As the NFL's 2014 season enters its final few weeks, many teams around the league are already looking ahead to 2015. While the Green Bay Packers as a whole are not, it's a safe bet that Ted Thompson is hard at work preparing for a busy offseason of player acquisitions and transactions, as the Packers have several key players scheduled to enter free agency this March.
One variable in this equation is the amount of salary cap space that teams will have next season, a value which often is not set in stone until shortly before free agency begins. However, the NFL apparently has a range of expected numbers for next year's cap and it presented teams with those numbers on Wednesday:
NFL Management Council informed teams at league meeting today '15 cap projects b/n $138.6M-$141.8M. I bet it ends up higher. Often does— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) December 10, 2014
The current salary cap for 2014 is $133 million, so these numbers would reflect an increase of anywhere between $5.6 million and $8.8 million. For the sake of argument, let's look at the higher number here, and assume that $141.8 million is the actual value for 2015. The NFL also gives teams the benefit of rolling over unused salary cap space from the previous season, so what the Packers don't use this year can go towards next year's cap. Currently, the team has $8.2 million in cap space, so the projected overall cap number in Green Bay would be almost exactly $150 million next year.
As of this moment, the Packers have about $121.1 million committed to the salary cap for next season in active contracts. They also have just under $0.6 million in dead money for next year as well (values measured by Overthecap.com). That leaves them with a total cap charge of $121.7 million based on the contracts which are currently on the books.
These early projections would leave Green Bay with a little over $28 million in cap space for the 2015 season. A number of key players have contracts expiring after the 2014 season, including Randall Cobb, Bryan Bulaga, Tramon Williams, Davon House, Jamari Lattimore, B.J. Raji, and several others. Of course, restructuring or releasing some veteran players could be another pathway to opening up cap space; for example, cutting either A.J. Hawk or Brad Jones would free up $3.5 million, while Julius Peppers' contract appeared ripe for a restructure after this season even when it was signed a year ago.
The rookie class of 2015 will also eat up some of the team's cap space, but with the Packers projected to have a draft pick in the mid-20s at best (here's hoping for pick number 32), the amount of cap space they will need to allocate for the 2015 draft class in its rookie year will be relatively low. In 2014 that number was about $1.9 million - it's tough to imagine that number going up significantly, since the Packers will likely be picking lower than #21 this year. Let's just say we have $2 million for rookies, which drops the total amount available to about $26 million.
In all, we expect the Packers to have plenty of financial flexibility in 2015 to sign Cobb, the team's biggest free agent priority, and a few other key players. $26 million in cap space is certainly enough to make a pretty big dent in a roster, and Ted Thompson will likely be grateful to have that number in his back pocket as he works to build the 2015 team in Green Bay.
See below for a quick look at the individual cap hits of the players under contract for 2015.