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The next few days will be fascinating for the Green Bay Packers. With the start of the new league year just days away, the Packers are still trying to get under the $182.5 million salary cap, and they haven’t made decisions on several key issues that could define this offseason.
As of Friday morning, the Packers are still around $9.4 million over the cap.
Here’s what we still don’t know as the Packers inch closer to Wednesday’s start to the 2021 league year:
– Aaron Rodgers: The Packers have an easy way to create a substantial amount of cap room, but they haven’t used it. Extending or restructuring Rodgers’ deal could get the Packers under the cap immediately. And it would have to play a big part in the Packers opening up enough space to be buyers in free agency. He’s the NFL MVP, and he wants to be in Green Bay long-term. Are the Packers just hesitant to add a bunch of money to his cap hits in future years, which could potentially jeopardize the opportunity to transition to Jordan Love? This remains the most complex and important decision of the offseason.
– Preston Smith: His $16 million cap hit in 2021 is a big burden for a team needing cap space, especially after his sharp regression in production in 2020. Releasing him would instantly create $8 million of space, making Smith a key part of putting together this cap puzzle before Wednesday. Do the Packers think they can trade him after the start of the new league year? It’s possible the team is trying to put together an agreeable paycut, but a release still looks like the most likely outcome. At this point, it’s surprising he’s still on the roster.
– Davante Adams: Is an extension coming? His deal has just one year left, and his cap hit in 2021 could be lowered significantly with a smartly structured extension. The clock is ticking. It’s possible this extension will be too complicated to get done before the start of the new league year. The last deal for Adams ended up being a true bargain. This one? It’ll be massive.
– Za’Darius Smith: Restructuring or extending Smith’s deal is another way to create the space needed to get under the cap. He’s under contract for another two years, with cap hits over $20 million each year. Would the Packers want to tack on more years and guarantee more money to lower his cap hit this year? He turns 29 in September. The Packers have to decide how long they think he’ll be a consistently disruptive player.
– Aaron Jones: The Packers didn’t tag Jones, opening the door for him to get to the open market. They want to get a long-term deal done, but the complications are many. How much guaranteed money? Is it smart to spend big on a running back? Can they make enough moves to fit him under the cap? Not tagging Jones on Tuesday likely means he’s gone.
– Robert Tonyan: He’s the only interesting restricted free agent. More than likely, the Packers will use the second-round tender, hoping the required compensation will scare off teams from signing him away. The tender is worth over $3 million, and it goes on the cap immediately, creating another complication for getting under the cap by the start of the new league year. Without a tender, Tonyan becomes an unrestricted free agent.
– Free agency: Given their current salary cap situation, it’s very difficult to imagine the Packers being buyers in free agency. Maybe they can find a bargain or two after the first few waves, but making a competitive offer for a top free agent will be difficult, and maybe even bordering on impossible, assuming the Packers don’t kick the can down the road with a few veterans and push a bunch of money into the future. The next few days will help reveal the plan. The Packers can create space. But do they want to?