Cut/Extend/Restructure – the Packers’ 2021 offseason

As will all teams in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers’ 2021 offseason will be filled with handling the uncertain salary-cap figure. Projected to live in the $175 – $180 million area, the Packers will need to make some cap maneuvers to get under that number.

The first domino for that happened this past week, as left tackle David Bakhtiari had his roster bonus for the ‘21 season converted into a signing bonus, freeing up $8.3 million in cap space for just this season. His recent four-year extension kicks in starting this season, and with that recent conversion, an extra $2.768 will be tacked onto the final three years of his contract, starting in 2022.

General manager Brian Gutekunst and resident cap guru Russ Ball have their work cut out for them this offseason, and this move was the most logical one to open it up. Bakhtiari will still make the same money he was supposed to when he originally signed the deal (note – this was a conversion, not a restructure, so the bottom-line dollar amount remains the same), so it was more of just semantics for the team to free up space now while kicking the can down the road.

Restructure & Extension Candidates

Outside of Bakhtiari, other players that could be up for possible restructuring live towards the top of the cap sheet, and both Za’Darius Smith and Aaron Rodgers top that list.

Smith carries a $22 million cap figure into the ‘21 season, and while the Pro Bowler and All-Pro recipient certainly has earned his contract up to this point in Green Bay, he would make sense to earn similar treatment to what Bakhtiari received. A potential restructure could result in as much as $7.755 million in cap space, which would naturally push the problem farther down the road, but would address the issue at hand.

If the Packers were to extend Smith, $12.4 million could be freed up while adding years onto his deal, which would again make his contract a later problem to handle, something that both Ball and Gutekunst frequently do not take advantage of.

For Rodgers, a restructuring of over $14.5 million and an extension that would net over $17.4 million are both avenues that this team should consider moving forward.

The restructuring would most likely push guaranteed money down the road for a potential issue when he may not be the starter anymore, and the extension would obviously show the front office’s faith in Rodgers, instead of handing over the reins to Jordan Love.

Other extensions that would help free up space include wide receiver Davante Adams ($9.34 million in space), safety Adrian Amos ($4.728 million), offensive lineman Billy Turner ($3.84 million), and kicker Mason Crosby ($1.5 million), among others.

Cut Candidates

The other way that the team can get out of contracts and free up money is by cutting players like Preston Smith, Dean Lowry, Christian Kirksey, Rick Wagner, and others.

Smith would generate $12 million in savings (against a dead-cap figure of $4 million) if released after June 1, and that would go a long way to helping this team free up space. His play certainly has declined and this past season was far from why he was given that long-term deal a few offseasons back, so cutting the least-productive Smith brother makes sense.

For Lowry, the extension that he was handed back in 2019 should not have happened in the first place, but cutting him after June 1st gives back $3.3 million in cumulative cap space ($4.8 million in savings vs. $1.5 million in dead money). Lowry was on the field for the fewest percentage of snaps in his career since the 2017 season, and he would be seen more as a depth loss.

Kirksey’s first year in Green Bay was quite up and down, but with how his contract was set up, only his $4 million signing bonus was guaranteed, and if cut at any point this offseason (provided it is before the 3rd day of the ‘21 league year), he would free up over $3 million in space. With the team’s commitment to both Kamal Martin and Krys Barnes moving forward as their linebackers, moving on from Kirksey makes sense.

Wagner was scooped up after being let go from the Detroit Lions, and he filled in admirably as this team’s right tackle at times. But being able to free up $2.5 million by cutting him makes sense, especially with how their OL depth looks to be moving forward. Plus, if they put a premium on updating the OL, especially their RT spot, that would help make Wagner’s spot on this team one that can be filled by a rookie.

Green Bay will be hard-pressed to free up money this offseason, which will come at the cost of losing some players that have been on this team for a few seasons. But with the current cap landscape, they will need to do something, especially want to remain at the top of the NFC North.

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Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23

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