NFL Sets 2020 Cap Limit At $198.2 Million. Packers Sign Kirksey

The NFL announced that the salary cap limit for the 2020 season will be $198.2 million, which is less than had been expected.  It constitutes an increase of about $10 million but just a 5.31% increase over the 2019 cap limit.  That is bad news for teams with lower than average cap space like the Packers.

Where does that leave the Packers for free agency?  I ran my own numbers, looked at Sportrac, Overthecap, and Ken Ingalls (those numbers varied from $22.55 million to $22.9 million) and I came up with an average of $22.745 million using the rule of 51.  That includes signing Crosby and releasing Graham, and the increases in the minimum salaries for young players and practice squad players due to the new CBA, but it does not include releasing Lane Taylor or any other player(s).

How much is spendable on free agency?  Let's take a look.

Rule of 51 Space $22.745M
52nd and 53rd Contracts -$1.220M
Practice Squad (12 Players) -$1.713M
Draft (10 Picks) -$2.400M
Churn - Rollover -$5.00M
Subtotal: $12.412M
Release Lane Taylor $4.087M
Spendable 1st yr Cap #: $16.499M

There are things with which one could quibble about listed above.  I note that Ken Ingalls suggests that the PS squad and signing the draft picks will cost $120,000 and $413,000 more than I estimated.  The Packers have to keep some cap space to pay incentives that might be earned, and to have a cushion for Injured Reserve and PUP lists.  Any player that gets hurt who does not have a game active bonus hurts cap space.  It hurts more if the player would not have made the team but was hurt in training camp.  Cap space has come in handy in the past at cut downs when some attractive players get released by other teams. 

I think going into the start of the regular season with $5 million is close to bare bones, but people can disagree.  The Packers can restructure a contract in December if the cap space is too low for them to pay all of their obligations, except for incentives.  If a team does not have enough cap space to pay incentives, the amount by which incentives exceeds available cap space is taken from the 2021 salary cap.

$16.5 million in cap space is not a lot, but it represents the total of the first year cap hits for any free agents, perhaps 50% to 70% of the total AAV involved.  In other words, if the Packers wanted to cram free agents in under the cap by having each player's first year cap hit be just 50% of the player's AAV, they could sign players whose AAV totals about $33 million.  Remember, ZaDarius Smith had an AAV of $16.5 million but his first year cap hit was just $7.2 million, which is about 44%. 

I have railed against that practice in the past, but I am more sanguine about it.  There have been some media reports that the 2021 salary cap is expected to explode, perhaps with an increase of $35 million.  I would not be surprised if the Packers restructured some contracts to free up more cap space.  Davante Adams is one possibility.  ZaDarius Smith has a $9 million roster bonus due on March 21 that could be converted to a signing bonus to free up $6 million. 

BREAKING NEWS:

Per Mike Garafolo, the Packers signed ILB Christian Kirksey to a two year deal worth $16M.  There are no details on the contract structure or the 2020 cap number for Kirksey.  He was a street free agent and will not count against the compensatory pick system.

Today is the deadline for teams to file franchise and transition tags.  Legal tampering also starts this afternoon, though players cannot be signed, but some announcements might be made.

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Comments (19)

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CAG123's picture

March 16, 2020 at 08:55 am

This just seemed like a desperation signing that bad teams make just to be seen doing something in FA. Gute set a standard last year for ascending, reliable and healthy FA and blows that up for a guy that’s played 9 games in two years and you could make the argument that he’s already peeked. Maybe the details of his contract will make me feel better.

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taarons420's picture

March 16, 2020 at 09:00 am

I trust Gute more in free agency than in the draft.
Sign guys for what you think they can do as opposed to what they've done.
This guy can play.
Without the injuries - he wouldn't have been available.

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CAG123's picture

March 16, 2020 at 09:11 am

Yeah but that’s a big “without” though I want this signing to workout so Gute can continue to look like a FA guru I just feel like they got into a bidding war with a bad team.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 16, 2020 at 09:27 am

PFF hated Kirksey in 2019 and 2018, but he had some good years in '17 and '16. His stats show 11 TFL in 2016 and 148 tackles. OTOH, PFR lists his missed tackles percentage at 15.7% and 26.7%. Those look more like misprints, but it could be due to injury. I have never watched the guy play.

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CAG123's picture

March 16, 2020 at 09:47 am

Oh god I’m losing faith and his best years didn’t even come with Pettine as HC.

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Samson's picture

March 16, 2020 at 10:09 am

How can it be a "desperation signing".... Everything is just starting. --- You need to wait until free agency & the draft are complete, then your evaluation will involve the whole picture.

If it makes you feel better... 9 games in two seasons means he's still fresh & has less wear & tear than most NFL players at ILB.

