Green Bay Packers 2014 Salary Cap Bonanza: Defense

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Updated: January 22, 2014
What steps can a Green Bay defense that struggled mightily in 2013 take to improve this offseason?

What steps can a Green Bay defense that struggled mightily in 2013 take to improve this offseason?

In part one of this two part series I established the projected salary cap for 2014 to be $126.3 million and that the Packers are going in to this off season with roughly $27 million in cap space. I also projected the Packers to spend $6 million in 2014 cap space on locking down the tight end and center positions.

I did, however, make an error that I would like to address before moving forward. It was brought to my attention by LKP and others that I over shot the amount that the draft class will cost the Packers by $2 million, because only the 52 highest contracts count against the cap and most of the draft picks after round 3 will essentially be cancelled out or replaced with the exact same contract value. That means that the incoming draft class will only count about $1.7 million against the cap, depending on if Ted Thompson decides to move back in to the first or second round as he has done on multiple occasions in the past.

All of that is to say that after the Packers address their few offensive needs and the draft class they will have roughly $26 million in 2014 cap space to spend exclusively on defensive free agents. Let’s move forward and see where that cap space should be heading.

Have BJ Raji's days in the center of the Green Bay defense come to an end?

Have BJ Raji’s days in the center of the Green Bay defense come to an end?

Defensive Line

Josh Boyd, Datone Jones, Jerel Worthy, Mike Daniels

$4 million counted against the cap

Free Agents: Ryan Pickett, BJ Raji, CJ Wilson, Johnny Jolly

The defensive line position was a tale of two halves this season as they played exceptionally well through the first half, while wearing down and becoming a liability in the second half of the season. The reason for that was not only due to the injuries that Jolly played with and eventually succumbed to, but also age. Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly are 37 and 30 and this was Jolly’s first year back after being out of the league for the past few seasons, so conditioning seemed to be an issue.

The problem was further exacerbated by Datone Jones suffering an ankle injury in training camp that he never fully recovered from, Jerel Worthy still recovering from a knee injury from the 2012 season, and BJ Raji continuing to let his play slip. Pickett was in on 499 snaps despite only playing in 14 games, which is just too much to ask of a 37 year old.

Mike Daniels was the lone bright spot of the group and was a beast in both run defense and in pass rush. He was the lone playmaker on an otherwise much maligned squad. Raji was offered an $8 million per season deal which he rejected, so I fully expect him to move on, as will Pickett, who I expect to retire. CJ Wilson could be back for a minimum deal as he is a solid run defender who offers nothing in the pass rushing game. I also expect Jolly to return for a very team friendly deal. He had a ‘show me’ year in 2013 and I think he showed enough to be kept around for a couple of seasons at $2 million or so a year.

Despite investing a 2nd and 4th round pick two years ago and another first round pick in last year’s draft, I would be shocked if one of the two first selections that the Packers make in the draft isn’t on a defensive lineman.

Can Nick Perry step up at outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews?

Can Nick Perry step up at outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews?

Outside Linebackers

Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Nate Palmer, Andy Mulumba, Victor Aeyewa

$14.7 million counted against the cap

Free Agent: Mike Neal

This position was hit by injuries as hard as any other on the team. Both starting outside linebackers-Matthews and Perry-missed significant stretches last season, forcing the undrafted free agent rookies Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba into service.

Mike Neal managed to stay healthy and ended up playing the most snaps of any OLB for the Packers despite it being his first year making the transition from 3-4 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker. I actually really liked Neal. He wasn’t spectacular, but he was solid which is impressive given his experience at the position.

Neal won’t likely attract a lot of attention from other squads due to his injury history and lack of production, but I would like to see the Packers give him a 2 year deal averaging $2 million per year. That would make Neal the 35th highest paid outside linebacker in the NFL, so I think this would be marginally overpaying him, as I don’t think he is the 35th best OLB, but I also believe it’s important to have depth at the position beyond undrafted free agents because of Matthews’ recurring injury bouts.

Could middle linebacker Brad Jones be a cap casualty this offseason?

Could inside linebacker Brad Jones be a cap casualty this offseason?

Inside Linebackers

AJ Hawk, Brad Jones, Sam Barington

$9.6 million counted against the cap

Free Agents: Jamari Lattimore, Rob Francois

The inside linebackers were only as good as the defensive line that played in front of them. They played very well through the first stretch of the season, but as the defensive line wore down, so did the performances of the inside linebackers.

