More and more stories come out about the negotiations between Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. We are going to be touching on that in a bit, but here’s the short version: the deal is getting done soon. Before we dive into this and what it means, let’s take a step back and look at the big picture for the salary cap. ProFootball Talk has released a team-by-team look at the cap space available, and according to them the Packers are $18.3 million under the cap. This is sixth highest cap space available after the free agent spending craze, and it's good news since the Packers are going to have to spend a good bit of that money soon.
The first area that money is going to be go is to this year's rookie class. Overthecap.com has a projection for the 2013 rookie salary pool and by their estimates the Packers are going to have a $4.84 million cap hit coming once all the rookie draft picks are signed. Obviously this can change if the Packers trade up or down in the draft, so take this number with a grain of salt. Moral of the story is that the Packers are going to need roughly $5-9 million to get all their rookie contracts done, depending on how many undrafted rookie free agents the Packers sign once the draft is done.
The other big move that is expected this offseason is the re-signing of Clay Matthews. According to Spotrac.com Matthews is set to have a cap hit of $4.91 million. Outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense is a bit tricky of a position to evaluate when looking at the proper pay scale. In many ways these players operate as a top pass rushing 4-3 defensive lineman, but often a 3-4 linebacker will be asked to do more than simply rush the passer as well. The result is that it’s not a clear which position to go to for reference. Typically an established top end pass rusher in the league will make force a cap hit of around $12 million (for example Jared Allen - $14.2 million, Julius Peppers $12.9 million, Tamba Hali $12.5 million, and Terrell Suggs - $13 million). Thus it’s not unreasonable to expect Matthews to command similar money. This would me the Packers would need to keep around $7-8 million of the cap space available for Matthews depending on how they structured that deal.
Finally there is Rodgers. Everyone agrees that Rodgers will be paid more than Joe Flacco. This means that Rodgers is going to be making over $20 million per year. Rodgers is set to bring a $9.75 million cap hit for the Packers already according to Spotrac.com, so an additional $11 million is needed at the very least. Some have speculated that Rodgers could command up to $25 million per year and truly set a new benchmark for how well quarterbacks are paid. If this is the case then even more money will have to be freed up.
At this moment the Packers seem to have plenty of room under the cap, but as you can see that money can disappear quickly. The coming deals for Rodgers and Matthews, as well as actually signing the incoming draft picks, will quickly reduce this cap space. Maybe it’s time we start asking if more cap casualties should be needed in order for the Packers to continue to have some flexibility and avoid being cap strapped like the Dallas Cowboys or Carolina Panthers.