Editor’s note: an earlier version of this article failed to account for Khalil Mack’s remaining 5th year option. This has been corrected and Mack’s average salary per year is now calculated as $22.1M instead of the $23.5M that was originally used. Thanks to @studhardt22 for pointing this out.
Sure, I wanted Khalil Mack, he’s a total stud, but after looking what he’s taking from the Bears – averaging in his existing 5th year option – ($22.1M per year), it just plain wasn’t realistic (barely mathematically possible) to have the highest-paid offensive player and the highest-paid defensive player in the history of the game at the same time.
Let’s look at the Packers cap situation per year (using numbers from spotrac.com).
The Packers currently have $5.2M in cap space, which would make it tough to squeeze in a guy getting $22.1M, but let’s say they push numbers around and we’ll call it a -$16.9M balance to move forward.
The Packers currently have $30.7M free under the 2019 cap, that should make it easy to fit Mack in, right? Well, if you figure $8.2M for the rookie class (what they paid this year) and the negative balance carried over from last year, there’s only $5.6M left. Factoring in another $22.1M hit for Mack, the balance is now at -$16.5M.
Of course, that’s if they don’t sign anyone else. Free agents for that year include eight starters (CM3, Cobb, HaHa, MoWil, Brice, Geronimo, Jake Ryan, McCray) and some nice backups (Reggie Gilbert, TyMo, Mercedes Lewis). But sure, let’s say we don’t sign any of those eight starters or anyone to replace them – we’ll assume we replace eight starters through the draft (despite being down two first-rounders) and don’t sign any other free agents (fans seem to like that) and leave the balance at -$16.5M.
This year, the Packers currently have $54M of cap space. So if we take off the negative balance, another $8.2M for rookies, and Mack’s $22.1M annual hit, that gives us a $7.2M surplus! Woo hoo, we’re back in the black in just a few short years! The best part is that there’s only a few starters coming up on contract: Mike Daniels, Bryan Bulaga, Blake Martinez, and Mason Crosby along with backups like Dean Lowry.
So we only lost a dozen starters in two years, but $7.2M should cover that, right? Well, actually it wouldn’t cover 12 guys at the $630k veteran minimum for third year players. That’s just the starters, though, if you want to replace the other other roster spots, you’re really in trouble.
From there, 2021 comes up and the list of free agents grows to include David Bakhtiari, Kenny Clark, Kevin King, Corey Linsley, Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Lane Taylor, Jimmy Graham, Josh Jones, Montravius Adams, and like a couple dozen other guys.
Now, I’m no Russ Ball, but looking simply at the straight cap numbers and free agency schedule, it looks like a grim situation to try to squeeze $22.1M per year in, even without re-signing the 6 or 7 starters that come up on free agency each year. That’s not even taking into account that you’ll be paying an edge rusher $22.1M per year until he turns 35.
Khalil Mack would have been nice, but even without dropping a couple first-rounders, the math just doesn’t add up.