The Packers Should Restructure Allen Lazard Plus Thoughts About Dean Lowry

Extra salary cap space is always a useful commodity to possess. 

 

Extra salary cap space is always a useful commodity to possess.  The two best remaining sources of salary cap savings in 2022 are Allen Lazard and Dean Lowry.  Looking at the numbers, I see very few places to generate salary cap space should the need arise.  9 of the top 15 contracts have base salaries set at the minimum with no roster bonuses.  Russ Ball can squeeze those contracts as hard as he wants but he can't get any more juice out of them.  In some cases, a release generates a million or two in cap savings, but these guys are all core players.  The Packers could release Marcedes Lewis to get some relief, or Mason Crosby to get $2.9M in salary cap relief, but there are no proven replacements on the roster for them.

Three more potential sources are contracts associated with players that the Packers probably should not toy with just yet: Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage and Elgton Jenkins.  It is likely that the Packers will extend Jenkins during the season after he is back on the field and if he is playing at a high level.  The Packers could squeeze out a million or two in cap savings with an extension for Jenkins if he so accommodating as to take what likely will be an enormous signing bonus as an option bonus payable in 2023.  That leaves Allen Lazard and Dean Lowry. 

ALLEN LAZARD:

Lazard is playing on an RFA tender for $3.986M, all base salary.  A simple restructure with 4 void years would reduce Lazard's cap number to about $1.57M, thereby saving almost $2.42M for 2022.  Yes, that $2.4M would become dead money in 2023 if the Packers chose not to re-sign Lazard.  The Packers restructured Tonyan's RFA tender last year.  It may happen yet with Lazard.  And it should.  Why?  Because I perceive no real downside to making this move.

There is no law requiring General Manager Gutekunst to spend the $2.42M that would be saved in 2022.  If no opportunity to acquire a sufficiently exciting player during the season arises, then the Packers could simply roll over the $2.42M into 2023.  An extra $2.4M in rollover negates an extra $2.4M in dead money for 2023.  If my youngest son were the Packers' GM, there would be no issue: one needs the jaws of life to pry open his wallet.  I do not think Gutekunst is a spendthrift.  Yes, he spent a lot in 2019, but since then his acquisitions have been pretty modest and his in-season acquisitions have provided considerable bang for each dollar.  I have no issue with giving the discretion and the ability to utilize that discretion to Gutekunst.

  

DEAN LOWRY:

There has to be a reason why Dean Lowry is the only player on a second contract whose contract has not been restructured.  The two things that occur to me are: 1)  the Packers need Lowry's consent to convert base salary to a signing bonus and/or to add void years to his deal, and he has not given consent; or 2) the Packers wanted to retain the option to trade or release Lowry without taking a cap hit.  A straight release or a trade of Lowry at present still saves $5.45M in 2022 without adding any more dead money to 2023 than is already scheduled. 

Why would Green Bay want to move Lowry?  As noted above, a great opportunity or the perception of overwhelming necessity coupled with the notion that the acquisition of Jarran Reed and/or the emergence of Jack Heflin, Chris Slayton, or faith in Devonte Wyatt have made Lowry superfluous.  Opportunity might be just having the wherewithal in cap space to acquire a particularly attractive player in week 2 (when veteran contracts are no longer guaranteed) or at the trade deadline in October.  Last year the Packers were not able to make a competitive offer for Odell Beckham, at least not without doing some serious gymnastics with the contract.  Beckham got $4.75M and the Packers only rolled over $2.9M.     

Necessity might occur due to a significant injury to a main player, the inability of players returning from injury to perform at their previous level, or the failure of rookies and free agent acquisitions to play up to the level projected.

Is Lowry redundant?  Justis Mosqueda wrote an interesting article in which he charted where the Packer played each player during Family Night and during the first halves of the games against San Francisco and New Orleans, when they probably faced better quality opponents.

Jack Heflin led all players with 22 snaps at DE, followed by Reed with 15, Wyatt and Lowry with 14 each, and Slayton with 11, and Ford with 6.  TJ Slaton, Clark and Ford got all of the snaps at NT.  At DT, Heflin came in dead last with just one snap.  Slayton (23), Wyatt (15), and TJ Slaton (12) led the way at DT.  Note that the starters (Clark, Lowry and Reed) did not play in either preseason game, so their counts are lower because they only played during Family Night.  I am more comfortable with the depth on the defensive line with Lowry in the picture.  That said, if some other position just has to be shored up with an outside acquisition of a player, Lowry, while perhaps not redundant, might be someone who could figure in a trade at the November 1 trade deadline (just after game 8).  The Packers would save $2.778M in cap space if Lowry were traded at the deadline.   

