Walkthrough: Packers in rare fiscal air

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Linebacker Julius Peppers (56) during Green Bay Packers Training Camp at Ray Nitschke Field August 3, 2015.

Each Wednesday, Weston Hodkiewicz provides an inside look at the Green Bay Packers in his Walkthrough blog.

Every year the Green Bay Packers make headlines as the least active NFL team in free agency, making it sometimes easy to forget that transactions are a two-way street.

While the Packers haven’t signed an unrestricted free agent off another team since March 2012, Green Bay and Cincinnati also are the only teams that have yet to release a player this offseason. Predictably, both have among the least amount of dead money counting against their 2016 salary cap.

As evidenced by the team’s seven consecutive playoff appearances, general manager Ted Thompson and chief negotiator Russ Ball have put the Packers in position to compete every season without having to sacrifice the future. For that reason, the organization hasn’t needed to cut a player to stay under the cap since the last collective bargaining agreement.

Multiple NFL agents told USA TODAY Network-Wisconsin in each of the past two offseasons that the Packers’ track record often factors into their clients’ decision to stay in Green Bay when their contracts expire. That’s because only a small percentage of most NFL contracts are guaranteed and contracts aren't always what they appear to be.

That often results in many veterans susceptible to being cut in a cap crunch. Not Green Bay, though. Four of the team’s higher-profile cuts the past two years have been based on either performance (A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones and Brandon Bostick) or an off-the-field incident (Alonzo Harris).

The Packers tend to stand by their players through thick and thin. Kicker Mason Crosby is the poster child for that approach. Crosby, who's the latest player to restructure a contract with the Packers, was nearly on the chopping block during a brutal 2012 season in which he made only 63.6 percent of his field goals.

The Packers kept their patience and he since has paid them back by making roughly 87 percent of his field goals (including playoffs) over the past three seasons. His reward was a four-year, $16.1 million extension last month.

“That relationship is all a part of it, too. There’s never going to be another Green Bay as far as a relationship that I have with an organization,” Crosby said. “They stuck by me in that season. We re-worked the contract to protect them but also give me a chance to earn it back and work through it. My whole career here has been about that – mutual respect and working together – and that’s what this place is all about. What’s best for this team? How can we be successful? How can we put our best stuff on the field?”

If the Packers had been more liberal in their spending, they may have been forced to cut or restructure contracts of Pro Bowl edge rusher Julius Peppers ($10.5 million cap number in 2016) or guard Josh Sitton ($6.85 million) this offseason. Peppers would've cost only $2.5 million against the cap if he were released. Sitton, who's entering the final year of what was essentially a six-year contract, could have been released without any cap penalty.

Not only were the Packers able to keep both, they also had enough room to extend Crosby, defensive lineman Mike Daniels (four years, $41 million), running back James Starks (two years, $6 million) and linebacker Nick Perry (one year, $5 million) and sign tight end Jared Cook (one year, $2.75 million).

Two weeks from the start of the offseason program, the Packers have slightly less than $11 million in cap space. and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

Teams with the most waived/released players since the Super Bowl (number)

1t. Cleveland (8)

1t. Indianapolis (8)

3t. Atlanta (6)

3t. New Orleans (6)

5t. New England (5)

5t. Philadelphia (5)

5t. Miami (5)

8t. Dallas (4)

8t. Washington (4)

8t. Buffalo (4)

8t. Jacksonville (4)

8t. New York Jets (4)

8t. Pittsburgh (4)

8t. San Diego (4)

15t. Carolina (3)

15t. Seattle (3)

15t. Los Angeles (3)

15t. Denver (3)

15t. Houston (3)

20t. Minnesota (2)

20t. Detroit (2)

20t. Baltimore (2)

20t. Oakland (2)

20t. Kansas City (2)

20t. New York Giants (2)

26t. San Francisco (1)

26t. Chicago (1)

26t. Arizona (1)

26t. Tampa Bay (1)

26t. Tennessee (1)

31t. Green Bay (0)

31t. Cincinnati (0)

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