Hawk is all but locked in for his 9th consecutive starting season with the Packers.  Brad Jones is set to cost $4 million dollars against the cap and is a touch over paid. That said, he could be cut and count only $1 million against this year’s cap and $1 million against the 2015 cap. I see him sticking around and I see the Packers investing $1.5 million or so a year in Lattimore, who showed flashes of starting LB ability in 2013.

Even if Lattimore is going to be signed, the position is in need of depth and will likely be addressed further in free agency or more likely through the draft.

Louisville safety Calvin Pryor would help Green Bay's defense in 2014. Added bonus: he has dreads!

Louisville safety Calvin Pryor would help Green Bay’s defense in 2014. Added bonus: he has dreads!

Safeties

Morgan Burnett, Sean Richardson

$5.5 million counted against the cap

Free Agents: MD Jennings, Chris Banjo

The doctor is no more. MD Jennings will be moving on, likely to either the CFL or to DuJuan Harris’ old job at the used car lot. Chris Banjo showed playmaking abilities and can be a very talented special teams player, but I think the position needs too much help to not be addressed through free agency or the draft or both.

Great value at the safety position can be found in rounds two or three traditionally, so if Alabama’s HaSean Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor are both off the board when the Packers select at 21 I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go after one in day two.

Green Bay hopes to bring top cornerback Sam Shields back into the fold this offseason.

Green Bay hopes to bring top cornerback Sam Shields back into the fold this offseason.

Cornerbacks

Tramon Williams, Jarrett Bush, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Micah Hyde, James Nixon, Jumal Rolle

$14.7 million counted against the cap

Free Agent: Sam Shields

This was a solid group with good depth, but the biggest playmaker of the bunch, Casey Hayward, essentially missed all of the 2013 season with hamstring issues. The second biggest playmaker is up for free agency and deserves to get paid by my estimation.

A contract that puts him at $6 million a year would make him about the 12th highest paid cornerback in the league. Shields always seems to come up big in big moments and having three very solid corners is almost a must in today’s NFL.

The Damage

So coming in to the defensive breakdown I stated that the Packers will have roughly $26 million in 2014 cap space to devote to improving their defense. I want to invest in Jolly at $2 million a year, Neal at $2 million, Lattimore at $1.5 million, and $6 million on Shields. Add in a few minimum guys and we are looking at $12 million in cap space with all of the important pieces from the 2013 season re-signed.

As far as extensions for players beyond the 2014 season, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb both become free agents in 2015 and will likely start negotiations through this off season. Jordy Nelson already costs $4 million against the 2014 cap. The Packers can give Jordy a 4 year extension at $8 million a year (putting him under contract for the next five years at a total of $36 million) and if the cap hit is spread uniformly it will only cost the packers another $3 million against the 2014 cap.

For reference, $8 million a year salary would put him at the 15th highest paid WRs in the league making $1 million per season less than Chicago’s Brandon Marshall. Randall Cobb counts only $1 million against the cap, and will likely have to wait until next off season to get extended.

After the Jordy extension and re-signing of their own guys, the Packers are still looking at roughly 11 million in cap space to spend on the free agent market. It’s also worth noting that if the Packers do sign Shields to a multi-year deal, Tramon Williams being cut would earn them another $10 million in cap space, but as I stated earlier, it’s important to have three very solid corners in today’s NFL and Williams was solid in 2013.

A top-notch free agent safety like Jairus Byrd would improve the back line of Green Bay's defense tremendously.

A top-notch free agent safety like Jairus Byrd would improve the back line of Green Bay’s defense tremendously.

Getting Better

Just bringing back everyone of importance in 2013 won’t be good enough though. Not to get where Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers want to go. For that, they are going to have to get better not only through the draft, but also through free agency. No position needs to see improvement in the 2014 season like the safety position.

Jairus Byrd, TJ Ward, and Donte Whitner are all very solid options at safety that the Packers may look to. The problem is that these guys are going to have to get paid like a top 5 safety, even if they are only a top 10 guy. That means that I would be shocked if any of them went to a team for less than $7.5 million a year. The Packers could likely afford them and with none of them being over the age of 28 they would likely play up to their pay for the first 3 years of their deal, but there would be a very real threat of having to pay them in their last 2 years of the deal more than what they are worth.

Between the 9 draft picks that the Packers will likely have, including two compensatory picks, and free agency it’s safe to say that changes are coming. I am likely to be way off in my visions of the Packers off season, but hopefully I’ve at least shown a framework for the possibilities that the franchise has in front of them.

