If the Green Bay Packers are going to use the franchise tag on running back Aaron Jones this year, they are going to want to know the exact salary that doing so would pay him as well as the exact amount of salary cap space that they have to start the 2021 league year. But with no cap finalized and Tuesday’s deadline for making franchise tag decisions looming, that would seem to be an impossible situation.
Indeed, many NFL teams find themselves in similar spots as they try to navigate the dropping salary cap, which in turn determines the amounts for each position associated with the franchise tag. Thankfully, the NFL seems to recognize that it would be unreasonable to ask teams to make these decisions prior to knowing the final cap number.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that the league will likely shift Tuesday’s tag deadline back if no cap number comes down on Monday:
A storyline to follow going forward: If the official salary cap number doesn’t come today and soon, NFL will have to move back the deadline to franchise tag players from Tuesday. It’s a situation several GMs are bracing for and would further stall business for a bit.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 8, 2021
Ultimately, it’s more the cap space question than the tag number question that will be vexing teams, the Packers included. According to projections from Sports Illustrated, the running back franchise tag amount differs by less than a quarter-million dollars if the cap ends up at $180 million vs. $185 million:
- $180 million cap: $8.54 million tag
- $183 million cap: $8.68 million tag
- $185 million cap: $8.78 million tag
It’s that cap space question that is the much bigger factor. The Packers would be $11.93 million over a $180 million cap, but if the number comes in at $185 million, Green Bay would only be $6.93 million over. That difference would be notable in terms of how much cap money the Packers would need to free up via cuts or roster extensions. In other words, the Packers would need to clear the following minimum amount of cap space in each of the three cap scenarios above to be able to keep Jones around on the tag (and note that this does not account for any other signings):
- $180M cap: $20.5 million
- $183M cap: $17.6 million
- $185M cap: $15.7 million
Regardless of where the cap lands, affording Jones on the tag still seems difficult, especially with restricted free agent tenders and draft picks coming. But that final cap number clearly makes a significant difference in how much the Packers — and other cap-strapped teams considering using a tag — would need to free up in order to lock in on that decision. It looks like we may be in for at least a few more days before we’ll know what Brian Gutekunst will do.