Sports

Breaking down the Packers’ almost $25 million in dead money in 2022


The terminated contracts of nine players will count roughly $25 million in dead money on the Green Bay Packers’ salary cap during the 2022 season. Dead money occurs on the cap when a future proration is accelerated by a contract termination made by the team.

For instance, let’s say a player signs a three-year contract with a $3 million signing bonus. The bonus doesn’t hit the cap all in Year 1; it’s prorated $1 million on the cap for each of the three years. So, if the player is released after his second season, the remaining $1 million must be accelerated onto the team’s cap as dead money that year.

Some real-life examples will help clarify. Below, we’ll break down how the Packers got to $24,630,944 in dead money in 2022. It’s an abnormally high amount for the franchise, but sometimes dead money is the cost of doing business when a team is all-in and going for a title with a future Hall of Fame quarterback.

The toughest part about dead money? It’s paying precious cap dollars to a player no longer on the team. And in some cases, it’s allocating more cap space to a player that eventually returns.

Here are the nine terminated contracts adding extra dead money to the Packers’ salary cap in 2022:

Za’Darius Smith: $11,424,443

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers released Smith in March. He had a cap number of almost $27.7 million in 2022, so the Packers had to move on even if it meant taking on over $11 million in dead money. The team restructured Smith’s deal before the 2021 season, adding more proration to the dead money pile in 2022. Guaranteed money always has to get paid out on the cap. Smith later signed a new deal to join the Minnesota Vikings.

OL Billy Turner: $5,810,000

(AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

The Packers will pay almost $6 million on the cap for Turner to play for the Denver Broncos in 2022. Like Smith, Turner was released in March for salary-cap reasons. And like Smith, his contract was restructured (think converting base salary and roster bonus into a signing bonus) last offseason, adding to the dead money total now. The Packers had to make tough decisions over the last two offseasons, and there was always going to be a price to pay. Not having Smith or Turner on the 2022 roster at a cost of over $17 million on the cap is the price.

CB Kevin King: $3,000,000

(AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)

King is an example of the void-year contract structuring. The Packers re-signed King to a one-year deal with four void years before the 2021 season. The void years were used for short-term cap relief. Because the team added four void years, King’s $3.75 million signing bonus got spread out over five years on the cap for 2021, but when the deal voided following the season, the remaining $3,000,000 in signing bonus proration hit the cap for the 2022 season. King remains unsigned, although it’s possible he could return to Green Bay at some point.

TE Robert Tonyan: $1,879,200

Wm. Glasheen/Appleton Post-Crescent via USA TODAY NETWORK

Tonyan returned to the Packers on a one-year deal (with a void year in 2023), but he’ll count extra on the cap this year because of the void years added to his last deal. In 2021, the Packers added void years to Tonyan’s restricted contract tender to lower his cap number. That deal voided following the 2021 season, prorating the rest of his signing bonus to the cap in 2022. Unless a new deal is worked out before his contract voids after the 2022 season, Tonyan will add dead money to the pile in 2023, too.

CB Chandon Sullivan: $970,400

Photo by Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK

The Packers restructured Sullivan’s one-year deal in September of last year, converting base salary into a signing bonus and adding four void years. The deal voided following the season, adding dead money in the form of accelerated proration to the cap in 2022. Another example of kicking the can down the road in terms of the salary cap. Sullivan signed with the Vikings.

LB De’Vondre Campbell: $808,000

(AP Photo/Peter Aiken)

The Packers added void years to Campbell’s one-year deal last year, and he wasn’t re-signed before his last deal officially voided following the season. The team eventually re-signed Campbell to a $50 million deal, but an extra $800K hit the cap in the form of dead money.

TE Jace Sternberger: $251,632

(AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

The Packers released Sternberger, a third-round pick in 2019, during the regular season last year. As a Day 2 draft pick, Sternberger still had guaranteed money left in his deal. The remaining portion of his prorated signing bonus hit the cap for 2022.

LB Kamal Martin: $135,530

(AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

The Packers cut Martin, a fifth-round pick in 2020, during training camp in August of last year. The remaining portion of his signing bonus hit the cap for 2022.

OL Cole Van Lanen: $115,266

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Van Lanen eventually returned on the practice squad and remains on the roster, but he was released during final cuts last year. The small portion of the sixth-round pick’s signing bonus had to be accelerated onto the cap in 2022.

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