As it stands, the Green Bay Packers are among the best teams in all of football – and no doubt a Super Bowl contender.
The Packers are in the midst of their version of “the last dance”, and the season deserves to be enjoyed to the fullest extent. That’s because the roster as it stands will look very, very different entering next year. The Packers have pushed their chips all in for 2021 and had to kick money down the salary cap in an effort to make the money work for the season at hand.
Unfortunately, that bill eventually comes due and, according to Over The Cap, the Packers are currently $38.7 million in the hole before the off-season even begins.
That means GM Brian Gutekunst is going to have some difficult decisions to make in regards to personnel. Some of which aren’t going to be popular with the fan-base. That’s the price of going all in, and if Green Bay is able to come away with another Super Bowl, then all the money crunching was worth it.
Today, we’re going to take a look at three Packers actively under contract that are all but certain to be let go this off-season in favor of a most cost-effective replacement.
Za’Darius Smith was one of the most impactful free-agent signings in the history of the Green Bay Packers, and that’s saying something.
Smith has been one of the league’s most disruptive pass-rushers since signing with the Packers. He registered 26 sacks and two Pro Bowl appearances in his first two seasons in Green Bay.
Unfortunately, Smith carries a $28.1 million cap hit in 2022, and is fresh off a back surgery in his age-29 season. That cap figure essentially gives the Packers two options, they must either extend Smith, or release him and eat his $12.3 million dead-cap figure.
Even though Za’Darius Smith has cited his intent to sign a long-term extension that keeps him in Green Bay to finish his career, it’s highly unlikely the Packers are going to shell out a massive extension to a player that’s likely exiting his physical prime and already experiencing back problems.
Due to the severe financial constraints the Packers will be operating from, it’s all but certain they will be releasing Smith to free up the cap space. It also helps that Rashan Gary has emerged as a star EDGE rusher in his own right, and they’re going to prioritize extending the 23-year-old rather than the aging pass-rusher.
Randall Cobb is just one of two wide receivers currently under contract for the 2022 season (due $7.8 million). He also carries a $2.7 million dead-cap figure, so Cobb is another certainty to be cut loose in the off-season.
This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise though considering Cobb was brought in to appease 12, primarily for the season at hand. Not to mention, this is going to be an offense in transition – and Cobb won’t be apart of the team’s future.
It’s no secret that Packers legend Mason Crosby has struggled significantly this season, but they’re going to ride the wave in 2021 – because this is going to be Crosby’s final season donning the green and gold.
Crosby has a $4.7 million cap hit in 2022, and the Packers simply cannot justify paying that kind of money for a declining place kicker whose best years are behind him. Especially when the team is going to be looking to save money anywhere they can.
It’s also worth noting that the Packers have kicker J.J. Molson on the practice squad being groomed to replace Crosby for pennies on the dollar. This is a player the Packers thought highly enough of to bring in to push Crosby in camp, and retain all season long – they clearly have a high opinion of the former UCLA product.