Update: Since initial publishing of this article, Tom Silverstein has reported that the Packers actually have around $13 million in salary cap space at present, not the $5 million he reported on Monday. The discrepancy appears to be due to the team accounting for their draft class and a small amount of cushion for the regular season.
A working theory about this confusion is as follows:
The Packers may be telling agents of players that they have less that $5 million in salary cap space to work with. This would make sense given the previously-expected numbers. If the team has $13 million in cap space as of today, needs to reserve about $5 million to sign draft picks, and wants to reserve $3 million for the regular season, that would leave them with about $5 million in cap money that they feel is usable to sign players before the draft. If the team told this number to an agent, that person could have mentioned it to Silverstein and one of the two parties may have misinterpreted it as the actual current cap space rather than how much the team is willing to work with.
This is just a theory about the genesis of this report, however. See the full article about the original report below.
The Green Bay Packers like to go into the regular season with a handful of salary cap space in order to maintain some flexibility for the season. Typically something around $8 million is in place to cover any unexpected transactions, cover players who go on injured reserve, or land the occasional in-season contract extension.
However, that might prove a bit more difficult this season than first imagined. Sites that tracked NFL teams’ salary cap space believed the Packers to have had about $35 million in cap space prior to signing their four big-name free agents and releasing outside linebacker Nick Perry. Following those transactions and the signings of wide receiver Geronimo Allison and tight end Marcedes Lewis, Over the Cap had the Packers estimated with about $13.5 million in cap space. With about $4.7 million going to sign this year’s draft class (remember that the Top 51 rule still applies during the offseason), the Packers seemed to be right in line with their normal constraints.
However, there is apparently some faulty math somewhere. According to Tom Silverstein of Packersnews.com, some previous cap charges were not calculated, and have been added to the team’s cap number for 2019:
I'm starting to hear the #Packers aren't in good salary cap shape as reported. Because of cap charges that weren't previously calculated, multiple sources say they are very tight after their most recent spending spree. One source estimated it was close to $5M under. We'll see.— Tom Silverstein (@TomSilverstein) March 18, 2019
If this was an unexpected circumstance for the team, there will be some serious explaining to do regarding Russ Ball’s handling of the cap. Alternately, if the NFL identified this now and sprung it on the team well into the free agency period, that would be an unlucky, arguably unfair result.
However, it is also possible that the Packers were aware of this situation, and that they knew just how close they were to the cap without tipping their hand to the media, who had the numbers wrong. That situation may explain why the Packers chose to backload so much money in the four new players’ deals onto future years, as well as why the team seemingly did not pursue cornerback Bashaud Breeland more seriously.
Until we know more or see the Packers release a player to make some more cap space, Packers fans should assume that their team is done in free agency for the time being.