He may have been hired more than a year ago, but March 12th was general manager Brian Gutekunst’s real coming out party. Gone are the days of Ted Thompson and the free agent wary Packers. To be fair, the Packers would make a free agent addition here and there and of course Thompson did bring Charles Woodson to town in 2006. That being said, no free agent binge of the last 10 plus years can compare to what happened Tuesday. The Packers signed three sure-fire defensive starters at positions of need and added a potential starter along the offensive line in a single day. Those four contracts are for a collective $182 million dollars over the next four years and they position the Packers well entering the draft. The question now is how those contracts impact the team’s salary cap going forward.
Entering free agency the Packers had about $36 million in cap space, with the release of Nick Perry pushing the total closer to $40. If you’re following, it may seem a bit strange. After all, take $182 million divided by four years, and the money averages out at $45.5 per year to the four new players. In reality, the cap hit in 2019 of those four is closer to $23 million, leaving the team with over $15 million yet to spend. They did this by backloading the contracts. Here’s how those deals look like over time.

Za’Darius Smith after a sack in 2019.
Za’Darius Smith, an edge rusher from Baltimore, got the largest of the contracts handed out by Green Bay. He’s set to earn $66 million over the next four years but has a salary cap hit of just $7.25 million this season. That amount jumps to $17.25 in 2020 before jumping again to $20.75 the two years after that.
Joining Za’Darius at outside linebacker in Green Bay is the second Smith the team signed. Preston Smith inked a deal that will pay him $52 million over four years. His contract starts with a cap hit of just $6 million in 2019 before rising to $13.5 million and $16 million the two years after that.
The biggest steal of the week for Green Bay was Adrian Amos. The former Bears safety is due $36 million over the next four seasons. He has a cap hit of $5.9 million in 2019 but his number will slide up to $10.65 million by 2022.
New Packer safety Adrian Amos.
Finally, the team added offensive lineman Billy Turner from Denver. The smallest of the four deals, Turner’s contract has him set to earn $28 million over the next four years. He has a cap hit of close to $5 million this season but that number will almost double if he remains in Green Bay for all four years.
Doing some quick math, the four signings could lead to a 2022 cap hit of $57.4 million, a number that will be made more palatable by a continually rising salary cap each year. All told, the Packers managed to add quality players on reasonable contracts. They didn’t sign any of this years biggest names but got four quality players on four reasonable contracts. It seems a draft and develop team has learned to sign outside talent, a skill that now positions the team to draft the best players in April instead of drafting for need as they look to bounce back in a big way this coming season.

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