Kenny Clark’s deal could shed light on Packers’ timeline with Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Kenny Clark’s four-year, $70 million contract extension didn’t just tell everyone what the Green Bay Packers think of the standout defensive tackle. It might also reveal how much longer they plan on having Aaron Rodgers as their quarterback.

The details of the contract Clark signed on the morning of the first training camp practice have finally become available, and the salary-cap charges tell the story — at least as it pertains to the quarterback position.

After relatively modest cap numbers of $6.69 million ($1 million less than Clark would have counted on his old deal) this season and $7.1 million in 2021, the charge takes a monstrous jump in 2022 to $20.65 million — perhaps a sign the team plans on handing things over to Jordan Love at that time.

“That year has always seemed [like] the obvious separation time since drafting Love in the first round,” said a former NFL executive whose area of expertise is on the salary cap. “Don’t think [Love] sits three years as Aaron did.”

If Love does sit that long, the Packers would have more than $60 million in cap charges for 2022 tied up in Rodgers and Clark. Rodgers’ salary-cap figure in 2020 is $39.852 million. If the Packers moved on from Rodgers before the 2022 season, they would save $22.648 million off their cap (or $25.5 million if they designated him as a post-June 1 cut).

“Real possibility,” a longtime NFL personnel executive said when asked about that timeline.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Packers will cut Rodgers. The personnel exec thought a trade was possible.

“They’ll get a ‘1’ or ‘2’ for Rodgers,” he said, referencing potential draft picks.

The Packers essentially started the clock on the end of Rodgers’ tenure when they traded up to take Love at No. 26 overall in this year’s draft.

If the Packers move on from Rodgers before the 2022 season, they would have Love on his rookie contract for at least two seasons with the possibility of a third if they pick up his fifth-year option for the 2024 season. By then, if he’s the starter, they likely would do an extension anyway.

The Packers actually could begin to reap salary-cap savings on Rodgers’ deal if they moved on after this season, but it would be small; they would save just $4.76 million on the cap and have $31.556 million in dead money. Rodgers has a cap number of $36.3 million in 2021, $39.9 million in 2022 and $28.352 in the final year, 2023.

The salary cap is expected to drop significantly in 2021 to make up for pandemic revenue losses but could always skyrocket in 2022 if both local revenue and TV money increase substantially.

The Packers have a little more than $14.4 million in remaining salary-cap space for this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. General manager Brian Gutekunst has four other key starters with expiring contracts after this season: left tackle David Bakhtiari, center Corey Linsley, running back Aaron Jones and cornerback Kevin King.

“I think there’s some dominoes here,” Gutekunst said after signing Clark. “There’s a bunch more guys we’d like to keep. There’s some restrictions we’re going to have to work through to see if we can do it all, but I’m eager to see if we can get some of these guys locked up, that’s for sure.”

Here’s a year-by-year breakdown of Clark’s deal:

2020

  • Signing bonus: $25 million.

  • Base salary: $1.69 million.

  • Salary-cap charge: $6.69 million.

  • Total cash: $26.169 million.

2021

  • Base salary: $1 million.

  • Roster bonus: Up to $500,000 ($31,250 per game active).

  • Workout bonus: $600,000

  • Salary-cap charge: $7.1 million.

  • Total cash: $2.1 million.

2022

  • Base salary: $8 million.

  • Roster bonus: $6.95 million ($6.4 million due the third day of the league year, up to $550,000; $34,375 per game active).

  • Workout bonus: $700,000.

  • Salary-cap charge: $20.65 million.

  • Total cash: $15.65 million.

2023

  • Base salary: $13 million.

  • Roster bonus: $2.55 million ($2 million due the third day of the league year, up to $550,000; $34,375 per game active).

  • Workout bonus: $700,000.

  • Salary-cap charge: $21.25 million.

  • Total cash: $16.25 million.

2024

  • Base salary: $15.5 million.

  • Roster bonus: Up to $750,000 ($46,875 per game active).

  • Workout bonus: $700,000.

  • Salary-cap charge: $22 million.

  • Total cash: $16.95 million.

Original article: https://www.espn.com/blog/green-bay-packers/post/_/id/49434/kenny-clarks-deal-could-shed-light-on-packers-timeline-with-aaron-rodgers

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