Restructure: A simple restructure with 4 void years creates $3.506M in cap space.  It adds about $3.5M in dead money for 2023.  Again, there is no law that Gute has to spend the cap generated.  A restructure does not make sense if the team wants to trade Lowry now or release him.

 

DO THE PACKERS NEED MORE CAP SPACE:

The cap right now is in a state of flux.  On September 2, I wrote in a comment that the Packers had $6.0M in cap space, but today they have $6.9M, according to Overthecap.  The major reason for that is because the Packers released Alize Mack and Nate Becker from the Injured Reserve List after having reached injury settlements with those players.  The settlements were probably for just a few game checks each.  The Packers still have the following players on IR:

Player Cap # Player Cap #
Vernon Scott $915,922 Gabe Brkic $430K
Malik Taylor $895,000 Osirus Mitchell $430K
Shawn Davis $825,000 Ishmael Hyman $430K
Akial Byers $432,666 Innis Gaines $430K

These eight players still count for $4,788,588 against the salary cap.  [Five players have "split contracts" which lower their cap numbers in case of injury.  Byers' cap number is also $430K plus one third of his $8,000 signing bonus.]  The Packers have the medical information on these players, but we fans have no way to know which players have minor injuries or whether any of them are likely to be on the injured reserve list all season.  The Packers have 5 business days in which to reach settlements with these players, so the players waived injured on August 30 have until roughly September 7th to reach settlements.  Otherwise, the Packers will release them when they can pass a physical sometime during the season, at which time some additional cap space will accrue to the team.  We can hope for $4M in additional cap space, but it could be considerably less.  Kylin Hill counts as $475K ($455K base as a split contract figure plus his $19K signing bonus proration) while he is on the PUP list. 

The Packers also have an unusual amount of players with large game active bonuses who missed a lot of time last year.  Only $35,294 of Bakhtiari's $600K Game Active Bonus counts against the cap.  If he plays all 17 games, the Packers' cap space will be a total of $565K less than listed today.  [Note that the moment Bakhtiari suits up for his second and each subsequent game, the team's cap space is reduced by $35K.  It is not sorted out at the end of the season: it is immediate.]  If they play every game, Tonyan's cap number will increase by $600K, Cobb's by $242K, and Douglas' by $133K.  The total additional amount that could count against the cap with extraordinary health from game active bonuses is $1.9M, per Ken Ingalls.  Other than Tonyan ($1.515M GA bonus) and Cobb ($825K GA Bonus), the Packers would not gain cap space if a player with a game active bonus missed time.  If Cobb missed all 17 games, the Packers would save his $825K game active bonus, but they would sign someone making at least $705K to the 53-man roster, making savings minimal.  I think a prudent manager would budget for having at least $1.3M less cap space due to game active bonuses that might be earned.

Elevating players from the practice squad costs money.  All players on the PS earn $207K (none are veterans).  [As a note, teams can no longer pay PS members more than $207K per year for non-veterans, and veterans are earn between $277,200 and $358,200.  Teams cannot pay PS players more than those amounts.]  Players earn $11,500 per week on the PS, and make $39,166 per week if elevated to the roster, a difference of $27,666.  17 games times $27,666 equals a cost of $470,322 to elevate one player for each game.  To elevate two player for every game, the extra cap cost therefore would be $940,644.  I think budgeting $692K for practice squad elevations (8 games with two players elevated and 9 games with just one player elevated). 

The Packers have $6.9M in cap space, and likely will gain $3M(?) when players are removed from the IR List.  The team should budget $1.3M for game active bonuses and almost $700K for promotions from the PS, leaving a net of $7.9M.  Some players likely have incentives built into their contracts.  Salary cap space tends to melt away during the season, generally to the tune of $3M to $5M, leaving roughly $2.9M to $4.9M as spendable cap space.  I intend to document how much "Cap Melt" there is this year.  Finally, the Packers would probably like to roll some unused cap space over into 2023.  

So, do the Packers have enough?