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taarons420's picture

March 16, 2020 at 08:58 am

Love it.
This guy can play.

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Packer_Fan's picture

March 16, 2020 at 09:00 am

This signings shows how much money the Packers have to spend. Not much. So they are taking a chance on a potentially ascending player with injury problems. If Kirksey gets healthy, then they made a great deal. And if he gets hurt again, then there will be a big hole to fill. Look for the Packers to go after the top ILB in the draft.

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JamesLofton's picture

March 16, 2020 at 09:05 am

Add a run stuffing DL like Pierce to Kirksey and in Gute we trust.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 16, 2020 at 09:21 am

Players that have been tagged: OLB Ngakoue, Judon, DT Chris Jones, WR AJ Green, FS Justin Simmons, OLB Shaq Barrett, OG Brandon Scherff, and TE Hunter Henry.

Patriots signed S Devin McCourty (2/$23M). DT Tyeler Davison re-signed. Titans signed Tannehill for 4 years, $118M, $91M guaranteed, $62M fully guaranteed. Baltimore acquired Calais Campbell and his $15M cap hit for a 5th round pick.

Colts signed OT Anthony Costonzo to a 2 year, $33M deal. Costonzo is 32, and is and has consistently been better than Bulaga.

The Lions will release RT Ricky Wagner (59 PFF grade, way less than Bulaga).

Vince Biegel got the original round tender of $2.1M.

Vikings cut Linval Joseph (PFF grade of 71.2 - lacks juice now: he had 10 TFL and 10 QB hits in 2018 and 2019 combined after having 10 TFL and 27 QB hits in the two prior seasons) and Xavier Rhodes.

Chargers released Brandon Mebane (48.7 PFF grade) and LB Thomas Davis (61.7 PFF - lost some juice).

Titans released TE Delanie Walker. Getting old but there is a big LaFleur connection.

Bears re-signed Trevathan for 3 years, $21.75M with $2.25M extra available in unknown incentives. $14M guaranteed.

Kicker Kai Fairburn signed for $4.41M AAV, $9M fully guaranteed, making him the 3rd highest paid kicker. Crosby slips to 4th highest, but several kickers have a lot more fully guaranteed than Crosby.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

March 16, 2020 at 09:29 am

Vikings extend Cousins 2 years. Details unknown.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 16, 2020 at 09:42 am

Vikings extended Cousins for 2 more years. He has 3 years, $96M with $61M guaranteed at signing now. He was scheduled to receive $29.5M all guaranteed in 2020. So new money is $33.5M AAV with $31.5M more in fully guaranteed money.

YEAH!!!!

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Lphill's picture

March 16, 2020 at 10:03 am

Now get Kwitnikowski!!!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 16, 2020 at 10:42 am

Packers sign OT Ricky Wagner, 2 years, $11M.

Could be $5M first-year cap hit for Kirksey (or almost any other #).
Could be $4M first-year cap hit for Wagner.

Might have $7.5M spendable left?

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stockholder's picture

March 16, 2020 at 11:04 am

Good Bye Taylor? Good Bye Bulaga! Good Bye Vlad! Wagner was brought in for ins. Bet they still draft a Ot.

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Lare's picture

March 16, 2020 at 11:06 am

TGR can correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks like the Packers currently have over $31 million in 2020 salary cap space tied up in Bakhtiari ($14.7 million), Linsley($10.5 million) and Lane Taylor($6 million). Assuming they want to re-sign Bakhtiari & Linsley, they could redo those contracts, release Taylor and add a fair amount of money in cap space.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 16, 2020 at 11:21 am

Basically, yes. They could extend Bakh ($3.2M of the $14.7 was already paid as a signing bonus) and gain cap space. But Bakh is looking at $19M to $20M AAV, so go somewhat easy. Linsley could be extended to reduce his cap hit but it is his last season so GB can't restructure him other than asking for a pay cut.

I've forgotten what I did earlier, but picking up $3M on Bakh and $4M on Linsley should be doable. These guys are all hitting 30 soon, remember.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 16, 2020 at 11:23 am

Okay: Kirksey is 2 years, $13M with $3M in incentives. None of the incentives should count against the cap since he missed most of the year. $4M signing bonus. Large per game roster bonus.

Per Aaron Wilson:
Base $ - SB$ GA Bonus W/O -Incent
$1.75M $2M $1.000M $250K $1.5M = $4.15M cap hit.
$3.00M $2M $1.00M $250K $1.50M Roster bonus $1.5M = $7.75M cap hit

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 16, 2020 at 12:02 pm

Remember, when GB tenders its ERFAs, the cap space available will decrease, probably by several hundred thousand dollars. [Sorry, i don't have the new minimum salary scheduled pinned to this computer.

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