Still some wiggle room under cap

Even though the Green Bay Packers have sunk more than $73 million into contracts for three of their top players on defense, the team still has money left on the books to sign one or two more free agents.<p>

The Packers gave Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila an $11 million signing bonus Wednesday as part of a $37.3 million deal over seven years. In February, defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt received a $6 million bonus as part of a $25.5 million deal, and a few weeks ago, linebacker Na'il Diggs got a $2.8 million bonus as part of a $10.5 million deal.

Thanks to relatively low cap numbers for 2003 for all three players, the Packers are about $3 million under the salary cap and in position to sign one or two more free agents, according to Andrew Brandt, the Packers vice president of player finance. The salary cap limit is $75.3 million. There had been speculation that the Packers might have to restructure the contracts of some of their veteran players in order to re-sign Gbaja-Biamila, but the Packers didn't have to take that route.

Gbaja-Biamila will count about $2.25 million against the team's cap this season. His base salary is $675,000, and the rest is part of his prorated signing bonus.

"We've been as cap healthy this off-season as we have been," Brandt said. "We're trying to get through the dead money that's been on our cap the last few years. ... (Antonio) Freeman's cap money is going to be virtually twice Kabeer's cap money."

Brandt said that the NFL likely will award the Packers with a rookie pool of between $2 million to $3 million to sign their draft picks. Whatever money the Packers have remaining under their cap likely will be used to sign one or two free agent linebackers.

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