The Green Bay Packers are in the top-10 in available cap space in the NFL, with almost $17 million at their disposal. It’s been an arduous task for Brian Gutekunst and Russ Ball to scale down to that number from the projected $50 million over the cap where they started in March. Even though there is plenty of room now, teams need to carry something throughout the season for roster moves, such as practice squad elevations and minor deals.
Therefore, cap specialist Ken Ingalls projects that the Packers truly have just $2.7 million in cap space to reinforce the roster.
If the Packers want to spend more and sign one or two big-ticket free agents, opening up even more cap space might be necessary. But because they have restructured most of their veterans’ contracts, there are only three realistic options left to create space without cutting anyone.
Lazard received a second-round tender from the Packers, which kept him as a restricted free agent. The negotiation period with other teams has passed, so Lazard’s only option for 2022 is to sign with Green Bay.
The wide receiver has until June 15 to sign the tender for $3.98 million. If he doesn’t sign it by this deadline, the Packers could reduce his tender to $935,000. The last realistic option is for the parties to sign a long-term deal. Lazard is expected to sign the tender, stay under contract with Green Bay for one year as a presumptive WR1, and go back to the market in 2023 as an unrestricted free agent. Even so, it’s still possible for the Packers to adjust Lazard’s deal to open up cap space like they did last season with tight end Robert Tonyan.
The Packers could reduce Lazard’s base salary to the minimum of $935,000. They would convert the remaining $3.05 million into a signing bonus. Adding four void years, the Packers would have the possibility to prorate this amount, opening up $2.44 million in cap space this year; that amount would count towards the 2023 salary cap unless the player and team reach an extension before the void date. If that’s the case, the prorated amount will remain stretched.
Maybe the Packers don’t want to touch Crosby’s contract because he’s in the last year of his deal and might not be in Green Bay beyond 2022. Moreover, the parties already restructured his contract last offseason. Crosby will generate a $1 million dead-money hit next year anyway, and that amount would increase if the Packers restructure his contract.
However, the kicker is one of the only avenues for the Packers to create flexibility now.
Crosby has a projected $2.25 million base salary, plus a $500,000 workout bonus. If the Packers convert everything possible into a signing bonus and add four void years, they would create $1.3 million in cap savings for this year. However, next year’s dead money would jump to $2.3 million.
The fact that the Packers haven’t restructured Lowry’s deal yet might indicate that he’s not a lock to make the 53-man roster. If Green Bay releases Lowry, it would free up $5.45 million this year, but there would still be $1.86 million in dead money next year.
But even if Lowry makes the team, it’s still possible to adjust his contract. Lowry has $5 million in base salary, plus $500,000 in workout bonus. If the team converts it into a signing bonus and adds four void years, it’s possible to open up $3.5 million. Dead money next year would surpass $5.3 million.
The Green Bay Packers don’t tend to kick money into future years. It’s something they’ve done for the last two years mostly because of the COVID-related effects on the salary cap. This offseason, the Packers were forced to make some moves to free up immediate cap space, but they didn’t exercise all their options. For example, they didn’t add void years to David Bakhtiari‘s restructure. At the same time, they also traded Davante Adams and released Za’Darius Smith and Billy Turner, showing the front office is not willing to mortgage the future too much.
Therefore, it’s fair to expect the Packers will adjust Lazard’s deal because it’s relatively low-cost, and there’s a bigger chance he’ll be on the team in 2023. Regarding Crosby and Lowry’s contracts, restructuring them again could negatively impact future plans for players who probably will no longer be in Green Bay.
Brian Gutekunst wants to build a strong roster now, and he knows there is urgency while Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback. But he sees his responsibility as building a sustainable, competitive team, so he’ll move patiently and only open more cap space if a big opportunity arises.