 

 

4 points

Comments (24)

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Swisch's picture

September 04, 2022 at 06:12 pm

I'd restructure Lazard by extending him for something like four years at a total of $40 million -- with incentives.
Make it a good deal for both sides, and lock up our only veteran wide receiver in his prime.
He's at least going to be solid, and could be more than that; yet he's unselfish and won't demand the ball overmuch.
Take a risk and make a commitment to talented players with character going on their second contract (in their mid-20s).

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 04, 2022 at 09:28 pm

Sportrac suggests 3 years, $23.25M ($7.7M) for Lazard. I suggested $7M to $7.5M a month or two ago, and I was uneasy about that much. We shall see how Lazard produces but I would not consider $10M AAV for him at present.

We all might have to adjust our thinking on contracts if the cap growth turns out to be really stunning. A $275M cap for 2025 is possible.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 05, 2022 at 03:30 pm

I'm sure Lazard wants to bet on himself and let this season play out before signing anything. There's no downside for him to restructure this year's deal but if he suddenly plays like a #1 WR $10 million would be cheap, if he looks more like a lower #2 or #3 than the number TGR suggests would be the absolute most he'd find in FA.

He missed practice today and LaFluer wouldn't say he's for sure playing on Sunday so there definitely won't be any movement on a new deal for him anytime soon.

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Coldworld's picture

September 04, 2022 at 06:28 pm

I think that the Packers are keeping their options open with Lowry and Lazard. I think Lazard will be offered a new long term deal around mid season, when they have a better idea of his ability to be a true starter. There is no need for dead years at this point.

Lowry is a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency option. We are not better without him, but he may well see less playing time and others could make the gap narrower in that time. If injuries are kind, he remains an option to release or trade if we have a critical need. I definitely don’t want dead years unless it’s the very last resort. I do not think he’s a Packer next year and we have too many void years on existing contracts already.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 04, 2022 at 09:17 pm

Me, too. I am bigger on restructuring Lazard immediately than I am on committing to one course of action with Lowry. If GB restructures Lowry now, it might be kicking itself if they want to trade him later.

I don't think Gutekunst will spend like a drunken yuppie. Restructure Lowry (who already has 3 void years with a dead money number of $1.8M for 2023 if he walks) for $3.5M and Lazard for $2.4M just in case. It seems likely that Gute will roll that $5.9M over and negate the dead money for the void years. If he spends it, we can argue endlessly, or at least until we find out whether whomever he spent it on helped GB win a super bowl or at least helped us get to the big dance.

I don't think GB's 2023 cap situation is all that dire, by the way. Not good, but manageable. So much depends on what AR does.

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murf7777's picture

September 05, 2022 at 09:18 am

TGR, you do a great job explaining the intricacies of the salary cap. Looking a bit further ahead, if Arod stays, is there any way for us to avoid salary cap hell in 2024 without not signing our key players. That year, Arod’s contracts starts to balloon up.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 05, 2022 at 10:33 am

Murf, that’s my big worry too. The cap will rise but not enough to cover the rise in Rodgers salary. So, does the team start to make preemptive moves now? Will a restructured contract for the above players really make a difference? Or is the team better off with a plan to restructure Rodgers instead?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 06, 2022 at 01:53 am

That's one tough question. Hard to say. Part of the answer is how well did the Packers draft in 2022, and how well will they draft in 2023 and 2024?

I think readers like yourself know that the Packers are likely to miss ZaDarius Smith this year. Yeah, GB won 13 games without him in 2021, but his absence was noticeable when Tipa and Garvin had to play, and Preston Smith and Rashan Gary stayed healthy all year. Can Enagbare and company mitigate the loss?

Ditto with Aaron Jones. I'm assuming he's gone in 2023, much less 2024. He is due $16M in cash for 2023 ($20M cap #), but based on his performance in 2022, perhaps he'd return for $10M next year? Or maybe he is worth more than that and the team has to part ways with him. Maybe Kylin Hill can make Jones' departure easier? Ditto for Bakh and Jenkins/Rasheed Walker/Caleb Jones/Zach Tom.

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packer132's picture

September 04, 2022 at 06:38 pm

Thanks TGR for the insight into salary cap costs for practice squad players. I would not want to be the accountant managing the ins and outs of 69 players. I hope GB keeps Lowry as injuries will happen and defensive line has been a weakness for years. I wouldn't pinch pennies considering their cap number and see what happens after a few games. I am not in favor of extensions either until we see what injuries will impact the team. Let's get through the first part of the season before talking about extensions.

