Packers’ $15 million in cap space gives them plenty of flexibility heading into April

Thanks to a multitude of contract restructures, extensions, and releases, the Green Bay Packers managed to make their way under the salary cap in time for the start of the league year. Following the Davante Adams trade, the team opened up another $20.1 million in cap space that they had allocated to Adams on the franchise tag, leaving them with additional money to spend.

Now, we know exactly where they stand heading into the month of April. According to Field Yates of ESPNthe Packers have $15,121,361 to work with under the cap, a number that ranks 17th in the NFL—right smack-dab in the middle of the league.

That number accounts for all of the players that have been reported to have signed to this point, a group that includes linebacker De’Vondre Campbell and cornerback Rasul Douglas. Both of those players returned on new deals that kept their 2022 cap hits low while locking them in for at least a few years.

Russ Ball’s work with the cap has helped to keep the Packers’ championship window open, and although the team still needs to find help at wide receiver, the cap number that Yates references demonstrates that the team has the financial resources to do just that. Draft picks will surely be a part of the strategy to fill in for the hole left by Adams’ departure, but the team will still have the flexibility to make some moves in the trade or free agent market as well.

Acquiring a veteran wideout

That $15.1 million in cap space will remain until the team begins signing draft picks. Thus, the Packers could acquire a receiver in a trade all the way through draft weekend, so long as the player’s 2022 cap hit does not exceed that number. Of the names most commonly linked to the Packers, none carries a cap number even close to that value at present.

Let’s look first at DK Metcalf, who has been the subject of numerous rumors over the past few days and weeks. If traded, Metcalf will surely sign a new long-term contract extension with a new team, one that could easily pay him over $20 million per year in new money. Just getting Metcalf in the door, however, is no challenge for the Packers with their cap number. He is on the final year of his rookie contract and even with performance escalators, his base salary is a shade under $4 million. With the top-51 rule in place, he would bump off a second-year pro worth $825,000 out of the 51st spot on the Packers’ contract table, making his net cap impact just $3.161 million.

Then there’s the contract itself. A 4-year extension with $80 million and a signing bonus of $30 million could be structured in such a way that his base in 2022 drops to the league minimum of $965,000, making his total cap hit just shy of $7 million. That’s only an increase of $3 million from before, for a total increase of $6.14 million above where the Packers sit at present. That fits fine under the $15 million the Packers have for now.

DeVante Parker of the Miami Dolphins is another name mentioned frequently in connection with the Packers. He has a bigger contract for now with Miami, and the Packers would be on the hook for an overall cap hit of $6.25 million, an effective increase of $5.425 million on the offseason cap. That remains less than a theoretical Metcalf acquisition and extension, so the Packers are again fine.

The final name to address is Will Fuller, also formerly a Miami Dolphin but currently an unrestricted free agent. When healthy and available, Fuller has been an elite deep threat, and he was at Notre Dame in 2014 when Matt LaFleur was on the coaching staff there. Due to injuries, however, he would likely come relatively cheap, perhaps on a deal similar to the one Kevin King signed last season — a one-year deal for around $5 million, but with void years included to spread out the cap hit. Again, that’s easy enough to fit in under the cap given the numbers we worked with for Metcalf and Parker above.

The 2022 Draft Class

The other major question for the offseason is the Packers’ 2022 draft class. With four picks in the top 60 selections, the Packers have more capital than at any time since 2019, when they headed into the draft with the the 12th and 30th selections. But what is the net salary cap impact of these picks, given the NFL’s rookie draft pool?

According to the contract estimates from Overthecap.com, here’s what those picks would add to the Top-51 cap:

Packers 2022 Draft Class Cap Impact

pick 2022 Cap Number Part of Top 51? Contract Displaced Effective Cap Increase
pick 2022 Cap Number Part of Top 51? Contract Displaced Effective Cap Increase
22 $2,837,756 Yes $825,000 $2,012,756
28 $2,627,896 Yes $825,000 $1,802,896
53 $1,288,020 Yes $825,000 $463,020
59 $1,158,873 Yes $825,000 $333,873
92 $971,560 Yes $825,000 $146,560
132 $906,282 Yes $825,000 $81,282
140 $853,432 Yes $825,000 $28,432
171 $789,679 No N / A $-
228 $735,975 No N / A $-
249 $728,803 No N / A $-
258 $727,665 No N / A $-

Summing up the effective cap increases gives us a total of $4,868,819, the amount of cap space that the Packers will need to have to sign the draft picks. So even adding Metcalf to the mix on the extension theorized above and signing the draft class, the Packers will still have a little over $4 million in cap space to work with through the offseason.

This also does not address the possibility of the Packers trading up. If they do package some of these picks to move up in the draft, the effective cap impact will likely decrease, or at the very least should not increase significantly. Plus, acquiring Metcalf would surely require trading some picks away anyway, which would further reduce the draft class’s impact on the 2022 cap.

Looking farther ahead

The remaining $4 million or so that we are theorizing with a Metcalf acquisition and extension should still be more than enough to get this team through the offseason. Yes, the Top-51 rule goes away at the start of the regular season, when the Packers will likely need around $5-6 million to make it through the season. But this scenario finds them with $4 million of that still available without even addressing the likely contract extension for cornerback Jaire Alexander, which could free up another $6-7 million on its own.

This exercise illustrates that the Packers have plenty of ammunition to go after a receiver via trade or free agency (should they want to do so), to sign their draft picks, and still have a decent amount of wiggle room to make some moves on the margins through the offseason before they hammer out a deal with Alexander over the summer.

Set the doom and gloom aside. Russ Ball and Brian Gutekunst still have the flexibility to make a flashy move if they decide it’s the right way to go.

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