Saturday, March 16, 2013

Some thoughts on 2013 Packers' Salary Cap & Team Needs

Lots of opinions out there on what the team needs to do in the draft, free agency, and salary cap WRT player extensions or terminations. I definitely believe the salary cap drives what teams can do. NFL cap managers know their job better than I do.

2013 Salary Cap:

Recent media reports indicate the 2013 NFL Salary Cap baseline will be $123.9 million plus the Packers were able to carry forward another $7,010,832 for their adjusted 2013 NFL Salary Cap of $130,910,832. Another media report indicates Salary Cap baseline will be $123 million.

For salary cap purposes during the off-season, only the top 51 "P5" salaries, LTBE bonus money, and "dead cap" count. Based on that, my spreadsheet calculation on 3/16 says the Packers are allocating $113,610,849 and have $17,299,983 available cap space for 2013. Note: my number is ~$500k lower than some media reports because I believe Aaron Rodgers' cap number for 2013 is $10.25m ($9.25m base, $500k roster bonus, and $500k work-out bonus) and that Jeff Saturday counts $825k towards dead cap.

Tenders (offers to RFAs) are pending but reporting indicates the following will apply:
  • first-round tender of $2.88 million 
  • second-round tender of $2.02 million (Shields)
  • original-round tender of $1.32 million (EDS)
Speculation on how the Packers plan to use the tender system with their pending RFAs varies. NFL teams must submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents by 4p.m. ET March 12 to retain the right of first refusal and compensation.  [update: only Shields & EDS received tenders]

Speculation on contract extensions to key players, or contract termination in some cases, also varies.  I believe it's a good bet the Packers extend CM3 at some point in 2013 and that his cap number/percentage will increase. They could wait longer to extend ARod because his contract does not expire until after the 2014 season. Do they have enough available cap space? depends on how you want to slant it.  O/A March 12, 2013 the JSOline reported the Pack had ~$17.75m available. 

Player value compared to cap value: I think AJ Hawk's 2013 cap number is disproportional as is Finley's...but will also add-in Tramon Williams, Ryan Pickett, John Kuhn and Mason Crosby.  Lots of different variables involved.  [Update 3/16, AJ takes pay cut but details not released]  

Although it's a passing league, the thing that I believe hurt the Packers the most in 2012 was the run game (offensive and defensive); lots of different variables involved on why.  If you believe in player development, it's possible the run game on both sides improves.  

What are the team needs from a positional perspective? depends on how you want to slant it but it obviously involves the draft, player development, FA retention, and FA additions (when possible/necessary).

Offensive Line:  Sitton is a pro-bowl RG and I believe TJ Lang is an above average LG that will get better.  I also like EDS at center and would role the dice with extending him vice just doing the RFA tender.  At OT, I believe Bulaga returns to form from injury but then the questions begin...will Newhouse improve and become a reliable LT?  What about Sherrod?  Could Barclay be the answer at RT to enable Bulaga to move to LT and would Bulaga even be a reliable LT?  #8/9/10, is very questionable.  Datko?, Van Rotten?...draft (probably) but how early (or often)?

Defensive Line (7):  Raji and Pickett are the top two players and paid for it (both are entering their final seasons under contract).  It will be interesting to see if Johnny Jolly can contribute; $715k (non-guaranteed) could be a bargain.  I'm still intrigued by (4) Mike Neal but I'm more intrigued by (5) Mike Daniels.  (6) CJ Wilson is a decent size body.  (7) Worthy could land on PUP. TT may draft one or more DL and I would prefer a 5-technique with length.  BL: they keep seven.

Linebacker (9/10): I'm happy Hawk will remain in GB for 2013; haven't seen the pay cut/salary cap numbers yet but expect they'll be favorable for the Packers.  The need to extend CM3 remains but I also expect it'll be resolved by end-of-training camp.  Desmond Bishop's return is a huge is Nick Perry.  Reserve LB situation appears to be OK but there's certainly unknowns.  Guys under contract include: Robert Francois, J.Latimore, T.Manning, DJ Smith (ACL), (5) Dezmon Moses.  They could draft LB draft.

Defensive Backs (9/10):  Young group overall with TW being the oldest.  They don't necessarily have a "superstar" in the group but I think they still have lots of upside.  I think they have to keep 9-10 total for the final 53.  Obvious keepers IMO: Shields, Burnett, Casey, TW, House, and McMillian.  I also think DocJennings should be kept.  Players 8-10 will vary.  Currently it's J.Bush, Richardson (neck?), and ? which leads me believe the ? is a draft pick...but who knows...  Is TT still browsing?...some say not, but I think yes.  Former Oakland Raider S/CB

WR(5)/TE(5)/RB(5):  They have a young but experienced and dynamic WR trio plus Finley at TE.  RB is the 5th offensive skill position need and that's where it gets interesting.  Personally, and it's just a gut feeling, I like DuJuan Harris' upside; he's exciting with the ball and quite explosive with his cuts.  The other RB options under low-cost contract are Alex Green and James Starks.  Kuhn holds the most expensive cap value @~$2.5m (I think his cap # is too much).  I'm in Ahman Green's camp WRT believing we'll be more than OK at RB production in 2013. Reserves: (wr) Boykin and Ross; (te) DJ Williams, Quarless, and Taylor (plus a 5th guy); the 5th RB is really a toss-up between a draft pick and somebody not currently under contract.  Wild card: draft a WR with 4th round or higher and end-up keeping six.

Aaron Rodgers means everything to the team and they cannot win without him; I think the team means almost everything to him.  I believe him when he says he wants to finish his career with GB...and I believe a life-time contract (i.e., 7 or more years) will facilitate that process.  It'll be most likely up to him when the deal is finalized and I won't be shocked if he waits until after 2013...he's smart and understands the cap.

Friday ended another day (4th?) of FA.  Documentd Packers' FA losses: G.Jennings, Crabtree, and Walden.  It's interesting that Jake Long left St.Louis without a contract.  I'm intrigued with some of the remaining UFA safeties.  

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