Packers now almost $50M over salary cap in 2022 after Aaron Rodgers restructure

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The Green Bay Packers are going all-in with Aaron Rodgers in 2021 because a transition is probably coming in 2022.

The salary cap all but guarantees it.

After the Packers restructured Rodgers’ deal, pushing almost $10 million of cap dollars to next year to create space for this year, the Packers are now almost $50 million over the salary cap in 2022, according to Over the Cap.

The Packers have $257 million worth of contracts committed to 52 players for the 2022 season. Over the Cap is predicting a cap of $208.2 million.

Rodgers’ cap number in 2022 is now $46.1 million. There’s almost no way the Packers can be compliant with the salary cap at that number, meaning a future trade or extension is necessary. The team can save over $19 million by trading Rodgers next year, even if it means taking on a dead cap hit of $26.8 million. An extension could also be used to drastically lower his cap hit in 2022.

Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith is in a similar spot. His cap hit is $28.1 million in 2022. He’ll need an extension by next year, but his future isn’t necessarily secure in Green Bay. The team could save almost $15.8 million by moving on via release or trade, with a dead cap hit of almost $12.4 million.

Releasing outside linebacker Preston Smith and receiver Randall Cobb would clear around $20 million, probably making both moves necessary.

Keep in mind, this calculation does not include a new contract for All-Pro receiver Davante Adams, who wants to become the NFL’s highest-paid receiver. Retaining him might not be possible without major salary cap adjustments.

This past offseason, general manager Brian Gutekunst and cap specialist Russ Ball had to touch nearly every veteran contract just to get under the cap for 2021. They’ve pushed it to the limit, as Gutekunst said Thursday. The cap can always be manipulated, and the cap will go up substantially in 2023. But a lot more work on the cap situation will be necessary for the pair next year.

Moving money around in Rodgers’ deal puts the Packers in a good spot for 2021. Gutekunst now has wiggle room for the season, and it’s possible he’s not done adding veteran help for this run.

The Packers must make the most of this opportunity in 2021. Rodgers is back and the roster is talented, but neither is guaranteed past this year. A transition to Jordan Love looks likely in 2022. Good players will be released or leave. This is the Packers’ best (and maybe last) chance to go win a Super Bowl with Rodgers as the quarterback.

Gutekunst said “future pain” is coming on the cap. The squeeze will begin in 2022. The Packers are all-in for 2021.

List

What are the Packers getting in WR Randall Cobb and OT Dennis Kelly?

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