ESPN's John Clayton says the Packers will be about $62,000 under the cap if the ceiling is $120 million. A final figure has not been agreed upon by the owners and the players, with Clayton saying the final figure could range from $117 million to $125 million. When there was last a cap in 2009, it was set at $127 million.
However, saying the Packers are below the cap doesn't begin to tell the story. There are 10 draft picks to sign, and Thompson presumably will want to re-sign as many of his free agents as possible from a list that includes Cullen Jenkins, Brandon Jackson, James Jones, Daryn College, Mason Crosby and John Kuhn.
Plus, the Packers need some cap space if Thompson is to act preemptively and sign one or more of his prized 2008 draft picks — Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley or Josh Sitton — to contract extensions to prevent them from getting to free agency next offseason. Standout center Scott Wells' contract expires after this season, too.
Put simply, this is why it's so difficult to build a long-term championship contender in today's game. It takes good players to win, and good players eventually need to be re-signed to more than the minimum contracts most draft picks wind up signing.
The cap situation is one reason why it's a foregone conclusion that Jenkins will not be re-signed. It's also why the odds are against Nick Barnett returning. His cap charge for 2011 is $6.9 million ($5.5 million base salary), and that increases to $7.4 million ($6.0 million base salary) for 2012, the final year of his contract. With fellow inside linebackers A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop signed to new contracts, Barnett is far too expensive to serve as a backup and cover guy on special teams.
Here are a few other players who could be on thin ice, with salary information provided by a league source. Of note, the "cap charge" is the amount the player would count against the cap, but releasing that player does not put an equal amount of money back under the cap. For instance, the prorated amount of a player's signing bonus — $850,000 in Barnett's case — remains on the cap.
— Ryan Grant: Grant is entering the final year of his contract, with a cap charge of $5.65 million on a base salary of $3.5 million and a roster bonus of $1.75 million. Coach Mike McCarthy has signaled that Grant will return and have a key role on offense, but if James Starks looks like the real deal, Brandon Jackson returns and rookie Alex Green impresses, Grant could be an end-of-camp casualty, which would save the team the base salary.
— Mark Tauscher, who signed a two-year contract in March 2010, has a cap charge of $4.581 million on a base salary of $4.1 million and a roster bonus of $281,250. With 2010 first-round pick Bryan Bulaga having seized the right tackle position after Tauscher went down last year with a season-ending shoulder injury, the future Packers Hall of Famer is a long shot to come back.
— Brady Poppinga is signed through 2012, with cap charges of $2.5 million in 2011 and $2.75 million in 2012. With Erik Walden, Frank Zombo and Brad Jones all ahead of Poppinga on the pecking order, it's probably a pretty good bet that the physical Poppinga will not return.
— First-round flop Justin Harrell is under contract for two more years, with cap charges of $2.42 million this season and $2.07 million in 2012. His base salary for this season, as in past seasons, is merely the minimum ($650,000 for a fifth-year player) so he might get yet another shot.
— Quinn Johnson and Brandon Underwood wouldn't save much money as minimum-salary players ($480,000). Johnson, though, could be out if the Packers shift their roster focus from fullbacks to tight ends. Underwood, already in jeopardy with the addition of fourth-round pick Davon House, did himself no favors with his latest brush with the law.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.