The Green Bay Packers need to shed around $50 million of cap space – and possibly even $20 million more if the team wants to use the franchise tag on receiver Davante Adams – by the start of the new league year on March 16.
Unless the Packers want to cut a bunch of veteran players and begin a mini-rebuild, various salary cap mechanics will need to be used to get the team under the cap by next month.
The most obvious mechanic: converting base and roster bonuses into signing bonuses. This is an attractive salary-cap maneuver because the team can spread expensive one-time payments on the cap over several years, which pushes money into the future but also lessens the strain on the cap this year.
The Packers can even add void years to a restructure to spread out the cap hit over more years and create even more savings. If they want to do a full restructure, they can convert part of the base salary and add void years to deals.
Here are three players with the roster bonuses and restructure savings that the Packers will likely use to help solve a part of the team’s cap problem.
Roster bonus in 2022: $9.5 million
Base salary in 2022: $3.2 million
Potential savings from simple restructure: $6.33 million
High end of potential savings from full restructure: $9.3 million
Bakhtiari’s contract has a big roster bonus due next month, but expect the team to convert it into a signing bonus and get immediate savings – just as they did with this deal last year. Pushing more money into the future on Bakhtiari’s contract is a bit of a risk, both because he’s coming off a significant injury that cost him almost all of the 2021 season and his cap hits will be over $30 million in both 2023 and 2024 if they do the restructuring. The Packers really need Bakhtiari to come back healthy in 2022 and play well for a few years at the back of this deal.
Roster bonus in 2022: $6.4 million
Base salary in 2022: $8.25 million
Potential savings from simple restructure: $4.26 million
High end of potential savings from full restructure: $10.9 million
Clark’s cap number will balloon to almost $21 million in 2022. The Packers can and likely will trim that number significantly with an aggressive restructure of his deal. Just converting his roster bonus could save over $4 million, but the Packers probably need more savings out of this deal. Adding in the base salary and void years could sore the savings over $10 million. Clark is only 26 years old and entering the prime of his football career, so the Packers can probably feel good about pushing money to the future on his deal. But his cap hits are going to approach $25 million in 2023 and 2024.
Roster bonus in 2022: $3.75 million
Base salary in 2022: $1.1 million
Potential savings from simple restructure: $2.5 million
High end of potential savings from full restructure: $3.1 million
Expect the Packers to convert all of Jones’ roster bonus into a signing bonus to create at least $2.5 million of savings on his cap number in 2022. Adding in the base salary can get the savings to over $3 million. With a restructure, his cap hit will go over $20 million in 2023, an uncomfortable number for a running back on a second contract, but that’s a problem for another day.
The Packers can save a little over $23 million in cap space by doing full restructures (base salary and roster bonuses into a signing bonus plus void years) on David Bakhtiari, Kenny Clark and Aaron Jones. For a team that is $50 million over the salary cap and thinking about using the $20 million franchise tag on Davante Adams, these savings can’t be ignored, even if the Packers don’t want to do the full restructures all on three players. Bakhtiari, Clark and Jones are almost guaranteed to have their deals restructured in the next month. The Packers have to do it.