Packers’ Salary Cap Attractive To Prospects

                      Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson 

It’s not every day when you have a team that is 12-2 and has a ton of salary cap space to use for the following season.  That would be the enviable position that the Green Bay Packers are currently in.  Thanks to some creative contract provisions, the team will have around $25 million to pay with come next season.

An example of the Packers’ creativeness with the bottom line: When they signed quarterback Craig Nall, they gained $1.5 million in cap space; according to a source who has access to NFL salary information, Packers Vice President Andrew Brandt put a provision in Nall’s contract that calls for Nall to make a $1.5 million incentive bonus if he blocks 6 punts and plays on 65% of the team’s special teams plays.  We all know that will never happen.  But here is where the creativeness kicks in: salary-cap rules dictate that because the incentive was added to a contract during the season, it counts against this year’s salary cap.  Then when Nall doesn’t reach it, the $1.5 million will become a cap credit for next year.

The Packers did similar stuff for contracts signed by tight ends Donald Lee and Ryan Krause.  By being creative in this fashion, the Pack – namely Brandt and team general manager Ted Thompson –  has created $7.5 million in salary cap room from this year to roll over into next season.  In the last couple years, the Packers have become one of the more financially-healthy teams by using such tactics.  Basically, Brandt and Thompson have the Pack in this revolving circle of having so much cap space that they’re able to sign a couple – at least – of key players to contract extensions and still have extra cap space going into the following season, while in the process not having to re-work contracts or cut players just to serve short-term salary cap needs.

Currently at this juncture of the season, the Packers have about $1 million in available cap space and more than likely use it to pay off incentive clauses on specific players’ contracts.  Some instances – the Pro Bowl bonuses due to Al Harris ($200,000), Aaron Kampman ($100,000) and Donald Driver ($100,000) take up $400,000 this year alone. 

The Pack is also benefitting from the financial restraint that Brandt and Thompson showed last season, when they signed only one free unrestricted agent, Frank Walker.  Dropping out of the bidding for Ahman Green was prudent as well; Thompson made an attempt to re-sign him and even went higher than expected when they offered Green a deal that included $6 million in first-year pay.  Green opted to go to Houston instead, who offered $8.5 million in first-year pay. 

The wealth of cap room for next year should enable Thompson to use flexibility in his offesason personnel moves.  As of right now, defensive tackle Corey Williams will become a unrestricted free agent after the seaon is over; however, the emergence of 2 DT’s – Johnny Jolly and rookie Justin Harrell will make it unlikely that Thompson will get into a bidding war for Williams’ services.  So basically Thompson would be reluctant to make that type of investment in Williams with only so many snaps of the ball to go around.  Plan B could see Thompson put the franchise tag on Williams – worth close to $7 million for next season; the problem there is that Williams could sign the offer and if the Pack couldn’t trade him, then they’re stuck with the bag.  Yet they’d still be comfortably under the cap.  But I doubt they’ll go that route.

But at the end of the day, the Packers have put themselves in a position financially where they should be able to retain talent for both the short- and long-term future and succeed on the field because of it.  And I wouldn’t be at all shocked if this becomes a blueprint for other NFL teams in the future, as well.


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