deal if Green Bay is willing to do it now and swallow the injury recovery risk.

The Green Bay Packers have been much worse than expected in 2022, but the team still has several building blocks. Rashan Gary is one of the most important of them, and a new deal for him is just a matter of time.

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