Ted Thompson is going to need to work his magic with the salary cap this year for the Green Bay Packers.
The Green Bay Packers aren't necessarily in trouble concerning their 2014 salary cap, but there is definitely going to be the need for Green Bay to be smart with its money.
That shouldn't be hard for general manager Ted Thompson who is often known as rather stingy when it comes to spending big money on free agents. Unfortunately, the Packers need quite a bit of help at a number of positions, so being stingy might not be available.
Today we're going to be breaking down the Packers' overall cap space as well as how each position looks in regards to the overall salary cap.
*All contract information comes from Spotrac.com.
On the surface, the Green Bay Packers appear to be sitting rather pretty in terms of cap space for the 2014 offseason. However, they have a whole bunch of players hitting free agency this year as well as a number of needs they need to meet before the next season begins.
The Packers have 19 of their own free agents that they need to decide on. In terms of money, they'll have an estimated $18.5 million to work with of a projected team salary cap of $126.3 million, according to Albert Breer of NFL.com.
We also can't forget about rookies that Green Bay will need to sign, so a good portion of that $18.5 million simply won't be available. As an example, last year's first-round pick Datone Jones ended up costing the team just south of $1.5 million during the 2013 season.
Overall, the Packers don't have the most cap space to work with this offseason, but it could definitely be worse. Now let's take a look at each position and and break down how the cap space looks at each position.
Current Players Under Contract: Aaron Rodgers, Scott Tolzien
Current Money Owed for 2014: $18.5 million
2014 Free Agents: Seneca Wallace, Matt Flynn
Of the $18.5 due to the quarterbacks in 2014, the majority of that belongs to Rodgers. That couldn't come as a surprise at all considering the record-breaking contract he signed last offseason.
However, the Packers also signed Tolzien to a two-year deal worth $1.2 million. While the quarterbacks take up a good chunk of the Packers' overall salary cap, it's definitely worth it to keep a player like Rodgers on the roster.
As for the free agents, the biggest question is going to revolve around Flynn. He certainly did his part during the regular season, but the reality of the situation is that the Packers don't need to have three quarterbacks on the roster before the draft.
With Tolzien already signed, the likelihood of Flynn sticking with Green Bay in 2014 is quite unlikely. Look for the Packers to stick with what they have now and maybe add a late-round quarterback to the roster which will only decrease their cap space a little.
Current Players Under Contract: Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, DuJuan Harris
Current Money Owed for 2014: $2 million
2014 Free Agents: James Starks, Kahlil Bell, John Kuhn
Of all the positions, the running backs for the Green Bay Packers currently offer the best value. The fact that Green Bay was able to get so much production from this unit this year and only owe $2 million next year is just ridiculous.
The big decisions for the Packers will revolve around Starks and Kuhn. Starks was extremely productive in limited action this year. However, Green Bay will get both Franklin and Harris back from season-ending injuries and there might just not be the space for Starks on the roster.
As for Kuhn, he's certainly a favorite in Green Bay, but his production and impact have declined in recent seasons. With Lacy proving capable in pass protection and as a receiver out of the backfield, the Packers may feel okay moving forward without Kuhn on the roster.
Look for the Packers to make a low and reasonable deal for both Starks and Kuhn to keep them on the roster. However, if they don't accept it, then don't be surprised if neither player is a member of the 2014 roster.
Current Money Owed for 2014: $6.96 million
2014 Free Agents: James Jones
The fact that both Nelson and Cobb will make a combined $4.9 million next year is just ridiculous. However, that number will likely change before the 2014 season.
Both Nelson and Cobb become unrestricted free agents in 2015 and the Green Bay Packers would be wise to restructure their contracts this offseason so they never have a chance to hit the open market. They could also potentially do the same thing with Boykin, but it may be a little too early to make a large investment in him.
With only one free agent at this position, the Packers are in good overall shape. While the decision whether to sign, franchise tag or move on from Jones will certainly be a difficult one, it's hard to imagine it making a gigantic impact either positively or negatively next year.
Don't be surprised if the Packers let Jones walk and work on developing their younger receivers like they've done so often in the past.
Current Players Under Contract: Ryan Taylor, Brandon Bostick, Jake Stoneburner
Current Money Owed for 2014: $1.65 million
2014 Free Agents: Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless
What the Green Bay Packers do at the tight end position next year is going to be extremely interesting.
For starters, their top two tight ends (Finley and Quarless) are both free agents. Furthermore, neither player is guaranteed to be re-signed by the Packers. Finley is coming back from a difficult injury and Quarless proved to be a little too inconsistent when asked to be the starting tight end.
If they aren't re-signed, it's hard to imagine Green Bay moving forward with the trio of Taylor, Bostick and Stoneburner. What could ultimately play the deciding factor in what the Packers do is whether or not they want to draft a tight end early in the 2014 draft.
Two names that stick out as potential targets for Green Bay are Eric Ebron from North Carolina and Jace Amaro of Texas Tech. Should Green Bay set its mind that Ebron or Amaro is a must-have player, then it's likely they won't bring back either Finley or Quarless for the 2014 season.
Current Players Under Contract: Derek Sherrod, J.C. Tretter, Don Barclay, Bryan Bulaga, David Bakhtiari
Current Money Owed for 2014: $7.7 million
2014 Free Agents: Marshall Newhouse
Outside of Bulaga, who is making just over $3.8 million in 2014, the Green Bay Packers have great value with their offensive tackles. In fact, they are only going to pay their two starting tackles from the 2013 season a combined $1.2 million in 2014.
