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How 3 Teams Can Navigate Upcoming Cap Challenges

How 3 Teams Can Navigate Upcoming Cap Challenges

Every offseason teams are faced with different challenges due to their cap structure and roster management from the previous years. The salary cap is a balancing act that some front office’s are better at than others. Some leverage their future for immediate success and others have long term plans in place. Here we look at three of the most difficult situations in this upcoming offseason in regards to contract extensions, free agency and salary cap management.

New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints are a team everyone is talking about in regards to their salary cap structure giving them offseason issues. The root of their problems stem from being an estimated 76m over the league salary cap. This number is built up over the numerous contract extensions the Saints have signed over the past couple years to their big name players. Their largest 2022 cap hits come from Marshon Lattimore (27.4m), Michael Thomas (24.7m), Cameron Jordan (23.2m) and Ryan Ramczyk (23.0m). 

Those four cap hits combine to total 47.22% of the Saints' 2022 salary cap. All things considered, they still have Marcus Davenport looking to be extended with an estimated market value of 21m annually and free agent Terron Armstead needing a new deal at an estimated 19.25m per year. The Saints will need to restructure deals and make some roster decisions when diving into the 2022 offseason. Being that much over the cap with key players in need of new deals is not a favorable situation for any team.

The Saints will need to release, trade, or convert base salaries into signing bonuses in order to free up cap space this offseason. The most likely thing the Saints will do to reduce their cap charges is convert several of their larger contracts' base salaries into signing bonuses so they are prorated to future years. Thomas, Jordan and Lattimore all have base salaries of over 10m-plus, and if a significant portion of that is converted to signing bonus it can give them flexibility in their cap.

Bradley Roby is one of the players that they could release in order to open up some cap space. His cap hit is made entirely of base salary and roster bonuses which are not converted into dead cap if he is released. The Saints will have a considerable amount of work to do in order to get under the league cap maximum. 

Green Bay Packers

The next team on everyone’s mind this offseason is the Green Bay Packers and their quarterback situation with Aaron Rodgers. The Packers’ salary cap situation is similar to the Saints with them being over by 48m. The Packers reaching their potential in 2022 starts with them figuring out this situation. The most likely result considering he is still under contract is that he gets a bump in pay and stays with his team. 

Their largest cap hits come at the hands of Rodgers (46.6m), Za’Darius Smith (27.6m), David Bakhtiari (22.2m) and Kenny Clark (20.8m). These players' salary percentage comes out to 55.62% of the Packers' total cap. The Rodgers controversy this offseason will either end with him staying with Green Bay or being traded to another team. This trade could open up about 20m in cap space, leaving his signing bonus as dead money. If he stays, he will most likely want an increase in his contract to somewhere near 45m annually.

Za’Darius Smith’s contract is set to expire after the 2022 season. Unless Green Bay adds void years to his contract, the Packers will most likely look to dodge this 27m cap hit. If the Packers release him they would take on 12.4m in dead cap. This move would end up saving them an estimated 15m. Another player that could be released is Randall Cobb who is set to have a 9.4m cap hit. If released, it would save them almost 7m in 2022. The main reason he is on the team is due to Rodgers requesting they sign him so it could cause more problems. Preston Smith is set to have a 19.7m cap hit. If the Packers decide to release him, it would open up 12.5m. 

The Packers ultimately have some tough decisions to make this offseason. They will need to figure out their situation with Davante Adams’ contract on top of all of this. He is set to be a free agent this offseason with an estimated annual value of 23.5m. The fragility of their quarterback situation is a key part of whether these players are released or not. Ultimately it is a tough set of circumstances that is spearheaded by Rodgers' and the team's ability to come to an agreement.

Los Angeles Rams

Another team that has some tough decisions to make this offseason is the Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams. They are estimated to be 8.8m over the cap this upcoming offseason and will need to make some moves to accommodate their free agents. Their top cap hits are Aaron Donald (26.75m), Jalen Ramsey (23.2m), Matthew Stafford (23.0m) and Leonard Floyd (20.0m). These four players make up 44.62% of the Rams total cap space. 

Their top free agents to re-sign in the 2022 offseason will be Odell Beckham Jr., who had an estimated value of 14.0m per year, Darious Williams, who is estimated to make 13.6m annually, and Von Miller with a market value of 17.0m per year, per Spotrac. Since Beckham Jr. tore his ACL during the Super Bowl there is a good chance he will end up signing a one-year deal instead of a multi-year contract at this point. 

Along with these free agents, it would not be shocking if Cooper Kupp asks for an extension and pay raise for the 2022 season. His contract has the 2024 and 2025 seasons voided, so he will look for long-term stability after his excellent season. He is set to have a 18.0m cap hit in 2022 but has an estimated market value of 23.9m after winning the OPTY award while totaling 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns. Stafford has a cap hit of 23.0m this year which is extremely low for a quarterback of his caliber. This makes him the 13th highest paid quarterback in the league next year. The Super Bowl he achieved in just his first year with the Rams is indicative of the new contract and pay increase he will eventually look for. 

The Rams will look to solve these problems by converting base salaries into signing bonuses to spread the costs out over the next few seasons. Leonard Floyd is set to have a 16.5m base salary with a 3.5m signing bonus over his contract. The base salary could be reduced and converted to bump up the signing bonus. This process could be repeated with other players in order to free up enough cap space to keep their stars. Overall, the Rams situation is interesting due to them needing to re-sign/restructure the plethora of players they traded for.