The Green Bay Packers have kicked the first of many cans in front of them. This offseason will be one filled with contract restructures, extensions, and releases as the team tries to get under the salary cap (and potentially welcome Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams back for 2022), and the first one is now complete.
The first domino to fall is the contract for nose tackle Kenny Clark, whose deal was ripe for adjustment. Clark was scheduled to have a cap hit over $20 million this season prior to this restructure, but a large base salary and a substantial roster bonus made it an appealing deal to rework. ESPN’s Field Yates broke the news of the restructure on Wednesday morning.
The Packers were due to pay Clark a roster bonus of $6.4 million next month, while his base salary was scheduled to be $8.25 million. The Packers have converted all of the roster bonus and $7.215 million of Clark’s base into a signing bonus, writing him a check for $13,615,000 today. The Packers then added a pair of void years onto the end of his deal as part of the restructure, allowing the team to split that $13.615 million over five years from 2022 to 2026 for salary cap purposes.
The upshot of this is that Clark’s cap number decreases by $10.9 million in 2022, and it will increase by $2.723 million in each of the next four years. Note that Clark is currently signed through 2024 — three more seasons — so the 2025 and 2026 cap hits will accelerate together unless he signs a third contract with the Packers before then.
Clark just signed his first big veteran contract in the summer of 2020, a deal worth $70 million in new money over four additional seasons. He had been scheduled to play that season on the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, an option that the Packers were able to pick up in 2019 because Clark was a first-round draft pick.
This new extension adds no new money, but reduces Clark’s cap hit to just under $10 million for 2022. He will have extremely high cap hits in 2023 and 2024, however, with the two years currently set for $23.97 million and $24.72 million cap hits, respectively.
According to Overthecap.com, the Packers now need to trim off about $43 million from the salary cap before the start of the 2022 league year on March 16th. In reality, the team will need to reduce even more than that to account for any restricted free agent tenders (for Allen Lazard), exclusive-rights tenders, and a possible franchise tag for wide receiver Davante Adams.
As a result, Clark’s restructure is just one of several that will be forthcoming. Expect the Packers to take a similar approach with players like David Bakhtiari and Aaron Jones, while working to sign cornerback Jaire Alexander to an extension much in the same vein of Clark’s from 2020. Alexander is heading into his option year and an extension would allow the Packers to reduce his $13 million cap number by a significant amount.
One of the easy moves is done. There are a few more of these surely yet to come before the hard ones — releasing players for cap reasons — begin.