Green Bay Packers

Bakhtiari's Contract Puts Pressure On His Future In Green Bay

Photo credit: Dan Powers (USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin) Apc Packersminicamp 0608211199djp

The Green Bay Packers have adapted their financial modus operandi in the last couple of years. After decades of conservatism, the front office decided to take an aggressive cap approach to circumvent the crisis created by COVID-19 and how it affected the NFL, and also because they had an elite roster trying to win a second ring with Aaron Rodgers. They started to add void years to contracts and make several restructures to create cap space, moving money to future years.

There was one exception, though, and now it will create an interesting situation.

Left tackle David Bakhtiari has never agreed to add void years to his restructures. Generally, teams can execute regular restructures without the players’ consent — it’s something they previously agreed upon when the original contract is signed. However, per NFL rules, the player must agree to the addition of void years and sign a contract review. Void years are fake years designed to spread the cap hit by allocating signing bonus money to future years and lowering the current year’s hit.

The Packers gave Bakhtiari a four-year, $92 million extension in 2020, right before his knee injury. Since then, they have done three restructures, all of them without adding voids years — they restructured $11 million in 2021, $11.5 million in 2022, and $15 million in 2023. Without void years, though, his 2024 cap hit became monstrous: $40.4 million.

If Bakhtiari had agreed to add void years in the three past seasons, his cap hit in 2024 would be $24.2 million, and the remaining $15.8 million would hit the cap in 2025 as dead money — assuming they don’t offer him an extension. And that difference explains why the left tackle hasn’t been open to adding void years.

With such a high cap number, Bakhtiari is forcing the Packers to make a decision on him. Next year, it’s virtually impossible to have a $40.46 million cap hit for a non-quarterback. And Green Bay can’t unilaterally restructure the deal, because it’s the last year of his contract. The only way they can reduce the hit would be by adding void years, something Bakhtiari hasn’t agreed to.

That means the Packers will have to take one of the three paths. The least likely is to keep Bakhtiari under that number and make him play out his contract, making him an unrestricted free agent in 2025. The second scenario is releasing him in 2024. Green Bay would take on $19 million in dead money, but they would open $21.4 million in cap space. The last potential option is for the Packers to give Bakhtiari an extension. With a new deal, they would have the alternative to give the tackle a minimum base salary, and his cash would be paid as a new signing bonus. That would reduce his 2024 cap hit and keep him in Green Bay for multiple years.

Regardless, Bakhtiari’s game of hardball with the Packers makes sense for him. He didn’t help the team to create more space, as they opened up $7.5 million this year, instead of $12 million if Bakhtiari had accepted to add void years. Instead, he put himself in a position to sign a new contract next season or to be released and find a new deal elsewhere.

The financial component means Bakhtiari will have an important year in 2023. After missing almost the entire 2021 season and parts of 2022 with the knee injury, he proved that he can still produce at a high level by the end of last year. Bakhtiari finished the season with a 79.8 PFF grade and played 84% of the team’s offensive snaps.

“I think we’re hopeful that he’s kind of cleared some of those injury hurdles that he had the last few years,” Brian Gutekunst said. “He got into a really good rhythm of learning what he needed to practice to get to the games, and I’m hopeful as we get beyond this season that rhythm will serve him well as we go forward.”

If Bakhtiari plays well again, the Packers might be more inclined to give him a new extension. That would allow them to let Yosh Nijman, who’s playing under a restricted free-agent tender, walk in free agency in 2024. If Bakhtiari doesn’t play as well or suffers from injuries again, Green Bay could establish Nijman and Zach Tom as their long-term tackles, and Bakhtiari would have to find a new home in the NFL.

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