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Projecting contract structures & cap hits for the Packers’ four free agent signings

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This projection has the four new Packers eating up about $30 million of the team’s $35 million in cap space.

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The Green Bay Packers so rarely sign big-name free agents that fans and followers of the team do not have to spend too much time worrying about contract structures. However, Tuesday morning is a massive exception to that rule, as the team reportedly landed four big names on the open market, each at contracts that hit an average value of $7 million or more.

With the team holding on to approximately $35 million in salary cap space entering the day, these deals will eat up a huge chunk of money. However, despite the reported average annual value of the deals exceeding that $35 million — they actually come in at $46.75 million total — the use of signing bonuses to spread cap hits out to future years reduces how much impact they will have in 2019.

Here’s my best guess at how these contracts will look, using the reported details of each and the Packers’ past tendencies as a guideline.

Za’Darius Smith

The first big domino to fall was Smith, the former Ravens pass-rusher. Here’s what we know about the contract from his agency:

With those numbers factored in, here’s my ballpark estimate on Smith’s contract. The Packers do tend to backload money into the final few years of a contract, typically keeping cap hits low in year one before a modest increase in year two and then a steady cap number over the final two years of the deal. This structure does just that (all numbers in millions):

Za’Darius Smith contract projection

Year SB SB Proration Base/Bonuses Cap Hit Cash
Year SB SB Proration Base/Bonuses Cap Hit Cash
2019 $20.0 $5.0 $5.0 $10.0 $25.0
2020 -- $5.0 $9.5 $14.5 $9.5
2021 -- $5.0 $15.0 $20.0 $15.0
2022 -- $5.0 $16.5 $21.5 $16.5

Here we have an estimate of $10 million as a cap hit for Smith in 2019. The Packers have about $35 million in cap space as of today, so this takes that number down to about $25 million.

Adrian Amos

Player number two was Amos, whose signing was reported just minutes after Smith’s. The former Bears safety gets a four-year deal, reportedly worth $37 million and with $21 million in cash coming in the first two years. We don’t have a hard number on his signing bonus yet, but let’s call that an even $10 million as an estimate. Here’s how I have this one projected:

Adrian Amos contract projection

Year SB SB Proration Base/Bonuses Cap Hit Cash
Year SB SB Proration Base/Bonuses Cap Hit Cash
2019 $10.0 $2.5 $4.5 $7.0 $14.5
2020 $2.5 $6.5 $9.0 $6.5
2021 $2.5 $8.0 $10.5 $8.0
2022 $2.5 $8.0 $10.5 $8.0

This follows the same general formula as Za’Darius Smith’s deal above. The Packers could shift some money out of base salary and into signing bonus if they want to back-load the cap hit even further, but this seems reasonable for now. This deal then adds $7 million to the 2019 cap number, dropping the available amount of space to $18M.

After initial publishing of this projection, NFL reporter Aaron Wilson tweeted the structure of Amos’ contract, which includes some Pro Bowl-related incentives. However, the general structure of the deal, per Wilson, is as follows, with a cap hit of just $5.4 million this year:

Reported Amos contract

Year SB SB Proration Base Roster Bonus Per-game Bonus Cap Hit Cash
Year SB SB Proration Base Roster Bonus Per-game Bonus Cap Hit Cash
2019 $11.00 $2.75 $1.25 $1.00 $0.40 $5.40 $13.65
2020 -- $2.75 $1.75 $4.00 $0.40 $8.90 $6.15
2021 -- $2.75 $4.90 $1.50 $0.40 $9.55 $6.80
2022 -- $2.75 $7.00 $0.40 $10.15 $7.40

Preston Smith

Gutekunst double-dipped on the edge later in the morning, adding former Washington pass-rusher Preston Smith to the new group of Packers defenders. This deal comes in with an average value of $13 million, with the following details:

That could look something like this:

Preston Smith contract projection

Year SB SB Proration Base/Bonuses Cap Hit Cash
Year SB SB Proration Base/Bonuses Cap Hit Cash
2019 $16.0 $4.0 $4.0 $8.0 $20.0
2020 -- $4.0 $7.5 $11.5 $7.5
2021 -- $4.0 $12.25 $16.25 $12.25
2022 -- $4.0 $12.25 $16.25 $12.25

That’s another $8 million against the cap in 2019 from Smith’s deal, pushing the Packers’ cap space down to $10 million.

Aaron Wilson also has details of Smith’s deal, which backloads even more money into later years than Amos. Unless Smith becomes an elite player and lives up to his big cap hits in 2021 and 2022, the Packers can move on from him before either season without too much cap pain, and his cap hit is a minuscule $5.35 million this season:

Reported Preston Smith contract

Year SB SB Proration Base Roster Bonus Per-game Bonus Cap Hit Cash
Year SB SB Proration Base Roster Bonus Per-game Bonus Cap Hit Cash
2019 $16.0 $4.0 $0.85 $0.50 $5.35 $17.35
2020 -- $4.0 $4.35 $4.00 $0.50 $12.85 $8.85
2021 -- $4.0 $6.85 $4.00 $0.50 $15.35 $11.35
2022 -- $4.0 $11.35 $0.50 $15.85 $11.85

Billy Turner

Finally, the Packers rounded out the morning by landing Turner, a versatile offensive lineman from Denver who projects as the team’s starting right guard. This deal seems awfully big for a guy with two years of starting experience around a 2016 season that saw him get waived twice. Still, the reports of the deal are $28 million over four years (with some additional money in incentives) and $11 million in cash coming in 2019. Here’s my best guess at what that looks like, leading to a $5M cap hit this season:

Billy Turner contract projection

Year SB SB Proration Base/Bonuses Cap Hit Cash
Year SB SB Proration Base/Bonuses Cap Hit Cash
2019 $8.0 $2.0 $3.0 $5.0 $11.0
2020 $2.0 $4.0 $6.0 $4.0
2021 $2.0 $6.5 $8.5 $6.5
2022 $2.0 $6.5 $8.5 $6.5

With $10 million left over in space after the first three players, that leaves just $5 million in cap space after all of these deals are in place. Admittedly, this does not take into account the cap hits of players that these deals bump off the top 51 contracts on the team, so the overall amount of space will be a little bit greater — by about $2 million, leaving the team with around $7 million in projected remaining cap space.

We also have Turner’s contract info from Wilson, which sees a low cap hit of $3.9 million in 2019 before jumping up into the 7s for the final three years. Here’s how Wilson’s reported numbers shake out:

Reported Turner contract

Year SB SB Proration Base Roster Bonus Per-game Bonus Cap Hit Cash
Year SB SB Proration Base Roster Bonus Per-game Bonus Cap Hit Cash
2019 $9.0 $2.25 $1.35 $0.30 $3.90 $10.65
2020 -- $2.25 $1.70 $3.00 $0.30 $7.25 $5.00
2021 -- $2.25 $4.15 $1.00 $0.30 $7.70 $5.45
2022 -- $2.25 $5.20 $0.30 $7.75 $5.50

Financial Implications

With Nick Perry released, the Packers will seemingly add $3.3 million in cap space immediately, as his cut was not announced as a post-June 1st release.

However, the team still needs to make a decision on restricted free agent Geronimo Allison. The low RFA tender is just over $2 million, but it is reasonable to think that the team would tender him at the second-round level, which is just over $3 million. Still, with Russ Ball working his magic, the Packers only added about $25 million to their salary cap in 2019 (depending on the exact details of Za’Darius Smith’s contract), leaving them with about $13 million to work with after the Perry cut is included.