Green Bay Packers

Should Green Bay Commit This Much Cap Space To Rodgers and Adams?

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas (USA TODAY Sports)

The best part about the offseason in any sport is loitering within the theoretical realm. We’re in the time of the year before any hearts are broken or expectations are shattered. Fans and pundits alike rejoice in the ability to freely express any hopes, dreams, or fears they may have about the upcoming season.

The Green Bay Packers have somehow managed to escape Cap Hell this year. They have renegotiated the terms on many key contracts and opened up space to sign players to even bigger deals. The financial finagling required to do this is more complex than I, a man with a keyboard and internet access, am qualified to preach about.

However, the key fact is this: The current NFL salary cap sits at a cool $208 million. With the new Aaron Rodgers deal, his cap hit for this year is “only” $28 million, or roughly 13.25% of the cap total. Per Over the Cap’s figures, the top 15 quarterbacks in the NFL by cap impact comprise of, on average, 13.49% of their respective teams’ salary cap. That would place Rodgers about right on financial par with the “above average” QBs in the NFL this upcoming season. Not too shabby for arguably the greatest regular-season QB of all time.

We won’t waste time discussing how that deal will impact the team in the two remaining years to come. Instead, the attention now turns to whether or not Davante Adams is going to be able to leverage his way into a record-setting deal for a wide receiver. It’s unlikely that the Packers will get a team-friendly deal after Christian Kirk signed a massive 4-year, $72 million deal. Kirk has never had a 1,000-yard season in the NFL, and Adams is unquestionably a top-3 receiver in the game today.

Kirk’s contract unquestionably skewed the WR market. Adams has everything working in his favor, which is great for him. It is money that he undoubtedly deserves. However, it puts Green Bay in a bit of a bind regarding how much they will be able to give him responsibly.

Say that Adams gets around the $30 million per year that he wants. That kind of money, paired with the money Rodgers is making, will account for over 25% of Green Bay’s total cap hit. That is an outrageous sum for an offensive core that, while prolific, deserves some blame for the playoff pain over the past few years.

It’s not unrealistic for Adams to ask for this money in the first place. Adams accounted for nearly 30% of the team’s total targets last year and had 34% of the Packers’ total receiving yards on the season. Without him, the receiving corps looks significantly different. The team would suffer in his absence throughout an entire season. Adams has Rodgers’ trust, which is arguably more of an intangible factor than a specific price tag or analytical replacement could adequately account for.

The fallout is that the team is left in a tough spot. Would it be wise for Green Bay to commit that much money to two offensive players for the next few seasons?

When the Packers won the Super Bowl in 2011, the team’s four highest-paid players were all on the defensive side of the ball. Nick Collins ($10.95 million), Ryan Pickett ($8.4 million), Charles Woodson ($8.4 million), and B.J. Raji ($7.89 million) each had the highest salaries on the team, with the nearest offensive skill position player coming in sixth with Rodgers ($6.5 million), followed by Donald Driver ($6 million). Sure, that was a long time ago during a year where there was no salary cap in the NFL. But the approach to team-building in the NFL was vastly different back then as it is now.

Many teams that rose to the top did so on the strength of great offensive players on affordable contracts that were made so only by virtue of their youth. Look no further than the Kansas City Chiefs, who enjoyed their greatest run while Patrick Mahomes was still playing on his rookie deal. Tyreek Hill was making his fair share of money, but that dynamic duo did not have a stranglehold on the team’s financial prospects like Rodgers and Adams are slated to have.

That kind of spending also unquestionably affects the teams’ identity. The Seattle Seahawks Legion of Boom run would not have been possible without excessive spending on the defense while taking full advantage of Russell Wilson’s rookie contract. Tom Brady always had late-round and undrafted guys to throw the ball to while he was winning championships in New England because the team was willing to pour more of that money into the defense. The Denver Broncos couldn’t win the Super Bowl in Peyton Manning’s historical offensive year in 2013. But they were able to secure that victory in 2015 after boasting the league’s fourth-best scoring defense.

Rodgers and Adams unquestionably deserve this kind of money. But Green Bay will need to watch out for whether or not they will have enough defensive (and special teams) potential to capitalize on the twilight of Rodgers’ career while also maintaining enough offensive effectiveness to be among the league’s best. This duo has proved they can keep this kind of production in the past.

This season, with another year under Rodgers’ belt and Father Time acting against both of them, they need to show that they are worthy of these (prospective) deals. A Super Bowl victory in the upcoming season will make all of these theoreticals and hand-wringing disappear. The Lombardi Trophy is the hope and expectation for what should be another exciting (and potentially frustrating) year.

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