Finalized salary cap, compensatory picks paint a cloudy picture for Green Bay

With Wednesday’s announcement that the 2021 salary cap figure for the 2021 NFL season will be at a base of $182.5 million, combined with the announcement of the compensatory picks being handed out, the Green Bay Packers plans for next season finally received a bit of clarity. And while rolling over around $3.7 million in space from last season certainly helps the cause, it does not do enough to help this team get under the cap.

The salary cap figure is going to be the most important part of their off-season planning, as this figure will help them determine what personnel moves they need to make to shed around $9-10 million before March 17th, which constitutes both the start of the ‘21 league year and the beginning of free agency.

Being already that close to that mark is due to the moves made by GM Brian Gutekunst and cap guru Russ Ball, who helped prioritize the early moves of releasing LB Christian Kirksey and OL Rick Wagner. But those were the easy moves, the moves that were seen as givens, especially with how the cap figures were assumed to be playing out.

But now is the time that the front office earns their salaries, the times when understanding the intricacies of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) come in mighty handy to help get the Packers into a favorable cap sheet moving forward.

And it surely won’t be easy.

The next logical move is for Gutekunst to move on from edge rusher Preston Smith and his $8 million in dead cap – if released as a post 6/1 designation, that dead money would be split 50/50 across both the ‘21 and ‘22 cap sheets, while providing a cumulative $8 million cap savings for ‘21.

That amount, combined with a few potential restructures and extensions (Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams & Za’Darius Smith are extension candidates), would get them under the necessary cap number moving into the league year. 

Any substantial outside additions, whether it be through free agency or a trade, would require further cap slashing, something that could hold the form of deferred payments or incentive-based deals, as well as roster bonus conversions, elements that can easily be used but will just make this an issue next year again.

For compensatory draft picks, Green Bay earned three for their FA departures – a 4th (for Blake Martinez), a 5th (for Bryan Bulaga), and a 6th (for Kyler Fackrell) round selection will all be added to their arsenal come draft day.

These added picks certainly give Gutekunst more flexibility to move around the board, but it also comes with added cost. Having extra selections naturally will bloat the incoming draft pick pool salaries, putting even more of a strain on the cap sheet for the team to figure out.

While the new league year will bring the smell of yet another chance at Super Bowl-chasing disappointment, it also means that the financial aspect of this team will need to have been figured out. When the dust settles and the roster takes further shape, it will be interesting to see how (not if) competitive this team is and what sorts of challenges their shortcomings will face.

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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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