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GREEN BAY – With the 2018 NFL salary cap set at $177.2 million, the Green Bay Packers will head into the start of free agency Wednesday with $20.5 million in cap space, according to a source with access to NFL Players Association salary data.
The Packers’ adjusted cap number is $185,153,268, which includes $3,934,518 in cap space they are carrying over from 2017 and $4,018,750 in unidentified credits and adjustments.
During the offseason, only the top 51 cap numbers count for any given NFL team and for the Packers the combined total of those 51 will be $164,629,678.00 once the trade of cornerback Damarious Randall to the Cleveland Browns for quarterback DeShone Kizer and a swap of draft choices goes through on Wednesday.
The Packers will gain $824,490 in salary-cap space as a result of the transaction.
The Packers’ cap room may go down another $700,000 when the new year starts because the tolled contract of cornerback Demetri Goodson will show up again on their cap. Goodson was on the physically unable to perform list most of last year and did not appear in a game.
The Packers could decide to cut him and save the expense.
It’s unlikely the Packers will tender either of their two restricted free agents – linebacker Joe Thomas and punter Jacob Schum – so they won’t incur any added cost there on the first day of free agency. Most of the exclusive rights free agents they tender won’t count because their cap numbers won’t be among the top 51.
The Packers have seven players with cap numbers above $10 million, led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers at $20,562,500. Rodgers is expected to sign a contract extension this offseason but it can be structured in a way that his cap number stays about the same or drops.
Weighing down the Packers’ cap is $5,737,756.00 in dead money, which includes $1,004,223 from Randall's pro-rated signing bonus paid in 2015. The bulk of that comes from the $4.2 million of prorated signing bonus that was left on tight end Martellus Bennett’s contract when he was released in November.
Packers president Mark Murphy told the team’s website that the team is appealing an arbitrator’s decision that went against them in February after filing a claim that Bennett must return that portion of the bonus. The Packers claim he failed to disclose a shoulder injury that he later said would sideline him for the season.
If the Packers win the appeal, they would get the $4.2 million back on their salary cap.
The third biggest dead money cost belongs to 2017 fifth-round receiver DeAngelo Yancey, who will count $167,931 against the cap. The money is the remaining prorated portion of his $223,900 signing bonus.
Next come defensive tackle Letroy Guion ($166,668) and offensive lineman Kofi Amichi ($98,607), both of whom were cut last year and had remaining prorated signing bonus money left. Former fullback John Kuhn is counting $15,000 for an injury settlement he reached with the Packers.
The Packers will need around $3 million to $4 million of team cap space to sign a dozen draft choices. That number will depend on how many picks they wind up using and where those picks are made.
Though their rookie salary pool will be around $8 million to $9 million, it is separate from the team cap and only regulates how much a team can spend on rookies. Because only the top 51 salaries count against the team cap, every time a rookie signs, his cap number is offset by the player he knocks out of the top 51.
For example, if the Packers sign a rookie at a cap number of $1.48 million and a player with a cap number of $480,000 gets bumped from their top 51 as a result, the net addition is $1 million to the team cap. Just about all of the draft picks will knock someone else out of the top 51 once they sign their new contracts.
(Editor's note: This story was updated after the Packers' trade involving Damarius Randall.)