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Packers face major financial question with David Bakhtiari’s contract

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Packers face major financial question with David Bakhtiari’s contract
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Bakhtiari is a potential salary cap casualty this offseason, but he’s much more likely to stick around with a restructure that could push off about $12 million in cap money into the future.

As the Green Bay Packers’ front office decided on a direction for the 2023 season, one of the clearest signs about the organization’s plan will be what it does with David Bakhtiari.

Bakhtiari remains one of Aaron Rodgers’ closest friends on the team and, when healthy, is still one of the best left tackles in football. After losing essentially the entire 2021 season to a torn ACL, he finally returned to the field in week 3 of this past season, rotating in and out of the lineup for a few games before being back at full strength by week 10. Not including the three games he missed late in the year following an emergency appendectomy, Bakhtiari played every meaningful snap in his final five games of the season and appears to finally be through the ongoing issues with his injured knee.

To some extent, his return to form late in the season makes the question of what to do about him in 2023 more challenging. With another offseason to get back to full health, Bakhtiari should return to full availability for next season, and a reasonable expectation is that he will be an All-Pro candidate once again. Bakhtiari’s age is not a substantial concern, either — he turns 32 in September, but two-time reigning All-Pro Trent Williams just earned those honors at age 33 and 34, so it’s reasonable to expect a healthy Bakhtiari to continue to play at an elite level for a few years to come.

The question around Bakhtiari therefore centers largely around how to adjust his contract, which runs through 2024, and probably not whether the team wants to keep him around for 2023. However, the financial piece could force the Packers’ hand, and if they decide that they do want to take a hard reset in the upcoming season — moving on from Aaron Rodgers and potentially a few massive contracts — Bakhtiari’s large cap hit for the next two seasons may be something the Packers simply wish to unload entirely.

Here’s what the Packers are facing over the final two years of Bakhtiari’s contract:

2023

Base: $6.7 million
Roster bonus: $9.5 million
Per-game roster bonuses: $600k
Workout bonus: $700k
Prorated signing bonus: $11.566 million

Cap hit: $28.854 million

2024

Base: $20.2 million
Per-game roster bonuses: $600k
Workout bonus: $700k
Prorated signing bonus: $11.566 million

Cap hit: $33.066 million

With the 2023 salary cap projected to be $225 million and the Packers projected to be about $16 million over that number, Bakhtiari’s cap number is one of the biggest issues on the roster. In fact, he has the second-highest cap hit on the team (behind Aaron Rodgers) and it is the eighth-highest non-quarterback cap hit in the entire NFL (behind Laremy Tunsil, Leonard Williams, Tyreek Hill, Joey Bosa, DeAndre Hopkins, T.J. Watt, and Myles Garrett).

Thankfully, Bakhtiari’s contract structure for 2023 allows the Packers to adjust his cap number significantly by moving money off into future years or, if they decide it’s time to move on, by releasing him entirely. Again, the latter appears unlikely given recent comments from the team, but the financials make that possibility worth mentioning.

Here are the Packers’ options with Bakhtiari for 2023.

Release

If the Packers were to decide it is indeed time to cut bait on the team and fully embrace the rebuild, moving on from Bakhtiari entirely could make sense. The decision to release him would then come down to whether the team wants to absorb all of his remaining prorated signing bonus money in 2023 or spread it out over two years.

In a normal, pre-June 1st release, the Packers would take on $23.131 million in dead cap for 2023, saving only about $5.7 million in cap space compared to Bakhtiari’s existing number. However, that would leave the team with no remaining cap obligations from Bakhtiari’s contract in 2024 or beyond.

Alternately, the team could designate a cut as a post-June 1st release. This would spread that dead money out evenly over 2023 and 2024, since Bakhtiari has two years remaining on his deal. The one other stipulation is that the team would not get credit for the release and the freed up cap space until June 1st; thus, the whole $28.85 million would stay on the cap until then, after which they would have only a $11.566 million cap charge in 2023 and the same amount for 2024. That move frees up a total of $23.13 million for 2023, but again, that money only opens up after June 1st.

Restructure

In 2021, Bakhtiari was due to receive a roster bonus of roughly $11 million shortly after the new league year began. The Packers elected to spread that bonus out over the remaining four years of his contract by converting it to a signing bonus. Green Bay could do the same thing this year with Bakhtiari’s $9.5 million roster bonus, and could also include a large portion of his scheduled base salary as well.

The maximum amount of money that the Packers could restructure is $15.035 million. That consists of that roster bonus plus $5.535 million of base salary, as they could take him down from $6.7 million to the veteran league minimum of $1.165 million. If the Packers elect not to use void years to spread that money out, they would get it split evenly across 2023 and 2024, moving about $7.518 million of cap money from 2023 into 2024. That scenario would drop his 2023 cap hit to about $21.679 million, while his 2024 hit would increase to a whopping $40.583 million.

The more likely scenario here would be for the Packers to use void years, as they have done with other players. If Green Bay were to add on three void years to spread this restructured signing bonus money out over a maximum of five years, it would move $12.028 million out of 2023 and into future years. Three of those years’ portions would come due in 2025 when the contract voids, but that makes the spread a bit more palatable, with cap hits as follows:

2023: $16.256 million
2024: $36.073 million
2025: $9.021 million

That would be a much more tolerable cap hit, and the Packers would also still have flexibility in 2024 to kick some more cap money down the road by restructuring Bakhtiari’s $20.2 million base salary similarly. Depending on the number of void years on the deal, the number could fall somewhere in between the $7.5M and $12M numbers, with more void years resulting in more cap money shifted out of 2023.


Bakhtiari’s deal has one of the biggest potential salary cap shifts of any Packers players still under contract for 2023, representing a potential drop of just over $12 million from a straight restructure. Running back Aaron Jones’ deal offers up another $11.2 million, and as APC will break down in more detail soon, Kenny Clark and Jaire Alexander could represent another $11.1M and $9.5 million in max cap savings, respectively. That’s a total of roughly $44 million in cap space that the Packers could push out of 2023 and into the future while keeping these key players around for another attempt at a Super Bowl run, should the team decide that it’s not yet ready to push the reset button.

Note: contract details and salary cap projections referenced are provided by Overthecap.com.

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