The 2021 season is over for the Green Bay Packers. This year was called, “The Last Dance” as it may be the final season that this group of players is together in a Packers uniform.
According to spotrac.com, the Packers are approximately $38.4 million over the projected 2022 NFL salary cap.
GM Brian Gutekunst and cap specialist Russ Ball will have their hands full trying to keep as many players as they can from this team and stay contenders in 2022 regardless of what Aaron Rodgers ultimately decides to do.
Here is a look at the players who are set to become free agents this offseason and those who may be cap casualties. The status of each player is discussed along with the chances of them returning to the Packers.
Here are the players who may have played their last game for the Packers. Players are not listed in any particular order but are grouped according to pending free agents and possible salary cap casualties. Exclusive rights free agents and restricted free agents are not on this list.
Pending Free Agents
- CB Rasul Douglas
The Packers signed Douglas off the Cardinals practice squad in early October and he surprised everybody by playing at a near Pro Bowl level. Douglas intercepted five passes, had two pick-sixes and broke up 13 passes in 12 games.
He strong play helped the Packers overcome the injury to Jaire Alexander. It will also likely earn Douglas a big pay day but unless the Packers suddenly find some cap room, it is unlikely to be in Green Bay unless Douglas is willing to give the Pack a hometown discount.
- WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling
MVS’ rookie deal expired after the 2021 season. The speedster out of South Florida was limited to 11 games this season and finished with 26 catches for 430 yards and three scores.
Valdes-Scantling’s speed gives the Packers offense another dimension. Because of the Packers cap situation, it will be a challenge for Green Bay to match another team’s offer for MVS but the Pack would certainly love to have him back.
- ILB De’Vondre Campbell
Campbell became the first ILB/MLB on the Packers to earn All Pro honors since Hall of Famer Ray Nitschke back in 1966. The former University of Minnesota star was exactly what the Packers needed in the middle of the defense and was effective against the run and in pass coverage. He also called signals for the defense and led the team in tackles.
Unfortunately for the Packers, Campbell’s strong season may price him out of Green Bay although the Packers clearly want to have him back and should make every effort to re-sign him.
- TE Robert Tonyan
The 2021 season was a disappointing one for tight end Robert Tonyan. Early in the season, his catches were down as he was called upon to stay in and block more when both David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins were out of the lineup. Then in Week 8, he was lost for the season due to injury.
Tonyan caught 18 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns, well off from the pace he set in 2020.
None of the other tight ends on the Packers roster present defenses with as much of a downfield threat as Tonyan does.
His season-ending injury may lower his asking price but the Packers may have a tough time re-signing him because of their cap situation.
- OT Dennis Kelly
Kelly started four games for the Packers during the regular season and the playoff game against San Francisco. He played well when called upon although a series of injuries kept him from playing any offensive snaps until Week 14.
Kelly is 32 and could provide the Packers with depth at offensive tackle at a reasonable price if the Packers and his agent can agree on a new, one-year deal.
- G/C Lucas Patrick
Patrick is a steady veteran who stepped up and played well at center after Josh Myers was injured. He started 13 games for the Packers and played in all 17.
Patrick is solid and his ability to play either guard spot or center adds to his value. He is tough and tenacious and adds experience. The Packers may want him back to provide depth along the offensive line but Patrick may head elsewhere if he gets an opportunity to start and can earn more money.
- WR Davante Adams
Adams is an elite wide receiver and is one of the best in the league. He has earned Pro Bowl honors in five straight seasons and been named All Pro the last two years.
Adams set new Packers franchise records with 123 catches and 1,553 yards this season and caught 11 touchdown passes.
The Packers have indicated they may use the franchise tag on Adams to try to keep him in Green Bay. That would not make Adams happy unless he and the team can work out a long-term deal.
The former Fresno State star has already indicated he wants to get the money he deserves and wants to be the highest paid receiver in the NFL. The Packers agree with that in theory but have a different interpretation about who the highest paid receiver is and how much he earns per season.
Adams and Rodgers have a unique chemistry so if Rodgers decides to leave, Adams may seek to join him wherever he goes.
The Packers want to keep Tae, but if they use the franchise tag, it will be very difficult to fit him under the salary cap. Can Gutekunst and Ball get creative enough to keep Adams in Green Bay?
Possible Cap Casualties
- Edge Preston Smith
The Packers restructured Preston Smith’s contract during last offseason to get under the salary cap so now the time has come to pay the piper. Preston would have a cap hit of almost $21 million under his present deal which is untenable despite his strong season that included nine quarterback sacks.
The Packers could save roughly $12.5 million by releasing Preston Smith. They could also try to restructure his deal depending on what they can fit under the cap.
