Greg Jennings' new contract leaves the Packers in position to cross a few more of their free-agents-to-be off the list before the end of this season.
As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Friday afternoon and a source confirmed to Packer Report, the Packers are $21.5 million under the salary cap after handing Jennings a three-year extension on Wednesday.
After the Packers spend their allotted sum on their eight draft picks — $5,443,396 — they will remain $16.05 million under the salary cap.
That gives the Packers plenty of money to sign Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins and another couple of players.
"There's a lot of guys coming up on free agency next year," Collins said on Wednesday. "I'm just glad somebody got it. Greg, he's a great guy and he deserves it. Hopefully, things will work out for me."
Earlier this month, the Arizona Cardinals signed safety Adrian Wilson to a five-year deal worth more than $37 million. With a base salary of $8.5 million this season, his cap charge for 2009 will be about $10 million. Wilson is considered to be among the best safeties in the league with Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu and Baltimore's Ed Reed, with Collins in the next group.
Still, even if Collins' first-year cap charge would be that costly, the Packers would have the wherewithal to take care of another player of two. Remember, Collins already is counting $3.415 million against the cap, so if a new deal would match Wilson's cap charge, the net impact would be an additional $6.585 million.
Under that scenario, the Packers would still be $9.465 million under the cap.
The Packers have four players who will be free agents following this season, regardless of what happens with the collective bargaining agreement: linebacker Aaron Kampman, left tackle Chad Clifton, nose tackle Ryan Pickett and linebacker Brandon Chillar.
In all four of those cases, the Packers are in no rush to reach an extension. They'll want to know how Kampman adapts to the new 3-4 defense and if he likes it, how effectively the 33-year-old Clifton will play after having both knees operated on after last season and how the beefy Pickett will hold up at a demanding position. Chillar, while a valuable player, figures to be a reserve, barring a setback for Nick Barnett.
If a new CBA isn't reached, fifth-year player Collins and fourth-year players Daryn Colledge, Jason Spitz, Will Blackmon, Atari Bigby and Johnny Jolly are among those would have to wait until after their sixth seasons to become unrestricted free agents.
Colledge has 44 starts to his credit and is considered an average starting guard but an ascending player. Spitz has 41 career starts, but is moving from right guard to center, where he'll battle Scott Wells. Blackmon is an upper-echelon punt returner but hasn't developed as a cornerback. The jury is out on Bigby, a safety who showed promise in 2007 but had his 2008 torpedoed by injuries. Jolly, a defensive lineman, not only must show he can play in the new defense but he must beat his legal problems. His trial was delayed on Friday until July 17 — two weeks before training camp begins.
Talented cornerback Tramon Williams, who was signed to a one-year deal a month ago, will be a restricted free agent. With a repeat of his solid 2008 performance, he'll attract plenty of attention in a corner-starved league.
Jennings' extension gave him $26.35 million in new money tacked onto his 2009 deal, which was to pay him the league minimum of $535,000. The deal, according to reports, included an $11.25 million signing bonus and a $5 million guaranteed contract for the upcoming season. All told Jennings will count $8.154 million against the cap this season.
The contract was the latest in which the Packers are using a pay-as-they-go model to remain perpetually in good salary cap health. That's a byproduct of general manager Ted Thompson's much-debated habit of not spending in big-money free agency and by front-loading contracts. Jennings' remaining base salaries will be $1.85 million in 2010, $2.7 million in 2011 and $3.885 million in 2012.
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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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.