How cap hits of highly-paid players are structured in their contracts is a critical factor in how much money is available for paying the rest of the roster in today’s NFL. I took a look at this regarding the Green Bay Packers, its three division rivals and three other teams the Packers might face in the playoffs.
The teams are listed in order of the highest cap hit percentages of their top five players. This varies quite widely, from around 25 to 40 percent of the overall team salaries agreed to so far this year.
Each player is listed, followed by 2017 cap hit in millions and percentage of the team’s cap.
Green Bay Packers
- QB Aaron Rodgers: $20.3, 11.6%
- LB Clay Matthews: $15.1, 8.6%
- WR Randall Cobb: $12.7, 7.2%
- WR Jordy Nelson, $11.6, 6.6%
- DT Mike Daniels, $10.4, 5.9%
The Packers’ top five take up 39.99 percent of the Packers’ salary cap this year. Linebacker Nick Perry, who recently signed a contract averaging $11.2 million per year, only has a cap hit of $5.9 million, ninth-highest on the team. However, from 2019-21 his cap hit will be over $14 million annually. Matthews’ $15.1 million cap hit is the highest of these teams’ second highest-paid player. Like Matthews, Randall Cobb also has a cap hit that is out of proportion with his on-field contributions the past two years. Tackle David Bakhtiari’s new four-year $48 million contract includes an $11 million cap hit in 2018 and $14 million cap hits in 2019 and 2020, but only a $4.9 million hit this year.
- QB Russell Wilson: $18.8, 11.1%
- CB Richard Sherman: $13.6, 8.1%
- DE Michael Bennett, $11.3, 6.7%
- S Earl Thomas, $10.4, 6.2%
- TE Jimmie Graham, $10.0, 5.9%
The Seahawks top five take up 37.9 percent of the team’s salary cap. There have been recent reports that the Hawks would consider trading Sherman, probably because of his high cap number.
- QB Matthew Stafford: $22.0, 12.8%
- DE Ezekiel Ansah: $12.7, 7.4%
- CB Darius Slay: $10.7, 6.2%
- WR Marvin Jones: $8.6, 5.0%
- WR Golden Tate: $8.4, 4.9%
The Lions’ top five take up 36.3 percent of the team’s salary cap. When Calvin Johnson left after the 2015 season, it relieved Detroit of a player with a $20.6 million cap hit. On March 9, linebacker DeAndre Levy, who had a cap hit of $8.4 million, was released by the Lions.
- WR Dez Bryant: $17.0, 10.4%
- TE Jason Witten: $12.3, 7.2%
- DT Tyrone Crawford: $10.4, 6.1%
- LT Tyron Smith: $8.8, 5.2%
- LB Sean Lee: $7.3, 4.3%
The Cowboys’ top five take up 33.2 percent of the team’s salary cap. That comes with an asterisk, though. Quarterback Tony Romo, who is still on the roster, has a cap hit of $24.7 million, which is 14.58 percent of the Cowboys’ total cap. It universally believed the Cowboys will either trade or release Romo at some point this offseason. Thus, we aren’t including him on the list. The Cowboys’ starting QB, Dak Prescott, has a cap hit of just $635,848. Star running back Ezekiel Elliott’s is $5.7 million, seventh-highest on the team. These two second-year players will allow the Cowboys to have oodles of money to allot to the rest of the roster for the next three years. Owner Jerry Jones, who has also been general manager since 1989, hit the jackpot in the 2016 draft.
New England Patriots
- QB Tom Brady: $14.0, 8.1%
- LT Nate Solder: $11.2, 6.5%
- S Devin McCourty: $10.9, 6.4%
- CB Stephon Gilmore: $8.6, 5.0%
- WR Danny Amendola: $7.8, 4.5%
The Patriots’ top five take up 30.5 percent of the team’s salary cap. Cap-wise, Tom Brady is known for doing everything he can when structuring his contracts to be favorable to the team, and his relatively-low cap hit reflects that effort. Despite a $13 million average salary, which he scored just this offseason, Gilmore’s year one cap number is low, but that balloons to $12 million and up over the final four years of the deal.
- QB Sam Bradford: $18.0, 11.1%
- LT Riley Reiff: $8.5, 5.8%
- DE Everson Griffen: $8.2, 4.9%
- CB Xavier Rhodes: $8.0, 4.8%
- S Harrison Smith: $7.5, 4.5%
The Vikings’ top five take up 30.0 percent of the team’s salary cap. Reiff’s five-year deal features cap hits of more than $11 million in 2018-19 and more than $13 million in 2020-21.
- QB Mike Glennon: $14.0, 8.0%
- G Kyle Long: $8.0, 4.6%
- LB Pernell McPhee: $7.8, 4.5%
- CB Prince Amakamara: $7.0, 4.0%
- LB Lamar Houston: $7.0, 4.0%
The Bears’ top five take up 25.1 percent of the team’s salary cap. Ex-Packer Josh Sitton ranked sixth, at $6.8 million, and this will go to $8.7 million next year, the last year of his three-year deal.