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NJ-RICK's picture

September 04, 2022 at 06:42 pm

I'd say they trade Lowry at some point.. He is making way to much for what he puts out on the field. They have players behind him now who can do what he does and more. Sorry never really liked him. He has had his moments on the field but not enough IMO. Average D-Lineman at best...

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EricinGB's picture

September 04, 2022 at 07:18 pm

Core Player Contracts that expire after this year: Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Elton Jenkins, Bobby Tonyan, Alan Lazard...and Dillon is in a contract year next year...and this is just a partial list. The Packers are already waaaay over the cap in 2023, .that's if Rodgers stays...if Rodgers leaves, the 2023 cap is even more in the red with NO ROOM LEFT to restructure....none...fact is, we are not going to be able to resign all our core players next year and stay under the cap as it is....so, lets get through the 2022 season first before making additional cap commitments we can't cover in 2023.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 04, 2022 at 09:06 pm

Your point is a good one. However, The Packers picked up Savage's 5th year option for 2023 which is estimated to be $7.9M.

It probably makes sense to extend Amos. If GB lets him walk, his dead money hit is $7.95M. GB could give him 4 years/$48M with a $12M signing bonus and reduce Amos' cap number to roughly $7M for 2023, picking up one million in cap space in the process.

Jenkins is a must extend type. It may be that Watson, Doubs, Toure and Amari Rodgers are GB's top 4 WRs for the next 3 years. Tonyan has been as more tease than a solid must-have player. Time will tell on Tonyan.

GB might lose Lowry, Reed, Lewis, Crosby, Cobb, Watkins, Lazard and perhaps Tonyan. Lots of familiar names, but I think the team can sign a couple of those guys they want back plus Jenkins without too much trouble.

Edit: Oh, GB probably loses Aaron Jones as well. Here is hoping that Kylin Hill is the real thing and/or Goodson can be a useful player.

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PackyCheese500's picture

September 04, 2022 at 09:27 pm

Most Likely, I think that Cobb and Crosby will retire. Lewis want to play 1 more season, and I think they should bring him back on a cheap 1-year deal. Watkins, Lowry, and Reed are all affordable losses; I see the team re-signing Lazard because he will provide a steady veteran presence and his role with the Packers is unique, so I don’t think he’d get a lot of outside interest. I see Aaron Jones being traded next offseason.

Tonyan I think the Packers could keep if they wanted to but they may opt to sign a more well-rounded TE like Dalton Schulz. The draft class of TEs next year is also very strong (Michael Mayer, Arik Gilbert, Darnell Washington). I think the Packers trade one of Jenkins or Bakhitari next year and keep the other. They can draft someone or they can use Tom more.

I would let Amos go just because he is getting older and there are some solid safeties in the draft next year, like Jordan Battle and JL Skinner

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 05, 2022 at 03:21 pm

Georgia has Bowers as the main receiving option at TE so I'm not sure how far Gilbert and Washington can climb this year. One of them had personal issues and reportedly was almost 300 lbs in Spring workouts. I think it was Gilbert and Washington is more of a blocking TE but a damn good one.

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stockholder's picture

September 04, 2022 at 07:54 pm

Priority #1 is Gary. And he just might get the franchise tag.
Lewis, Crosby, and Cobb, will Retire next year.
They will never pay Lazard or Tonyan, 10 mil.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 04, 2022 at 08:41 pm

The Packers picked up Gary's 5th year option for 2023. It is estimated to be $10.892M by OTC, far less than his market value. There is no need to be thinking about a franchise tag this early. I've little doubt that the Packers will offer an extension to Gary in the same way they handled Jaire. Not hard to reduce Gary's cap number from $10.89M in 2023 to about $6.5M. So, Gary is under team control for 2022 and 2023.

