Big Contracts Among Packers' Cap Challenges

The Packers aren't exactly overflowing with cap space, even with 17 players heading to unrestricted free agency. Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews take almost one-quarter of the cap, and the top seven players are eating up almost half of the cap.

Here is the Green Bay Packers' harsh salary-cap reality.

Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews will take up a combined $29 million of the salary cap in 2014. With a projected cap of $126.3 million, they'll eat up almost one-quarter of the cap — 23.0 percent. Tramon Williams, Josh Sitton, A.J. Hawk, T.J. Lang and Morgan Burnett will take up an additional $31.0 million of the cap.

Add it together, and that's 47.5 percent of the cap tied up in seven players.

According to a source with access to NFL salary data, the Packers had 49 players under contract as of Monday morning. (With the signing of six players to futures contracts on Monday afternoon, that total is up to 55; their contract information is not reflected in this story.) Their combined hit on the cap is $108.4 million. With about $9.8 million left over from 2013, the Packers' actual cap for 2014 would be about $136.1 million. That leaves them somewhere around $27.7 million of cap space.

That seems like plenty of money to shop with, but with 17 unrestricted free agents and a draft class to sign, that $27.7 million might not last long. Among players in line for big pay increases are cornerback Sam Shields ($2.023 million against the cap in 2013) and center Evan Dietrich-Smith ($1.328 million).

"I wasn't focused on that at all," Dietrich-Smith said of his contract status on Monday. "I was just focused on going out there, putting good film out there, battling with my guys, playing out there with them and making sure that we were playing 60 minutes of football every time we stepped on the field. The rest will take care of itself."

The Packers' 20 free agents, a list that includes restricted free agents Jamari Lattimore and M.D. Jennings and exclusive-rights free agent Chris Banjo, took up $40.5 million of last year's salary cap. That group is led by Jermichael Finley ($8.75 million), Ryan Pickett ($6.7 million) and B.J. Raji ($6.6 million).

"I'm not one of those guys who sits at home and says I'm worth 30, 40 million (dollars)," receiver James Jones said. "We'll see what happens when the market comes and guys start making offers — if they start making offers. We don't even know. We're sitting here talking about free agency. I could be going to Canada, you never know. So we'll see what happens."

PLAYER2013 CAP
Finley$8,750,000
Pickett$6,700,000
Raji$6,595,000
J. Jones$3,750,000
Kuhn$2,571,875
Shields$2,023,000
Quarless$1,373,682
Newhouse$1,365,714
Dietrich-Smith$1,328,250
Neal$925,250
Francois$730,075
Jolly$677,341
Starks$659,625
Wilson$647,840
Lattimore (RFA)$561,918
Jennings (RFA)$561,084
Wallace$457,412
Banjo (ERFA)$405,000
Flynn$294,412
Bell$130,588
Total (20)$40,508,066

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