- Edge Za’Darius Smith
The Packers also reworked Za’Darius Smith’s contract this past offseason and while Z is presently under contract for 2022, there is no way the Packers will allow him to play under his present deal which carries a cap hit of $27.65 million.
Za’Darius Smith only played one regular season game this year and in the playoff loss to San Francisco. He made the Pro Bowl after the 2019 and 2020 seasons and provides the team with leadership and enthusiasm in the locker room.
The Packers could save approximately $15.3 million under the salary cap by releasing Za’Darius Smith. They could also try to keep him by revising his present deal to lower the cap hit.
- K Mason Crosby
Crosby is the Packers all-time leading scorer and has been with the team since 2007. But the former Colorado star will turn 38 before the start of the 2022 season and may retire.
The veteran kicker struggled this season and had issues with his holder and long snappers. He missed nine field goals and two extra points during the regular season and had a costly blocked field goal on the final play of the first half in the playoff game against the 49ers.
If the Packers decide to release Crosby, they could save roughly $2.4 million under the cap. The team carried kicker J.J. Molson on the practice squad all year. He would cost the Packers a lot less under the cap if he was their kicker in 2022 but would he be better than Crosby?
- WR Randall Cobb
Cobb carries a cap hit of more than $9.5 million next season which is far too high for a player who is the team’s fourth wide receiver. The Packers brought Cobb back to Green Bay at the request of Aaron Rodgers.
Cobb played 12 games for the Packers this season and caught 28 passes for 375 yards and five touchdowns.
If Rodgers does not return to Green Bay, Cobb is almost certainly not going to be back. If Rodgers does return, Cobb will have to agree to a substantial pay cut to remain a Packer in 2022.
- DL Dean Lowry
Lowry is under contract for 2022 but his cap hit is more than $7.9 million. Lowry had a career-high five sacks and had nine quarterback hits and five tackles for loss. He enjoyed his best season as a pass rusher and started all 17 games.
The Packers would like to retain Lowry, but not at such a high cap hit. The Packers could save nearly $4 million on the cap if they release Lowry.
- TE Marcedes Lewis
“Big Dog” played in all 17 games for the Packers this season. He remains a strong blocker and a reliable outlet receiver who finished the year with 23 catches for 214 yards. He is also a favorite of Rodgers and is more likely to be a Packer if Rodgers stays next season.
Lewis is under contract for 2022 at a cap hit of $2.445 million. He adds leadership in the locker room but will be 38 before the start of the next NFL season. Lewis may retire. If the Packers choose to let him go, they can save almost $2.5 million in cap space.
- OT Billy Turner
Turner had a strong season at right tackle and was a constant on an offensive line that was constantly dealing with changes due to injuries.
The Packers have Turner under contract for $8.9 million and could save $3.4 million by letting him go. Turner’s experience, leadership and versatility would be badly missed but depending on what happens with Rodgers, Gutekunst may not be able to afford to keep Turner under his present deal.
- CB Kevin King
King is technically under contract for 2022 but the deal he signed last year was really a one-year contract with voidable years to spread out the cap hit. The Packers are unlikely to be interested in bringing King back after he went through another injury-plagued and inconsistent season.
King played in 10 games, starting six. He finished with one interception and broke up three passes.
With Alexander healthy and Stokes expected to take a step forward in his second NFL season, King is expendable for the Packers and would have to accept a big pay cut to remain with the Pack.
- S Adrian Amos
Amos has a cap hit of a little less than $12 million for next season. The Packers could save $4.6 million by letting Amos go, but Amos is a smart, steady and quality starter at safety and would be badly missed if he doesn’t come back.
The Packers don’t want to release Amos, but depending on the cap situation, they may be forced to part ways with this steady veteran leader.
- QB Aaron Rodgers
As of now, Rodgers’ 2022 cap hit is scheduled to be $46.44 million or roughly 23 percent of the team’s total cap number. So, if Rodgers is going to stay in Green Bay next season, he will need to negotiate a new contract with the team.
Rodgers has indicated he will decide if he wants to return “shortly” and before the start of free agency. He also said that his relationship with the team’s front office has improved.
The reigning NFL MVP told reporters he does not want to be a part of a rebuilding program so if the Packers loose too many players, he may not want to stay in Green Bay. But is Rodgers willing to take less money than his market value to help the Packers keep some of his teammates?
Rodgers could retire, could return with a new deal or could be traded. His decision will be the lynchpin for the offseason for the Packers. If he stays, it will be tougher to keep other players but the Packers are more likely to be competitive in 2022. If he goes, the team will have more cap space but will be facing a rebuild with a new quarterback and a lot more uncertainty.
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