NFL free agency kicks off this week with the so-called legal tampering period beginning on Monday, Match 13th with teams officially able to sign free agents on March 15th. The Green Bay Packers have holes to fill in free agency but how much money they’ll have to spend depends largely on the long-awaited decision from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
What the Packers don’t know until Rodgers makes up his mind, it how much salary cap room they’ll have to spend in free agency and exactly what their needs are.
The least likely outcome is that Rodgers retires. If that happens, the Packers would have roughly $40 million in available cap space according to overthecap.com. However, it appears Rodgers still wants to play. Many believe it is unlikely he would want to share the Hall of Fame spotlight with Tom Brady in five years if they both retired this offseason and would go into the Hall of Fame in the same class.
If Rodgers remains in Green Bay, the Packers would have approximately $24 million in cap space. Of course, some of this has to be used to sign their 2023 draft class and some has to be set aside for in-season free agent signings when injuries inevitably hit.
If Rodgers is traded to the New York Jets or any other team, the Packers available cap money would be reduced to approximately $16 million and possibly even less if the Packers end up retaining some of Rodgers’ cap hit to get the Jets to agree to the trade.
Each scenario creates different needs for the Packers and different priorities. For example, the team could certainly spend more money on a veteran free agent safety, wide receiver or tight end if they have the extra $8 million or more available to spend on free agents. The extra money would also allow GM Brian Gutekunst to add one relatively high priced free agent as opposed to strictly bargain hunting.
The team’s approach will also be different in free agency depending on who their starting quarterback is going to be and how much money they have left to spend.
If Rodgers remains in Green Bay, the Packers will have more money to play with but they will likely need some of it to sign some additional players like Randall Cobb if he chooses to continue to play, Marcedes Lewis, Mason Crosby and some other veterans Rodgers will want the team to keep on the roster in part to please Rodgers.
In addition, their overall philosophy will be more geared towards winning right now while Rodgers remains on the team rather than thinking ahead to the future. The Packers will likely be all in for now and accumulate more dead cap hits down the road as they try to get Rodgers a second Super Bowl ring in the one or maybe two years he would have left with the team.
If Love is the quarterback, the Packers have less money to spend depending on whether they need to keep some of Rodgers’ cap hit in order to get the Jets to agree to a trade. They will also likely receive one or more draft picks in either this year’s draft or next year’s and possibly a player or two as part of the deal. The player could address a positional need whether it’s a veteran wide receiver or a depth edge rusher or a safety who can help the team add experience before a rookie learns how to play in the NFL and is ready to start.
Initially, Rodgers said he would not hold the Packers hostage over his decision about his future. Over the weekend, Rodgers indicated his decision would be “coming soon” while refusing to say anything else specifically.
The fact is that unless Rodgers informs the Packers about his decision before the legal tampering period for free agency begins, the Packers and the Jets will both be hampered in free agency in part because they won’t know who their starting quarterback is going to be and they won’t know how much cap space they’ll have to work with this season and possibly beyond.
If Rodgers is to keep his word, a decision needs to be made by early on Monday morning. Once the decision is made, the Packers and Jets can begin their plans for 2023 in earnest.
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