The Packers only have one free-agent tackle, and there is absolutely no way that he'll be on the team next year. Despite starting in 2012, Newhouse was pushed to the bench this year and looked absolutely horrid each and every time he stepped onto the field.
The reality is that the Packers are pretty set at the tackle position. They may add some depth during the draft, but if they do, it'll likely be a late-round pick that costs very little against the 2014 cap.
Current Players Under Contract: Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Lane Taylor, Greg Van Roten
Current Money Owed for 2014: $12.6 million
2014 Free Agents: Evan Dietrich-Smith
Here's a surprising fact for you: Sitton and Lang will be the fourth and fifth-highest paid players on the Green Bay Packers in 2014. The good news for Green Bay is that both players have earned their high salaries, especially Sitton.
However, it's deciding what to do with Dietrich-Smith that will be so important for Green Bay this offseason. With quarterback Aaron Rodgers wanting Dietrich-Smith back, it's extremely likely that the Packers will be spending more than $12.6 million on their interior offensive line next season.
Of course, if it helps to keep Rodgers happy and off his back, it's 100 percent worth it.
Current Players Under Contract: Josh Boyd, Datone Jones, Jerel Worthy, Mike Daniels
Current Money Owed for 2014: $4 million
2014 Free Agents: Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, C.J. Wilson, Johnny Jolly
No position will be filled with more difficult decisions than the defensive line. Every single starter on the Green Bay Packers defensive line is free agent this year.
Of the three starters (Pickett, Raji and Jolly), the only one who earned a contract this past season was Jolly. Both Pickett and Raji struggled mightily over the course of the year and it's very likely that Green Bay could move on from both of them.
With Pickett's age (he'll turn 35 during the 2014 season) and Raji's likely high cost to re-sign (he turned down an $8 million per year contract earlier), both players could find themselves looking for new teams next year.
It's likely that the Packers will spend some money on their defensive line this offseason, but the cost for Jolly, other free agents they may sign or draft picks shouldn't be overly high.
Current Players Under Contract: Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Nate Palmer, Andy Mulumba, Victor Aiyewa
Current Money Owed for 2014: $14.7 million
2014 Free Agents: Mike Neal
The bulk of the $14.7 million due to the outside linebackers belongs to Matthews and his $11.1 salary-cap hit in 2014. Outside of Matthews, who absolutely deserves his contract, the Green Bay Packers have quite a few bargain deals that they should be excited about.
Their only free agent at this position is Neal, who switched from defensive end to outside linebacker this year. Despite the position switch, Neal actually played rather well when he was on the field and did enough to likely get re-signed by Green Bay.
If the Packers do bring back Neal, they shouldn't need to sign any free agents or draft any outside linebackers. That'll keep their cap hit from the outside linebackers relatively close to the number above.
Current Players Under Contract: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Sam Barrington
Current Money Owed for 2014: $9.6 million
2014 Free Agents: Jamari Lattimore, Rob Francois
Hawk will be the sixth-highest paid player in 2014 at $5.1 million and Jones will be the eighth-highest paid at $4 million. While Jones may be overpaid after his struggles during the 2013 season, Hawk earned every cent of his reduced contract last year.
Of the two free agents, the only one that the Green Bay Packers should bring back is Lattimore. He showed potential in limited action last year and could push Jones for the starting job opposite Hawk.
The problem for the Packers is that if they only bring back Lattimore, they will absolutely need at add more inside linebackers either in the draft or via free agency. This doesn't necessarily need to be an early-round pick or a big-name free agent, but the Packers will definitely need depth.
That'll raise the money owed to the inside linebackers a little, but it should still be a reasonable amount compared to the rest of the positions on the Packers roster.
Current Players Under Contract: Tramon Williams, Jarrett Bush, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Micah Hyde, James Nixon, Jumal Rolle
Current Money Owed for 2014: $14.7 million
2014 Free Agents: Sam Shields
The only position owed more money in 2014 right now than the cornerbacks for the Green Bay Packers is the quarterbacks. However, that could definitely change before the offseason is over.
The reason for this is due to the fact that the Packers simply can't afford to not re-sign Shields. He was the most consistent cornerback this year and proved that he's capable of slowing down the No. 1 receiver for the opposing team.
With Shields back, Hayward healthy and Hyde continuing to develop, Green Bay could actually field one of the better group of cornerbacks in the league next year.
Current Players Under Contract: Morgan Burnett, Sean Richardson
Current Money Owed for 2014: $5.5 million
2014 Free Agents: M.D. Jennings, Chris Banjo
To be perfectly honest, $5.5 million is way too high for the amount of production the Green Bay Packers got out of their safeties this year. This unit was just straight-up awful in every single game of the season.
The easiest decision the Packers have to make this offseason will be to not re-sign Jennings. No matter how low of a salary Jennings would take, the Packers shouldn't offer him anything.
That leaves Green Bay with only two safeties on the roster and a major need for an influx of talent at this position. The Packers can either go out and sign a big-name free agent like Jairus Byrd or target a safety early in the draft such as Alabama's Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix.
Addressing the safety position is the biggest need for the Packers defense heading into the offseason, so the cap hit for this position should rise quite a bit before the start of the season.
Current Players Under Contract: Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode
Current Money Owed for 2014: $5.5 million
2014 Free Agents: None
The Green Bay Packers are pretty well set at the key special teams positions for the 2014 season. They certainly aren't overpaying for any of their players, which is always a good thing.
Both Crosby and Masthay are coming off extremely solid 2013 seasons. Crosby's season couldn't have come at a better time considering his massive struggles during the 2012 campaign.
The Packers should feel good about their special teams cap hit for the foreseeable future.