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How much cap space can the Packers still clear in 2022 with releases and restructures?

If Green Bay keeps shifting every available dollar and cuts a few obvious candidates, the team can trim almost all of the $45 million or so they need off the 2022 cap before extending anyone.

NFL Combine Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

During the last few weeks, the Green Bay Packers have squeezed almost every cap dollar possible out of the three veteran contracts that they have restructured. Kenny Clark, Aaron Jones, and David Bakhtiari had nearly every possible penny of their base salaries and roster bonuses converted to signing bonuses and spread over five seasons with the use of void years.

With the team’s clear willingness to move as much money as possible into 2023 and beyond, let’s look at the Packers’ remaining 2022 cap liabilities to find out just how much money they could trim off this year’s cap if they were to take that same approach with the other players on second or third contracts.

For now, we will continue only looking at veteran contracts. The Packers are reportedly working on a contract extension for Jaire Alexander — who carries a $13.294 million cap hit on the 5th-year option in his rookie contract — and will be trying to reduce Aaron Rodgers’ number with a long-term extension for the quarterback. The Rodgers deal is almost certainly the priority, as it has the possibility of being the single most impactful move the Packers can make for the 2022 cap.

Still, Brian Gutekunst and Russ Ball might not even need those extensions to reach the cap by next Wednesday’s deadline if they keep trying to move the maximum number out for their other veteran players’ deals. As you’ll see below, the team can almost reach the $45 million number that they need to clear to get under the cap without even touching extensions for Rodgers, Adams, and Alexander, and those potential deals could end up just providing the necessary buffer space to sign other players and draft picks.

Is that wise? That’s another story, as this approach would end up loading the 2023 cap up with dead money from void years. But it’s possible. Here’s how.

Za’Darius Smith

The Packers appear poised to release Z, unless they can find a trade partner for him between now and next Wednesday. Either a trade or a release will result in the same amount of money hitting the 2022 cap, however — a dead cap hit of $12.38 million. But that still represents a number that’s $15.281 million lower than the $27.66M hit he is currently scheduled for.

Note that the Top 51 rule in the offseason means that the 51 highest contracts on the team are counted towards the cap. Removing a highly-paid player will bring a minimum-salary player with a cap hit of $705,000 takes his place on the Top 51, so the effective cap savings will be the difference between the released player’s scheduled 2022 cap hit and his dead money, then reduced by that $705k number.

Maximum potential savings (cut): $14.576 million

Preston Smith

Let’s assume here that the Packers keep Preston Smith for 2022. If they want to unload an extreme amount of cap space this year and next, they could convert his $3 million roster bonus and $7.23 million of his base salary into a signing bonus and spread it over five years by using void years. That would move $8.18 million out of 2022 and into 2023 if the Packers did not sign him to an extension before then.

Smith could theoretically be released as well, which would save the team $12.47 million in cap space. But the team seems to want him back, so expect a restructure or an extension to come, especially given recent reports that the team and Smith’s agent have been talking.

Maximum potential savings (restructure): $8.180 million
Maximum potential savings (cut): $11.766 million

Adrian Amos

Amos is unlikely to be released, so a restructure or extension is plausible for him as well. The simple math here is on Amos’ base salary of $7 million. The Packers can shift $5.88 million of that into a signing bonus and spread that over five years with void years, moving about $4.7 million out of 2022 and into next year.

Interestingly, because Amos already has void years in his deal, doing this would actually save more cap space than cutting him outright, because the money in future years would accelerate to 2022. A straight release would only save the Packers $4.654 million, not including the impact of adding another player back onto the Top 51.

Maximum potential savings (restructure): $4.704 million

Randall Cobb

Aaron Rodgers’ return might mean that he lobbies for Cobb to come back again in 2022, but both players and the front office need to understand that there is no chance that the Packers can keep him in Green Bay on a $9.5 million cap hit given their financial situation. Could the Packers cut him then bring him back on a veteran minimum deal? Perhaps. But cutting him outright saves a big chunk of money — just under $7 million.

Maximum potential savings (cut): $6.043 million

Billy Turner

Cutting Turner is unlikely, but the Packers could go with the restructure route once again here. His base salary for 2022 is $5.45 million, so the team could take $4.33 million of that and spread it out over five years to shift $3.464 million out to 2023. As is the case with Amos, the Packers would actually save more money using this void structure than by cutting Turner outright due to their use of void years when restructuring his deal a year ago.

Maximum potential savings (restructure): $3.464 million

Dean Lowry

Lowry is a bit of a tough call, but ultimately the Packers do not currently have any other strong options on the interior of the defensive line aside from Kenny Clark. The Packers could release him off a cap hit of $8.072 million and end up eating a dead cap hit of just under $4 million, but they could also shift almost $4 million of his $5 million base salary into a bonus. With four void years, that moves just shy of $3.2 million out of 2022 and seems more likely than an outright release, especially given the numbers.

Maximum potential savings (cut): $3.379 million
Maximum potential savings (restructure): $3.172 million

Mason Crosby

Although Brian Gutekunst has said that he is comfortable moving forward with Crosby on the offseason roster, there is some easy cap pickings to be trimmed off with his contract, whether via release or retirement. Crosby’s deal still has a cap hit of $4.735 million for 2022, but a release frees up more than half that, at $2.395 million.

Maximum potential savings (cut): $1.670 million

If one takes the maximum possible savings from these players — assuming a cut for Preston Smith and for Lowry — that clears up a total of $45.602 million from the Packers’ 2022 team cap number. That’s almost spot-on with the amount of money the team needs to clear to get compliant with the cap, and it still does not account for extensions for Rodgers, Adams, or Alexander.

But let’s say the Packers keep Lowry and Smith instead of releasing them. Those moves combined with the others still move $41.8 million out of 2022, putting Green Bay something like $3 million over the cap.

With Rodgers’ deal potentially driving his cap number down as far as $30 million, there could be $17 million in 2022 savings right there, with another $8 million or so from a deal for Alexander. That would give Green Bay more than $20 million to work with, and any Adams deal would also likely reduce his year-one cap hit in 2022 from the current $20.1 million number. Those moves would give the Packers plenty of space to sign restricted and exclusive-rights free agents plus their 2022 draft class, and it could also be enough to bring back a couple of their would-be free agents like De’Vondre Campbell, Rasul Douglas, or Robert Tonyan.