It’s the Bye Week for the Green Bay Packers, and at 5-8 their chances for making the Playoffs are slim. It is logical, therefore, to take a peek ahead to next season and how the team can get back into contention. One of the first things to look at is the 2023 NFL salary cap, which will increase to roughly $220 million. This is great news for the Packers who are currently just $2.5 million over next year’s cap. This is a remarkably better situation than last offseason when they were staring at a $60 million hole.
Unfortunately, due to the way many contracts have been structured, the only way the Packers can get under the cap enough to sign their draft picks and free agents is to make some incredibly difficult decisions. Indeed, there may be some beloved players that are going to move on next season for financial reasons.
#1. Running Back Aaron Jones
This one is a very tough pill to swallow. Aaron Jones is one of the most popular Packers players and is a genuinely good human being. For the second straight season, he is the Packers’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Jones is also the Packers leading rusher with 847 yards, and recently became just the fourth Packers running back ever with 5,000 rushing yards with the team.
Unfortunately, he may end up being too expensive for the team to keep next year. In 2023, Jones’ cap hit explodes to over $20 million. Green Bay can save approximately $11 million by cutting him as he has a dead cap hit of $9 million. This move by itself would put the Packers under the cap and give them room to sign a free agent or two.
Now, before you say “Why not cut other players?” it should be noted that the Packers can save the most by cutting Jones. No other contract situation would provide as much savings.
#2. Left Tackle David Bakhtiari
Okay, well let’s just rip the band aid off of this one. The next highest amount of savings the Packers can muster through cuts is by releasing five-time All-Pro David Bakhtiari. He is carries a cap hit of just over $29 million in 2023 while carrying a dead cap hit of $23 million. In other words, the Packers can save approximately $6 million by letting him go.
Whether or not they will do so is something Brian Gutekunst called “an offseason conversation.” To be fair, Bakhtiari has played at an extremely high level coming back from his knee injury. It is important to note, though, that the Packers also need to make a decision on whether or not to sign offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins, who will be a restricted free agent. His market value, per Spotrac, will be $14.0 million.
In other words, the Packers will have to cut Jones plus someone else just to afford bringing back Jenkins, if that is something they choose to do. Bakhtiari may find himself being that someone else.
#3. Defensive Tackle Kenny Clark
This one is a little bit of a tougher call, at least in my opinion. On the one hand, Kenny Clark is the best player on the defensive line that Green Bay has. The position lacks depth and Clark’s production has been hurt by all the double-teams he faces. On the other hand, he has a cap hit of $23 million next season. That being said, the Packers can save just $3 million by cutting him as his dead cap hit is still over $20 million.
Is cutting your best defensive lineman worth a $3 million savings? I don’t think so, and I don’t think the Packers will think so either. That being said, who knows?
A Few Notes
- The Packers could save approximately $3.5 million by cutting Preston Smith. That being said, Rashan Gary will not be ready for the start of the 2023 season. Additionally, the Packers lack depth at the position. I expect Smith to be back.
- After Smith’s contract, there is no significant contract that the Packers could cut that would result in major cap savings.
- Allen Lazard will be an unrestricted free agent with a market value of $11.1 million per season.
- Adrian Amos will be a free agent with a market value of $6.9 million per season.
- Robert Tonyan will be a free agent with a market value of $5.2 million per season.
- Yosh Nijman will be a free agent with a market value of $3.3 million per season.
If I were to guess, the Green Bay Packers will, once again, not be very active in the free agent market. Some tough decisions, including releasing Jones and Bakhtiari, will give them the salary cap space to sign their draft class and retain Nijman on the offensive line. They may hunt for some bargain bin free agents like they did this year with Sammy Watkins. On the whole, they will hope for healthy bounce-back years from key contributors in 2023 to make the season a success.
Note: If you were wondering about the Aaron Rodgers contract, I broke that down (along with Jordan Love’s) in this article.
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