Like 31 other teams, the Green Bay Packers fell short of their goal of winning Super Bowl LV in the 2020 season. The Super Bowl is just a few days away, but most teams are in full off-season swing. The Packers have a lot of question marks heading into the off-season. They are currently $31 million over the salary cap, according to Spotrac.
The Packers can easily get themselves into the black with a few cap adjustments. Potentially redoing Aaron Rodgers contract, who has a cap hit of $37 million will help clear a big chunk of that $31 million. A few other options, which a majority of teams do each off-season, is to release veterans that high salaries. Let us take a look at a few veterans who are potential cap-saving releases for the Packers.
Let’s start off with a bang. Two years ago, Preston Smith was one of the prized signings of the Packers to go a long with ZaDarius Smith. Preston has two years left on his deal, with a cap hit of $16 million in 2021. He also carries $8 million in dead cap if he were to be released. The Packers would then save about $8 million if he were to be released. Preston could still be a valuable asset to the team in 2021 and 2022, but his production this year does not warrant the high cap hit. ZaDarius is an obvious keep and the Packers have a young pass rusher in Rashan Gary who took a big second year jump. You can only expect Gary to continue to grow and develop.
Wagner was brought in during the 2020 off-season on a 2 year deal. He filled in admirably on the right side of the line during the season. He struggled mightily in the NFC Championship game against the Buccaneers. Wagner has one year left on his deal and would save the Packers almost $4.5 million if he were to be cut. The offensive line is deep with the likes of John Runyan and Jake Henson on the bench. Wagner and Billy Turner competed for time at right tackle. Turner played a majority of the time and had a better overall season. The choice comes down to either moving on from Wagner or Turner and with Turner having two years left on his deal, Wagner becomes the easier choice to let go.
Kirskey, Like Wagner, was brought during the 2020 off-season on a two year deal. He has one year left on his deal with a cap hit of $7.6 million in 2021. If he were to be cut, he would only carry about $2 million in dead cap, resulting in $5.6 million saved by the Packers. Kirksey came in as the potential replacement of Blake Martinez at the inside linebacker position. He played in only 11 games in 2020. He finished with a PFF grade of 44, one of the poorest grades among starting linebackers.
Undrafted rookie linebacker, Krys Barnes filled in admirably after Kirksey got hurt and continued to start once Kirksey was healthy. Kirksey, like Wagner, is a veteran that would provide quality depth, but is hurt by his overall value compared to his market value. A player who is owed nearly $8 million, is not someone who should be viewed as fringe starter, or bench player. Best decision for the Packers with Kirksey, is to either restructure his current deal to lower the cap hit, or to outright release him.
Lowry is the longest tenured Packer on this list, having been with the team since 2016. He signed a new three year deal in 2019 to stay in Green Bay. Like many of the players I have listed, Lowry is another veteran who is hurt by his own contract. His cap hit in 2021 sits at $6.3 million, with $3 million in dead cap. The Packers would save about 3 million in cap space if Lowry would be released. Lowry would be another ideal candidate to restructure his contract to lower the incoming cap hit and provide a veteran presence on an otherwise young defensive line. If Lowry is willing to restructure, the Packers would be smart to hold on to Lowry. The Packers would be wise to save money in every area possible for bigger additions to an already promising defense.