When B.J. Raji's new contract was announced earlier this week, many Packers fans were taken aback by the total value of the deal. It was reported that the contract was worth $3.5 million, with incentives potentially increasing the value to $4 million.
Similarly, Letroy Guion's deal was more lucrative than first imagined, being reported initially at $2.75 million in total.
Though these total numbers look high, it seems that the Packers ensured some further financial flexibility by adding substantial incentives into the deals that protect the team against injuries, suspensions, or both. As the Green Bay Press-Gazette's Wes Hodkiewicz reports, Raji has playing-time incentives that actually make up the bulk of his contract, while Guion has a large amount of money tied up in roster bonuses:
Letroy Guion has a $1.5 million base and $1.15 million in per game roster bonuses. No signing bonus or guarantees— Wes Hodkiewicz (@WesHod) April 2, 2015
BJ Raji received a $1.15 million base, 500k signing bonus, $100k workout bonus on one year deal he signed with #Packers— Wes Hodkiewicz (@WesHod) April 2, 2015
Since raji didn't play last year, playing time incentives are unlikely to be earned. $1.75 million cap number— Wes Hodkiewicz (@WesHod) April 2, 2015
As it turns out, these are two more examples of shrewd cap management by GM Ted Thompson, cap expert Russ Ball, and the rest of the Packers front office. They were able to take advantage of Raji's status on injured reserve in 2014, which made his playing-time incentives not count against the salary cap. As long as Raji is healthy and hits the incentive marks, he should cost the Packers the $4 million or so that was advertised earlier, but during the season his cap hit will be less than half of that.
With Guion's deal featuring no guaranteed money (though it did include a $100,000 workout bonus, as Wes later noted), Green Bay affords itself the ability to cut him at any point before the season with no salary cap penalty. This was likely something that Thompson and the Packers insisted upon, given Guion's legal troubles this offseason, and it probably led Guion's agent to ask for a larger total contract value in exchange. Furthermore, the per-game roster bonuses work out to just under $72,000 per game, so if Guion is suspended, the team will save that amount for each game he sits.
All told, the two players will end up carrying just a $4.5 million salary cap hit for 2015, much less than the $6.25 million that they were projected to cost. As far as "effective cap space," the two will cost just over $3.6 million on the cap, due to pushing two low-salary players out of the Packers' top 51 contracts.
Not including the restricted free agent tenders for Don Barclay and Sean Richardson (which have not yet been signed), the Packers should have approximately $17.7 million in salary cap space instead of the $16 million we projected earlier this week.