Keeping the Packers Green and Gold with Cash: Avoiding Silly Free Agency

Dean SomervilleCorrespondent IFebruary 28, 2009

The NFL silly season, known as free agency is upon us.  I have read several comments from Packer fans decrying the need for super and big splash free agent signings this year. 

I think signing any big name free agents by the Packers  this offseason would be really silly, and I do not believe Thompson will make that mistake.

The Packers current salary commitments for the top 51 players, with the FA still to think about and the draft upcoming sits at about $94 million of the $127M league cap, and short of  minimum of $109M. 

That number includes just short of $2 million to guys like KGB and Hodge who did not live up to contracts given and were released. Fifty-five players will eventually count to this cap number.

With the Packers current draft position and the nine picks they have means they need to allocate approximately $6 million to signing their draft choices, whomever they are. $100 million for those keeping track.

One ERFA, Tramon Williams is about a must to get resigned,  he looks to be a sure thing at corner, and successful teams in this league need top corners. A prudent contract might see him tied up for four years for $10 million, front end loaded—$3.5M cap hit.

If not, the ERFA contract he must be offered is about one, throwing him into the group of four listed later as “next year problem”.

Atari Bigby has been offered a second round qualifying offer at $1.4 million, and could be tied up longer term at about $10 mil over four years very likely.  RFA Kuhn should sign for two or three years at $1M per year max.  

None of the other RFA would be worth more than $750K per year, so would not effect the 55-man numbers. (With Williams, Bigby and Kuhn we are now at $54M), with the drat picks we will be over the 55 player minimum, but only the highest paid 55 are what count.

Now at $107M, and we begin deducting the league minimum from salaries paid to the “top 55”.

The UFAs—Montgomery is a marginal fit for the new system, but should be offered about a $1.5M per year two-or-three-year deal, to give leverage for a draft pick for him signing elsewhere.

The other two, Tauscher and Cole are the questions. 

Is Tauscher worth more than $2M per season?  He will no doubt be offered at least that much elsewhere.  He has been a very loyal and stout performer and may give GB a home team discount, but I cannot see an offer of more than two years, $5 mil tops, $2.5 cap hit.

Cole is decidedly the biggest question.  Relatively young, reasonably productive, he will likely be offered at least $10 mil over three years, and he will be looking for five seasons elsewhere, is he worth it.  Say yes, and for a first year hit $4 m.

In that scenario, the Pack has all of their own FA and draft choices signed, are at +- 114, with room to address the 2010 offseason that is lurking.  Do we have any guys that may / should reduce our cap?  Certainly.  It is very hard going into this season to justify $5M plus for Harris. 

Woodson and Clifton are at 8 and 6.5, both clearly playing on contracts earned by previous reputation, and will certainly not get that much again.  Woodson has  4 years left, Clifton expires next season, so we probably do not want to cut them just for salary.

The 2009 - 2010 offseason now poses a series  of questions, that if we spend every dollar this year grow much larger next. 

Clifton as mentioned has a cap number above $8, Kampman at $6 so he is playing for his career with the position switch, Pickett at 3.5 needs to be the guy at NT. Chillar at two is in jeopardy. 

The team’s real signing issues  are, WR Jennings, S Collins, OL College and Spitz have a total package of less than 3.5. Those four look to be key ingredients in the future of the franchise, and need resigned and raises are necessary.

IMO, before we even break camp, even before the $1.3M in roster bonus is paid, Harris needs to be released.  The $5 M he is to make this year is far better spent getting two of the five key players listed above signed to long term contracts. 

Without Harris Thompson has $20 mil for these five guys, a lot more than fair market value if he gets them resigned before they have monster seasons. 

My guess is at least four of the five can be signed for in the range of $12 million against the cap.  The biggest reason I am confident they can be signed, is this is the 2006 draft class, so they will have played in the league four years after this coming season. 

Normally, next year would be UFA time for these guys. 

With the collective bargaining agreement expiring, the “uncapped year” is a bit scary, but has this hidden gem for the Packers, players now need to have six league years to become Unrestricted Free agents. 

Unless there is a new agreement, all five of those guys will be restricted for two more seasons, so they will be staying.

The talent of Thompson in managing our cap room is now very apparent, there is no need to fear any of our own fan favorites need to be let go for lack of money.  Just perform and terrible Ted rewards.

The great news for Packer fans, is that since Thompson took over, we have not lost any critical FA from our own roster, and it very much looks like that successful trend will continue. 

The “cap space” of $30 million that people are throwing around includes all of this year’s draft class budget, all of our own free agents, and the money that would be required to sign next year’s potential free agents.

Should any of Tauscher, Cole or Montgomery not be resigned, there is money available for free agent shopping simply to replace them, in my estimates $8-12 million. 

Even signing them all, he realistically has somewhere between $4–8 million should the staff be looking at this years free agents, so there could be one or two depth position signings. And that would take the cushion from signing any replacements during the season should injuries occur.

For fans looking at wish lists, that is the real number.  If people are really gung ho to have Thompson sign some free agents whose own clubs indicate they think their value is not what they want in salary, think about this, we can sign more by waving goodbye to Harris now and any of Clifton, Woodson, Driver or Kampman before  the 2009 season. 

Not sure about a lot of fans, but I think cutting any of those four guys to sign a free agent from somewhere else is silly.

For those who cry for huge FA signings, and complain about Thompson being tight, this is the reality of the finances. I for one do not want to see a free agent splash and take the cash he should use rewarding guys who have earned it here. 

Let Oakland, Washington and Dallas make the big splashes, I think our team is a lot more ready to take a run this year than any of those teams.

Thanks to the board they hired a frugal manager who does not go crazy in the silly season.  Funny how many of those Free Agents bring baggage, and this is a team without much baggage. I like it that way and hope Thompson avoids the silly season.

If anyone wants to check out the current salary cap commitments, search:  NFL Ssalary Cap Numbers and select the Packers.