Kenny Clark Contract Underscores Looming Salary Cap Issues

The Packers had a reputation for not signing free agents under Ted Thompson. It’s not really true (considering how he signed DPOY Charles Woodson, Julius Peppers, Ryan Pickett and most of the phenomenal 2010 Super Bowl winning defense as free agents), but he certainly had that reputation.

He got that reputation in large part because he didn’t sign a whole bunch of big name free agent (the kind fans love), which also means that he didn’t ever have to cut good players because of the salary cap.

The Packers under Ted Thompson spread out their cap hits when they signed players and kept a balanced budget.

When Brian Gutekunst came to town, he excited Packer fans by signing a bunch of free agents.

Last year, we felt the impact that infusing talent like that can have…

But we haven’t felt the impact on the salary cap, yet.

Look at the combined cap hits for Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos, and Billy Turner (all numbers provided by our good friends at Spotrac.com):

  • 2019: $23.4M (7.25, 6.0, 5.9, 4.25)
  • 2020: $48.25M (17.25, 13.25, 9.65, 8.1)
  • 2021: $54.85M (20.75, 16.0, 10.05, 8.05)
  • 2022: $56.0M (20.75, 16.5, 10.65, 8.1)

If you chart those out, it shows numbers going up quickly.

Now let’s look at the cap hits on Kenny Clark’s new contract:

  • 2020: $6.69M
  • 2021: $7.1M
  • 2022: $20.65M
  • 2023: $12.25M
  • 2024: $22.0M

That 2022 number is looking concerning. Maybe we should peek at the cap hits for Aaron Rodgers, the most expensive player on the roster (and rightfully so):

  • 2020: $21.6M
  • 2021: $26.4M
  • 2022: $39.9M
  • 2023: $28.4M

Well, that didn’t help.

In 2022, which is just after next season, the Packers will have committed over $116M to just 6 players. The current cap for 2020 is $198M.

I’ll also note that 2022 is when most of the receiving corp comes up as free agents (Davante, MVS, EQ, and Funchess). Oh, and don’t forget that David Bakhtiari – the best offensive lineman in the game – is a free agent after this year (along with Aaron Jones, Kevin King, and pretty much all the other wide receivers).

What does that mean?

Well, if the cap goes down again (or even if it doesn’t go up enough), it will mean the Packers will need to cut good players to stay under that cap after next season. That can accelerate the prorated signing bonus, making the cap situation even worse (shameless self promotion: read more about how that works here). This is the price of last year’s free agency binge.

None of these were necessarily bad contracts, but it goes to show why Ted Thompson said things like “You can’t sign everybody.”

Maybe it would have been more accurate to say: “You can sign everybody, but you’ll have to cut some of the later.”

The Packers seem headed down that path.

 

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