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PackyCheese500's picture

September 04, 2022 at 09:31 pm

Agree about Lazard. For Lowry, I’d just let him walk in FA next year. A trade wouldn’t net much draft capital and the free agent market is dried up. The cap space that we will get will be more than enough to sign a veteran FA (hopefully EDGE Jason Pierre Paul). His production in what could be ARods final year year outweighs the small benefits of trading him. Only way I would consider it would be for another player, like Darren Waller, or someone else.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

September 05, 2022 at 01:03 am

Enjoyed the article. I think perhaps the Packers may want to wait to see how the three rookie receivers develop this year. If Gute hit on all three and Amari Rodgers develops as hoped, it may affect how the Packers view Lazard's value to the team. Personally, I like Lazard and feel he is a hard worker and contributes well on offense. He is also an excellent blocker and causes no problems on or off the field. He has the qualities of a core player and that has value.

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13TimeChamps's picture

September 05, 2022 at 08:58 am

In 2018, GB drafted 3 WRs and all made the final 53 that year. They are all gone. One is out of the NFL, one is barely hanging on in Chicago, and one got a nice contract in KC that I highly doubt GB would have matched.

This year, GB drafted 3 WRs, and once again, all 3 made the final 53. How will it play out this time? Personally, I think the upside is greater considering one is a high 2nd rounder, another is a 4th rounder that many thought would go higher, and a late 7th rounder that shows a ton of potential.

It'll be interesting to revisit this in 4 years and see where these current 3 will be in their NFL careers.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

September 05, 2022 at 10:08 am

Periodically, I like to read the "re-draft" articles about drafts that have occurred in previous years.

The 2018 draft gave us Alexander who is among the best corner backs in the NFL, but other than him that 2018 draft was not a good one. Other than Scantling, I don't think any other player from the Packers draft that year is a lock to make a 53 man roster this year and that includes St. Brown who signed on with the Bears during the off season.

I've heard the term more than a few times that the NFL draft is a "crap shoot" and over the years we've seen our share of busts with in my opinion Tony Mandarich being perhaps our biggest disappointment.

Thanks for your thoughts; you make a good point.

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MarkinMadison's picture

September 05, 2022 at 08:23 am

I'm blown away by the complexities of the system right now. Thinking my way through all of that. One the one hand, the complexities don't really change the basic question. On the other hand, the complexities set the context and change the urgency of the basic question. I have a whole new level of respect for those who have to work in this system. Thanks for the education.

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TheVOR's picture

September 05, 2022 at 08:50 am

As much as I love and respect Lazard as a player, I would not be talking about a restructure until we see how they all play out in the WR Room. It was implied he was the number 1 heir apparent prior to anyone seeing Sammy Watkins or the lot of rookies. Can't be paying big number 1 money until we understand what we really have in the room, and where Allan Lazard falls in the rankings.

Again, really like the player, just not willing to figure out the contract money and terms until this all shakes out. He's a blocker from hell and a very hard worker, I would expect him to contribute at a high level, but I want to see how the room and roster shakes out first.

3 points
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Leatherhead's picture

September 05, 2022 at 12:59 pm

I like a well-thought-out piece on Monday morning.

On the subject of Lazard, we already have 4 WRs under contract for next season, and I think that their development will have a lot to do with Lazards future. If we lock up Lazard, we’d have a lot of stability at WR during the next several seasons. Or we could draft a guy and decide to not pay our WRs much since they would all be on rookie deals.

Lowry has been our second best DL for 3 years, and this is his last year. Hopefully Reed or Wyatt will be our 2nd and 3rd best DL by the end of the season. This guy is an asset and we should hang onto him this year.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 06, 2022 at 02:13 am

Well, thank you. Always nice when we aren't butting heads, as well! 😁

I only suggested a restructure for Lazard to secure cap space in 2022. I agree with LLC that Lazard might want to play a year as the #1 or #2 option to increase his value. Personally, I think the team would only pay him as a nice #3 at present. Lazard has to prove that he's a #2 WR before the team should talk money with him. It would not surprise me if some or most of Doubs, Watkins, Watson, and Toure have bigger receiving years than Lazard. Lazard has the inside track right now. I think he'd better make hay early in the season.

Also, I suggested a restructure of Lowry, which implies strongly that GB will keep him all year. Not restructuring Lowry means GB might keep him all year but it also keeps open their options as to moving him at some point. Note that his $5M base salary become guaranteed (= Lowry can make a termination claim) if he is on the roster for game one.

Not being the biggest fan of the Reed signing and not seeing much out of Wyatt so far, I think GB is better with Lowry. I'd only be moving him if dire necessity hit: an injury to one of the OLBs or safeties.

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