Tom Brady restructured and the New England Patriots have been to two Super Bowls since
By: Bill Tewes
Another year goes by and it’s another year in which the Green Bay Packers will be watching the Super Bowl from the comfort of their homes. After the Packers ran into the buzzsaw that was the Atlanta Falcons, many questions are left unanswered as to how the Pack can right the ship and become a contender again.
A popular question in recent days, is whether or not the organization should ask Aaron Rodgers to restructure his contract, so that GM Ted Thompson can sign some top caliber free agent talent and give Rodgers a championship caliber team. Before we answer that, lets take a look at Green Bay’s cap situation heading into the 2017-2018 season.
Green Bay will head into the 2017 season with many difficult decisions that Thompson will have to make, as far as retaining some of his own players. Any Packers fan can tell you that Thompson typically favors his own guys and there has been some embarrassing examples of keeping his own draft picks too long (Brad Jones, AJ Hawk).
With the likely departure of Julius Peppers, Sam Shields, James Starks and most likely Letroy Guion, the Packers will free up over $20 million in cap space with those players off the books. Left guard T.J. Lang will be an interesting case, as he is certainly worth the money and is one helluva tough player. But injuries plagued him all last season and he departed the NFC Championship game with a foot injury. Peppers would be welcomed back with open arms, but only if he takes a veteran’s minimum deal.
In a meritocracy, hybrid linebacker/defensive end Datone Jones would have been gone about a season ago. There is slim to no chance that Thompson brings back Jones, as he has not performed to the caliber a first round pick warrants. Starks will also be gone after posting an atrocious 2.3 yards per carry and never coming back from a concussion sustained in a car accident.
One player, however, that does warrant a contract is linebacker Nick Perry. Perry looked like another disappointing bust following in the footsteps of his peer Jones, but Perry turned it up this past season totaling 11 sacks, a team high. According to Spotrac.com, Perry’s potential market value is in the 8.5 million per year range. I could see Perry fetching more than that on the open market to a team that is desperate for a linebacker. But I see Green Bay being that desperate team and getting a deal done with Perry. Two other players that should receive contracts are Tight End Jared Cook and Hybrid Safety Micah Hyde, as both will hit free agency, but played well enough to earn new contracts with the team.
The 2014 draft class is also something that the team will have to factor in when considering how much money they will be spending in free agency. Pro Bowl safety HaHa Clinton-Dix will most definitely get a contract extension, along with Davante Adams, who posted a turnaround season with 12 touchdowns and came up three yards short of 1,000 yards on the season.
Running back Eddie Lacy’s status with the team is up in the air, as the obvious weight concerns, injury concerns, the emergence of Ty Montgomery at running back and a loaded running back class in this year’s draft will put Lacy in the “prove it deal” category. It would be nice to have Lacy back for insurance purposes and the fact that he was averaging just over five yards a carry before his season was ended with an ankle injury.
With all this being said, Green Bay should be in the $35-40 million dollar range in cap space if the aforementioned cuts, cap rollover, as well as the cap going up to $163-$165 million (up from roughly $155 million in 2016). They will have plenty of money to play with in order to sign a couple players on the defensive side of the ball, adding crucial pieces they desperately need to get Aaron Rodgers another title on his mantle.
It would seem incredibly disingenuous to ask perhaps the best quarterback in all of football at the moment to restructure his contract. Rodgers is not even the highest paid quarterback in the league. Super Bowl bound and likely 2016 MVP winning QB Matt Ryan was the highest paid quarterback to start the 2016 season (Andrew Luck is now the highest paid) and took a team with a pretty average defense to the Super Bowl. The difference is that the Falcons added key free agents in Alex Mack (viewed as one of the best free agent signings this past offseason) as well as role players in Dwight Freeney, Courtney Upshaw and the speedy receiver Taylor Gabriel to compliment superstar Julio Jones.
Ted Thompson has absolutely no choice but to spend some of the cap money the team currently has. Rodgers has three years left on his current contract, which is set to expire at the end of the 2019 season. The only possible way Rodgers would restructure is if he was guaranteed a deal similar to Tom Brady’s back in 2013, in which Rodgers would receive his money differently than his current contract, but with more guaranteed money as well as an extension to the current contract.
However, Rodgers is not 35 and also has no guarantee from management that they have plans to upgrade the team and get him some help. What would be the point of sticking around after his prime years are well in the rear view mirror and the team still has no real change?
The real answer to the restructure question is to look at players like Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb as possible restructure candidates. Matthews has been an essential piece to the defense and the team would struggle without him. But he has trouble staying on the field and has not brought the production to match the contract. Cobb is in a similar boat. Cobb showed some flashes in the post season of his old self, but he has definitely not lived up to contract extension that nets him $10 million per year.
Our next offseason installment will focus on players that Thompson can target in free agency.