According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Green Bay Packers converted the 2023 salary and roster bonuses of cornerback Jaire Alexander and outside linebacker Preston Smith into signing bonuses. Alexander and Smith will still be paid the same amount of dollars for this upcoming season as they agreed to at the time of their 2022 extensions, but now those dollars will be spread over the cap from 2023-2027 as a prorated signing bonus over five years instead of as a one-year salary.
Reworking Alexander’s payments will save the 2023 Packers $9.46 million in cap space while Smith’s adjustment will free up $6.67 million on the cap. These moves come off the heels of running back Aaron Jones’ contract restructure, which saved Green Bay $11.8 million in cap space in 2023 after he agreed to take a $5 million pay cut. The Packers also converted Jones’ salary into a signing bonus, spreading the cap accounting over those 2023 dollars over multiple seasons.
According to salary cap expert Ken Ingalls, Green Bay needs about $13.3 million in cap space on top of the Alexander, Smith and Jones moves to “entertain signing any free agents.” The remaining contracts that the Packers can “touch” are the deals to left tackle David Bakhtiari ($28.8 million 2023 cap hit), nose tackle Kenny Clark ($24 million) and outside linebacker Rashan Gary ($10.9 million.) Gary is playing on his fifth-year option, which means an extension is on the horizon. An extension is also possible for the 27-year-old Clark. Bakhtiari’s situation is trickier, depending on how the team believes his knee has recovered.
As a reminder, the unique structure of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ contract, along with the dead cap already assumed from previous salaries being converted into signing bonuses, hardly impacts the Packers’ 2023 cap space whether he returns to the team, is traded or simply retires. Rodgers deciding not to suit up in green and gold next year will not be the cap space relief that many would assume it would be.
General manager Brian Gutekunst has a busy schedule ahead of him, as he attempts to get Green Bay’s cap situation at a viable position before his front office takes a trip to the NFL Scouting Combine next week. March 13th marks the “legal tampering” period in NFL free agency, when clubs and agents can officially begin contact on potential contracts. In reality, those conversations are going to start in Indianapolis during the combine.