Brian Carriveau of Cheesehead TV raised an interesting question recently: How will a salary cap in 2011 impact the Green Bay Packers?
The Packers had one of the highest payrolls in the NFL last season. The new collective bargaining agreement likely will include a salary cap, which could require the Packers to trim payroll.
Of course, the Packers have people on staff whose main duties include managing payroll and maneuvering within the salary cap. The Packers probably would not have to purge half their roster like the Chicago Blackhawks did after winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, but a few moves may be necessary.
Zach Kruse’s recent post examined possible cuts for the Packers in 2011. Lets expand on that a bit. If the Packers had to make cuts to fit under the salary cap, who could they spare? Of course, it would depend on several factors, but if Ted Thompson approached the issue using a categorized list, here is how I think that list might look.
Aaron Rodgers, QB
BJ Raji, NT
Charles Woodson, CB
Greg Jennings, WR
Clay Matthews, OLB
Josh Sitton, OG
These players should stay with the Packers no matter what. There is no way they should be cut. They should only be mentioned in trade talks if a team is dumb enough to propose a Herschel Walker to the Vikings type of deal (even that would not be good enough to get Rodgers).
I debated if Woodson and Sitton should be on the untouchable list, Woodson because he’s old and Sitton because he’s due for a mega contract after 2011. I kept Woodson in the untouchable category because even though he’s not the cover corner he once was, he does so many other things at a high level that I’m not sure how the Packers would replace him.
Sitton will probably get a megadeal sometime soon, which made me think Ted Thompson would listen to trade offers if someone called with the right deal. But you can never have enough elite talent protecting Rodgers, so Sitton makes the untouchables.
Nick Collins, S
Tramon Williams, CB
Sam Shields, CB
Jermichael Finley, TE
Chad Clifton, LT
The keepers category is for players that are extremely important to the team, but are slightly more expendable than the untouchables due to high salaries or lack of track record.
Some of you may be wondering why Collins and Williams are not in the untouchables column. I don’t have a problem putting them there, but I knocked them down a level because both are coming off career seasons. Their trade value is probably as high as it ever will be. If you need to dump a high salaried player for maximum return, Collins and Williams would be good options. I’m not saying Thompson is, or should be, actively shopping either, but if absolutely forced to make a trade involving a high impact player, Collins or Williams would be good places to start.
Some of you also may be asking why the old and injury-prone Clifton is in the keeper category and not a category or two lower. Remember, even if the Packers have to dump salary to fit under the cap, 2011 is still a win-now season. Do you trust Bryan Bulaga or Derek Sherrod over Clifton to protect Rodgers’ blind side for 16 games when the Packers are in win-now mode?
Ryan Pickett, DE
Scott Wells, C
Bryan Bulaga, T
Desmond Bishop, LB
Jordy Nelson, WR
Tom Crabtree, TE
James Starks, RB
CJ Wilson, DE
Good players are highly unlikely to be cut or traded, but you never know. Guys like Bulaga, Bishop, Nelson and Starks appear to have bright futures and form a nice nucleus to support the superstars like Raji, Rodgers and Jennings. You don’t want to lose players like this, but if you have to cut ties with one of them, you might consider Pickett due to his age and high salary.
You might be wondering why Wilson is on this list. He played some good snaps for the Packers in 2010 and I think he has a chance to do it again on a thin defensive line in 2011. I think Thompson recognizes this and likes him.
Crabtree makes the good list because he’s fun on Twitter and appears on fan podcasts. We all know that Thompson appreciates Twitter and fan podcasts.
Good Players, but Overpaid
AJ Hawk, LB
Donald Driver, WR
Ryan Grant, RB
Nick Barnett, LB
Now we’re getting into categories where we have the most realistic chances of seeing a current or former impact player get cut or traded. The good players, but overpaid category is self-explanatory. You see these player’s names and you think their jobs are safe. Then you see how much they make and you change your mind.
Actually, Hawk has already been cut and re-signed, so I don’t expect him going anywhere. Even though Thompson is not known for being sentimental, I doubt Driver is going anywhere. I hope they keep Grant around (unless he looks significantly slowed from the injury). Barnett is as good as gone, in my opinion.
Don’t Know How Good They Are Yet
Morgan Burnett, S
Mike Neal, DE
TJ Lang, OL
Matt Flynn, QB
Andrew Quarless, TE
Marshall Newhouse, OL
These players are supposed to have the talent to be contributors, but because of youth and/or injuries, we’re not exactly sure how good they are. Teams are usually reluctant to get rid of this type of player, but sometimes an undrafted rookie can sneak up during training camp and knock one of these guys off the team.
I actually think Barnett would get cut before anyone in this category, but I wasn’t sue how to reflect that. Maybe I just should have given Barnett his own category.
Lets talk about Matt Flynn real quick. For some reason, I’m sensing growing sentiment among Packers fans that Flynn should not be traded under any circumstances and I can’t understand why. Yes, he led a spirited effort against the Patriots last season, but if someone is desperate enough for a QB and offers Thompson a second round pick based off one halfway decent game, he better take it.
Frank Zombo, OLB
Brad Jones, OLB
Charlie Peprah, S
Jarrett Bush, CB
Depth players are the types of guys you need around, but are also replaceable. Keep an eye on Bush (I know, I know). He had a redeeming 2010 season, but he makes a lot of money. You’re telling me that Pat Lee or Brandon Underwood couldn’t do what Bush does?
Pat Lee, CB
Brandon Underwood, CB
Quinn Johnson, FB
It’s easy to sit here and say that this category contains the easy cuts. I guess it depends how much salary you need to dump. These players don’t make all that much, which brings us to…
Brandon Chillar, LB
Mark Tauscher, T
Brady Popinga, LB
Justin Harrell, DE
These guys have a high cap number and suffer from some combination of being over the hill, not very good or injury-prone. If Thompson’s salary cap gurus come into his office one day and say he needs to cut salary, I believe Thompson starts by examining this list. That doesn’t necessarily mean that any of the players in the prime cuts category are locks to be off the team, just that the entire process would begin with this list.
Obviously, I did not address any free agents. Free agents merit their own post, and since we don’t have a new CBA, we’re not sure which players are unrestricted or restricted. I didn’t want to address free agents when so much remains unknown.
I’m looking forward to reading the comments section to see where you all might think I’m off-base. Remember, I am not advocating that any of these players should be cut or traded. I am simply arguing that if Thompson used categorized lists to make salary cap cuts, this is what those categorized lists would look like.