A Closer Look at the Packers trade of Jerel Worthy: Was it Financial?

Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today. 

On August 13, the NFL formally approved the trade the sent Packers defensive end Jerel Worthy to the New England Patriots for a conditional 7th-round draft pick pending him passing a physical.

At first glance, it seems like a simple trade that sent a player who had no chance of making the team to another one where he may have a shot. Since the Packers didn’t have Worthy in their plans, the possibility of gaining a low-round draft pick was worth the chance.

However, upon closer inspection, the trade looks a little more interesting.

It’s unusual for a team to give up so quickly on a highly drafted player, and the Packers did seem to pull the plug quickly on Worthy after showing tremendous patience with others in the past.

Is there something more to this?

Worthy injured himself in the off season, which landed him on the non-football injury list. While a player is on that list, he is not allowed to practice and the team is not obligated to pay him (but may chose to, and in most cases do pay them according to mutual agreement and disclosure of the injury, which then counts against the salary cap).

If a player ends training camp on the non-football injury list, he cannot practice for the first six weeks of the regular season. After six weeks, the team must activate him, place him on injured reserve, release him, or allow him to practice for the next three weeks while they decide his roster fate. Many players beginning the regular season on the non-football injury list do count against the salary cap. All players on injured reserve do count against the salary cap.

To make things more complicated, if a player is taken off the non-football injury list, but should re-injure himself during team activities, then the team is obligated to honor the whole salary if the player lands on injured reserve, or part of it if the player lands on injured reserve with a split contract or reaches an injury settlement contract termination.

Worthy had not practiced at all during training camp, which suggests the Packers’ medical team would not clear him to return to the field. The Packers may have been facing a decision if Worthy would enter the regular season on the non-football injury list. Depending on their agreement with him, they may had to pay him and take a cap hit for no on-field production.

What is curious, however, is immediately after arriving in New England, the Patriot’s medical staff passed Worthy on his physical, which suggests he is cleared to practice.

Furthermore, the Patriots do not currently hold a 2015 7th-round draft pick to return to the Packers should Worthy make the Patriots’ final roster. It’s possible the Patriots could acquire a 7th-round selection as the product of another trade or they could default to a 2016 7th-round pick for the Packers.

In any event, based on this information, it seems very unlikely that Worthy has much faith from the Patriots’ brass to make the squad.

So, why did this trade happen at all?

It’s very possible that this was salary dump by the Packers. His 2014 salary is $748,928. If Worthy completed training camp on the non-football injury list, some or all of this would likely count against the 2014 cap. Also, if they were to activate him, and then he got hurt again, the Packers would be on the hook for all his 2014 salary because it’s unlikely he has a split contract.

Looking at spotrac, the Packers have already paid all of Worthy’s guaranteed money, which was his singing bonus of $1,311,420 and his 2012 base salary of $390,000, for a total of $1,701,420.

By trading Worthy, the Packers still have the same cap figures of $327,855 in both 2014 and 2015 from his prorated signing bonus that they would have even if he remained in Green Bay.

I’m purely speculating at this point, but it may be a simple case of the Packers trying to save a few dollars of actual payments by making Worthy a member of the Patriots. Since Worthy passed his physical, all or part of his 2014 salary of $748,928 is now the responsibility of the Patriots and their salary cap if he makes the team, goes on injured reserve, or receives an injury settlement.

In the end, the Packers washed their hands of Worthy’s contract and minimized any further risk of dealing with an injured player. They kept his entire 2014 salary off of the cap, which wouldn’t have been the case if he stuck around on the non-football injury list, ended up on injured reserve, or received an injury settlement.

With a potential and expensive contract extension looming for Randall Cobb, every dollar counts.

If they happen to get a draft pick, that’s just gravy.


Jay Hodgson is an independent sports blogger writing for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WISports.com.

Follow Jay on twitter at @jys_h.


11 thoughts on “A Closer Look at the Packers trade of Jerel Worthy: Was it Financial?

  1. Interesting take. One thing is for sure, every dollar saved that might possibly be available to re-sign Cobb is worthwhile.

  2. Well, ok, try as we might find some positive spin…but, its simply a blown pick. The factor of the injury does take blame off of TT to large extent. But, this will still go down in history as a blown pick. Really, a non-football related injury??? In the off season??? I guess I had missed that, thinking it was continuation of 2013 season injury. Wow. Sure am curious.

  3. This is an interesting take on the Worthy trade. One thing we don’t know is how the team assessed Worthy’s attitude during OTAs and mini-camp. Reports indicated MM wasn’t happy with Worthy missing so much time. I know some of it was due to the untimely death of his grandmother and there is nothing the team or Worthy could do about that. If Worthy no longer wanted to be in Green Bay, then this deal makes even more sense.

  4. Worthy is a poser. Never been NFL caliber and never will be. NFL welfare is what he wants. Just stay injured and collect the big bucks. Maybe play a crappy game here or there. TT missed the boat on this one.

  5. I doubt finances had much to do with this, if at all. I can see keeping a guy for an extra year so the cap hit from a huge signing bonus doesn’t all land in the current year.

    To me, it’s very simple. The Packers have depth at DL and didn’t think Worthy would make the final 53. So, they got what they could for him.

  6. They kept him off the field to ensure he wouldn’t increase the chances of him failing a physical elsewhere by whichever trade partner they could find….this would mean they foreseen absolutely no upside from retaining his absolutely non-productive Worthy-less-ness…..Cutting dead weight and saving money is a smart business move,especially when nary a one would object to it.

    1. I agree! It was more of a “what have you done for us lately” move then a financial one. I disliked the pick from the get go. He seemed a little too overly confident/cocky for someone with a couple stats in college. In which he only had one full season health while at Michigan State.

  7. Oh yes, another shrewd move by that personnel genius Teddy T! Trade up to draft at a position of need only to later trade same player away to save on cap money. Oh yes, that has got to be it. What else could it be? That Teddy T traded up in R2 for a player that didn’t deserve to be drafted that high AND didn’t fit the Packers’ 3-4 scheme. No because that would make Teddy T look bad and we can’t have any of that now can we? I can’t wait to hear what you people say next year when he cuts both Perry and Peppers. Yowzer – 2 studs who we just couldn’t afford any longer?

  8. From what I can tell, the Packers only save about $400,000 but trading Worthy, which is some money but in reality not all that much. In comparison the Packers could save 1.7 million by trading Jarrett Bush or 1.2 million by trading Derek Sherrod.

    I think the more likely issue is that the Packers were trying to implement some sort of 1-gap defensive principles when they drafted Worthy which they decided to scrap or they thought Worthy could transition into a 2-gap player and couldn’t. Outside of Mike Daniels, who is an outlier in every physical regard, all the DL are tall and long (Datone Jones) or big and squat (BJ Raji). Worthy is neither and really fits more as a 4-3 DT, like Aaron Donald. Why they thought Worthy’s skillset would work for the Packers is beyond me but I think at this point they didn’t like that he was always injured and also didn’t know what to do with him.

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