The Packers are immensely talented at important positions, but have failed to build off of that foundation the last few years and the result has been early playoff exits. With the off season’s arrival it is time to watch the very meticulous Ted Thompson go to work.

About the author(s)

Water Cooler Sports contributing writer Adam Kuhl is a Green Bay Packers fan whose sole goal in life is to complete the formula that scientifically proves that the Packers are in fact better than the rest of the NFC North combined. Adam enjoys walrus fishing, eating foods that begin with the letter Y, and rollerblading. He can be reached for questions, comments, or algorithmic suggestions at .

2696 comments
thenichels
thenichels

I'd watch reruns of "Joanie Loves Chachi" before I'd watch one of those reality shows.

Poofy Haired Dumpster Slut
Poofy Haired Dumpster Slut

The NFL should sponsor the Senior Bowl and put it in the prime time spot on Sunday in place of the pro bowl.

BlutosPackers
BlutosPackers

And WTF is with all this sissyball (basketball) talk in here?? I am really going to have to do some shaping up on you girls aren't I?!

gatrbuc17
gatrbuc17 moderator

Krysten Ritter was so HOT in Breaking Bad~!

BlutosPackers
BlutosPackers

WTF is going on in here?? I come in for my morning boobage and some AssHat has removed the images?!?!? This place is really going down hill. Return the Boobs or I will FONG each and every fuckin mod on here!

BearsSaveLives
BearsSaveLives moderator

Alshon Jeffery got picked before Marshall in the Pro Bowl. That seems stupid. 

Childerz...
Childerz...

BUCK THE FADGERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Donny33
Donny33

Alright, i have a dickload of work to do. Catch you fools later.

BearsSaveLives
BearsSaveLives moderator

Did Prep ever leave? If not, let's punch him in the dick.

Bucs are the greatest
Bucs are the greatest moderator

Alright, I really have to go.

If you see BWC: tell him to go mouth-fuck a dead clown's asshole.

bp.
bp. moderator

 *farts*

bp.
bp. moderator

 Fuck those guys Gatr.  Sure was fucking hot in Breaking Bad.

Childerz...
Childerz...

 mods?? ..... *looks up at sky*... No MODS! 

Childerz...
Childerz...

Wisconsins Interior defense sucks a giant ball of shit. 

bp.
bp. moderator

The second photo truly looks like a woman of 27.   I dig.

Eddie Lacy OROY
Eddie Lacy OROY

 I'm just trying to figure out the logistics of mouth-fucking an asshole......
Good day fucker!

bp.
bp. moderator

 Nah.  I long ago concluded that the best in each sport are truly at the top of their specific athletic piles.  Kevin Durant sure as fuck doesn't want to get trucked by Eddie Lacy, but NBA players are so tall that even a guy like DeMarcus Ware would look unimpressive on court and be puny.  Guys like LeBron, who you could see playing multiple sports, are rare.  And even he, once you see him in person, is really lanky.  Not nearly as thick as most NFL players.

Big Cheese
Big Cheese

Go ahead and discount American Ninja competitions like EVERYONE ELSE ALWAYS DOES.

Childerz...
Childerz...

 almost as stupid as you talking to yourself 

bp.
bp. moderator

 Much like the timberwolves.  I wonder if this could possibly be related to the racial make up of the teams' respective big men...

LaCW
LaCW

 Wisconsin sports don't believe in defense. 

thenichels
thenichels

 Fuck all that hippity-dippity reality bullshit crap.

Eddie Lacy OROY
Eddie Lacy OROY

Shipping wars, because there's a couple huge racks on that show. 

bp.
bp. moderator

 These things are tracked now.  Back end players run less than 3 miles a game, the most active midfielders I think less than 5 (though I would have to check).  Over the course of 90 minutes that really isn't mind boggling.

niemerg1
niemerg1

 i played it. don't say you don't run...

bp.
bp. moderator

 Little dudes who don't run as much as people think.  Meh.  

Childerz...
Childerz...

 Dieng has a lot of growing to do yet as a player, but he was coming on strong in Louisville

bp.
bp. moderator

 Yeah, I saw that.  He tweeted "the white man award!" and it was funny.


Childerz - Turiaf and Deng automatically make the defense better when they are on the court, but neither can score like Peko.  Tough balance.

Childerz...
Childerz...

 well he's the Larry Bird of the modern era, overwhelming lack of physical talents, but understand angles, and positioning. 

Childerz...
Childerz...

 I have a feeling it is.... I want a 7'1 Black dude.. which is why I think Dieng will eventually be a super star center...