Shortly after the Green Bay Packers’ general manager, Brian Gutekunst, introduced the team’s many new players, he and the team’s finance department signed off on a series of roster bonus checks to players sticking around for 2019. The Packers have often implemented these roster bonuses as part of players’ compensation in recent years, including them on contracts as a way to give the team a little extra time to make decisions on whether to retain the players for the following year.
This offseason, the Packers have released just one player who was scheduled to receive such a bonus. That was outside linebacker Nick Perry, whose release came on March 12th, the day before free agency officially began. By cutting him then, the team avoided a $4.8 million bill that would have come due on March 15th, the third official day of the league year.
However, the team’s decisions to retain a few other players through their roster bonus deadlines illustrate that those players remain in the team’s plans for the upcoming season. Here is a look at all the players who had bonuses paid out since the start of the 2019 league year last Wednesday (according to contract details published on Overthecap.com). All players received their bonuses on March 15th, the third day of the new league year, unless otherwise indicated.
- QB Aaron Rodgers: $13.4M
- TE Jimmy Graham: $5M (on March 17th)
- WR Davante Adams: $3.5M
- C Corey Linsley: $1M
- DB Tramon Williams: $1M
- LG Lane Taylor: $750,000
Obviously, Rodgers is not going anywhere. His roster bonus was already fully guaranteed anyway, so the Packers were cutting that check one way or another. The other deadline that did take place for Rodgers is that his $19.5 million bonus in 2020 became guaranteed as a result of him remaining on the roster through February.
Likewise, the team keeping Adams and Linsley should come as no surprise, as both players signed their latest contracts late in the 2017 season. Releasing Adams would have effectively been a wash from a cap space perspective, but as an elite NFL receiver on a team-friendly deal, Adams is going nowhere. The Packers could have gained some cap space by releasing Linsley, however, but he also remains one of the steadiest members of the offensive line and is playing up to his contract. Taylor is still a starter, and although he had a bit of a down year in 2018, the hope is that he is more fully healthy this upcoming season.
Instead, the notable names here are Graham and Williams. If the Packers were going to move on from Graham, they realistically would have needed to do so before writing that bonus check. Now that it has been paid out, the team would gain only $333,333 in cap space if they were to release him instead of saving that extra $5 million by cutting him before Sunday.
Williams is a tougher case to assess, but between paying his bonus and the team seemingly letting Bashaud Breeland walk, he clearly appears to be in the Packers’ plans for this fall. However, despite paying his bonus, he is actually the player who could still open up the most cap space if the team released him; with just $2.625M dead if cut, releasing the veteran would actually open up $3.75M. Still, it appears that he is likely to play a primary role as a nickel corner, barring an unexpected move.
All told, the bonuses paid in the last week come to $24.65 million, which is in addition to the signing bonuses the team gave to their new free agent arrivals. Za’Darius Smith ($20M), Preston Smith ($16M), Adrian Amos ($11M), and Billy Turner ($9M) received a total of $56 million on signing day. Adding in a $500,000 signing bonus for tight end Marcedes Lewis brings the total amount of cash the Packers paid out last week up to a whopping $85.15 million.