The Green Bay Packers face a difficult decision in the coming days: Should they place the franchise tag on wide receiver Davante Adams or not?
Adams is considered one of the best if not the best wide receiver in the NFL today. He has been named to five straight Pro Bowls and has been named All Pro in each of the last two seasons. He set Packers franchise records in 2021 with 123 catches for 1,553 yards. He has caught 10 or more touchdown passes in five of the last six seasons and has surpassed 100 receptions in three of the last four years.
Adams is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 16. He has indicated he wants to be the highest paid wide receiver in the league and would not be giving the Packers a home-team discount. That is understandable given that Adams will turn 30 by the end of the 2022 season and this is likely his last opportunity to sign a new, long-term deal in the NFL.
Presently, DeAndre Hopkins is the league’s highest paid wide receiver with an average salary of $27.25 million for his contract. The way his deal was structured and extended complicates things slightly as the Packers want the average annual salary based on Hopkins entire contract while Adams and his agent want to look at the amount he his being paid annually for the years his deal was extended. This difference of opinion caused the two sides to break off talks on a new contract just before the start of training camp last July.
The Packers do have the option of using the franchise tag if they want to prevent him from hitting the free agent market. If Adams signs the franchise tender, he will play on a one-year contract that would pay him a little more than $20.1 million in 2022. His cap hit would also be $20.1 million and that would be difficult for the Packers who are already more than $50 million over the salary cap as of now.
The use of the franchise tag would give the Packers an exclusive window to negotiate a long-term deal with Adams through July 15th. If they could sign the star wideout to a multi-year extension, they could substantially reduce his 2022 cap hit by spreading out the signing bonus portion of the contract over the length of the deal. That could help give the team cap relief for this season and keep their best receiver on the field.
If the Packers can’t agree on an extension with Adams’ agent, they could also use the franchise tag and then trade him and thereby get something in return for the two-time All Pro. Whether that would be a player or a draft pick, it would likely be more than the compensatory draft choice they would get if they let the former Fresno State star sign elsewhere as a free agent.
There is another complication to the entire situation. Adams has indicated he wants to stay with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and that if Rodgers doesn’t return to Green Bay in 2022, he would be less likely to want to stay in Titletown.
Meanwhile, yesterday on the Pat McAfee show, Rodgers said he hasn’t made up his mind yet if he wants to retire, demand a trade or return to the Packers next season and he wanted to know whether Adams is returning to Green Bay before he makes his final decision. That sets up a chicken-and-egg situation for the Packers who have two star players each waiting to know what the other is doing before they agree to sign a new contract.
It would be difficult if Adams had to play under the franchise tag in 2022. He would not have a signing bonus and he would have no guaranteed money to back him up if he suffered a serious injury during the 2022 season that could hurt his market value as a free agent in 2023. Players generally don’t like playing under the franchise tag and an unhappy star receiver is certainly something the Packers would want to avoid.
GM Brian Gutekunst has some difficult decisions to make. He certainly doesn’t want to lose Adams for nothing and he wants to keep him in green and gold for at least three more years if at he can. But he needs to deal with the Packers salary cap limitations and his ability to sign other key players like Rodgers, De’Vondre Campbell and Preston Smith.
The next few weeks will be important and will go a long way to determining whether the Packers are contenders again in 2022 or are at the start of a retooling or rebuilding without some of their best players. The clock is ticking.
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