Will Gutekunst Push Packers All-In for 2021?

With half of the league wrestling with salary-cap troubles, a glut of quality veterans could be on the market.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers, led by general manager Brian Gutekunst, have some work to do to get beneath the salary cap by March 17.

The NFL recently announced the salary cap would be no less than $180 million for the upcoming season. The Packers are about $12 million over that figure.

There are two extremes. At one end, Gutekunst could do what’s necessary to get far enough below the cap to sign the draft class and handle whatever in-season roster moves need to be made. Or, on the other end, he could be bold and work out radical contract renegotiations with Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and Za’Darius Smith to get to about $20 million under the cap.

On Tuesday, Gutekunst signaled he’ll be somewhere on the conservative side of the spectrum.

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To oversimplify, every dollar of cap space created for 2021 will show up on future caps. Based on a projected cap of $227.5 million for 2022, Green Bay has a league-worst $30.5 million of cap space, according to OverTheCap.com.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Gutekunst is going to sit through free agency twiddling his thumbs. With half of the league wrestling with salary-cap troubles, a glut of quality veterans could be on the market. Supply could outweigh demand, meaning quality help could be available at a bargain – especially in comparison to J.J. Watt’s two-year deal with Arizona.

“I think a lot of it will depend on the player we can acquire,” Gutekunst said. “As we move through it, I think we’ll make the room we need to to do the things we want to do. If we get to a certain point and a player becomes available that we weren’t expecting or will require us to make more room, we’ll go down that route. But, at the same time, there’s some danger in pushing everything into ’22 or ’23.”

The danger is being so aggressive in 2021 that the 2022 or 2023 teams must be picked apart. The 2022 team’s starting point of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, defensive tackle Kenny Clark, outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary, cornerback Jaire Alexander and safeties Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos remains strong.

“We’re going to do that this year quite a bit, push money out to give us our best chance to win in ’21,” Gutekunst said. “There’s a lot of avenues to do it but, at the same time, we have a really good football team. I think the core of our football team is going to be really strong the next few years, and we want to give ourself every chance to compete for championships within that time.”