Determining Reality from Pipe Dreams: How the Packers Could Sign Mario Williams

Adam LufranoCorrespondent IIIJanuary 27, 2012

Determining Reality from Pipe Dreams: How the Packers Could Sign Mario Williams

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    Mario Williams might be the hottest commodity in free agency, much like how Julius Peppers was back in 2010. The Chicago Bears signed Peppers to a six-year, $72 million contract that offseason. Is it time for another NFC North team to claim their prize?

    A lot of people seem to think yes.

    Obviously, many of those people are Packer fans, but they still all believe Mario Williams would be a good fit. And I’m not here to debate that. I think Williams is one of the better pass rushers in the league and adding him to the Packers defense would be awesome.

    However, this Packers team has a lot of young talent that needs to be re-signed in the upcoming years, including this year. Scott Wells and Jermichael Finley are both free agents this year, and the Packers are going to want to set aside money for contract extensions for players like Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Bryan Bulaga, TJ Lang, Clay Matthews, BJ Raji, Sam Shields, Morgan Burnett, and maybe James Starks.

    That’s a lot of young players that the Packers are going to want to keep.

    I cannot possibly go into all of those players situations and determine what they will be paid when their contracts are up. Many players listed above will have to play more for us to see what their value is. However, this article will determine what the Packers have to do this upcoming off season to sign Williams, and also determine who they may have to part ways with soon.

How Much Money Do the Packers Have to Spend?

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    If we assume the salary cap next year will be $123 million, then the Packers will have $29.75 million in cap space to spend this offseason. That number is not including the Packers re-signing any of their free agents, 2012 NFL draft picks, or other free agents. It also assumes Nick Collins retires so the $29.75 million includes Collins’s $3.42 million salary for 2012.

    Remember, this whole article is to explain what the Packers need to do to sign Mario Williams. It’s going to look into the Packers free agents and whether or not to sign them. It’s also going to look into player cuts because they are going to need to dump some salary to sign a player like Mario Williams long term.

    So the Packers have $29.75 million to spend this year. Let’s see how they might want to use it.

Contract for Scott Wells, Jarrett Bush, and Jermichael Finley

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    Out of the eight Packer free agents, these three players are most likely to be re-signed. While many people are pointing to a franchise tag for Finley, I would actually want to see if they can sign him to a long term contract.

    Finley will likely be signed long term anyway after next year if he’s franchised, so for the purposes of this article we will ink him long term. A long-term deal for Finley would probably net him $6 million per season, so after his deal the Packers have $23.75 million in cap space left.

    Scott Wells is probably looking towards a deal that nets him $5 million per season. If the Packers sign him, they would have $18.75 million left.

    Jarrett Bush is a player I would love to see back in green and gold. A one year deal for Bush would probably cost the Packers $1.5 million next season, so that leaves us with $17.25 million left.

    The five other free agents, them being Erik Walden, Matt Flynn, Howard Green, Pat Lee, and Ryan Grant can all be expected to walk this offseason.

Contract Extension for Aaron Rodgers

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    After re-signing their players, the Packers have $17.15 million left in cap space. Since Mario Williams will be a long-term contract, the Packers are going to have to consider contract extensions for their young stars.

    I'm not going to go through all of their possible extensions, but I will go over the bigger names because it provides a good feel to the kind of cap space to leave for extensions and also the bigger name players get the most money (have a bigger effect on the cap).

    So, obviously, Aaron Rodgers is up first.

    Rodgers is set to make $8 million next year. That's a pretty good salary, but since Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL, he'll probably need to be paid like that. This article will assume his salary gets bumped up to $13 million next year, which would be the highest base salary for any quarterback next year (just over Carson Palmer.......).

    This leaves the Packers with $12.15 million left.

Contract Extension for Clay Matthews

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    Clay Matthews is looking to make $800,000 next year.

    I don't think that's going to last.

    Obviously, Matthews is going to be due for an extension here pretty soon, so we might as well make it official in the article. 

    If we assume that he should be making $8 million next year, then all we do is assume a deal is made that pays him that much money. After that, the Packers would have $4.95 million left in cap space.

Cutting Chad Clifton and Donald Driver

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    If the Packers want to get Mario Williams for next year and beyond, they are going to have to cut some veteran players to free up cap space. Unfortunately, that probably means letting go of Driver and Clifton.

    Both of these players have been phenomenal for Green Bay throughout their careers, but the Packers are going to need to make a business decision. Both players are being overpaid for 2012 and if the Packers want to ink a huge contract with Williams, they are going to have to get all of the cap space they can get.

    Cutting older, overpaid players is a good way to start. It's hard for the fans to see these players go, but it should be okay in the end if Mario Williams gets signed shortly afterwards.

    These moves puts the Packers at $12.8 million below the cap. I don't think that's enough, so they should probably...

Trade AJ Hawk

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    I doubt the Packers will release Hawk because he is still a solid player, but that is also a reason why they can trade him. They won't be able to trade him for too much because he's an overpaid player at his position, but some team out there could probably use a veteran middle linebacker to help out there defense.

    For the Packers, though, this move gets them rid of Hawk's big salary and, if their plan of signing Williams works out, won't really diminish their line backing core. DJ Smith really isn't that much worse than Hawk, and they could always draft or sign a new cheap MLB to start over at that position.

    If the Packers want Williams they are going to need to make a move like this one to get enough cap room. At $17.2 million below the cap, this sets the Packers up well for a Williams contract.

Other Options

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    Other options for the Packers to lose cap would be to trade James Jones. Jones really isn't a high impact wide receiver for the Packers because of all the other weapons at Aaron Rodger's disposal. Trading him would get rid of some cap room to open the door for Williams as well.

    They could also think about getting rid of James Starks. Obviously this is not a very likely scenario, but Starks is going to demand an extension soon if he lives up to his potential. If the Packers are serious about Williams this offseason, getting rid of players that are going to want to be signed later might be a good idea. I'm obviously not suggesting they do this, but it's something to ponder.

Sign Mario Williams to a 7-Year, $82 Million Contract

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    Here is where the Packers finally sign Williams. They have made the necessary cuts, trades, and they've taken care of their own business. Now they can make the splash that many fans want to see happen.

    This article was suppose to show what the Packers need to do and think about doing if they want to make a play for Mario Williams, and I hope it did that. Williams is going to demand a lot of money and a lot of years on his contract. A seven-year deal is a long one, but I actually think Williams is worth it.

    If Teddy can find a way to make this happen, that would be absolutely amazing.

    Let's all hope he can find a way, or at least want to find a way.