The Packers converted the maximum possible amount of Chandon Sullivan’s $2.133 million base salary (the low RFA tender) into a signing bonus. Sullivan’s base salary will now be the $920,000 minimum with the remaining $1,213,000 paid as a signing bonus. The Packers added four void years. The move generates $970,000 in salary cap space for 2021, and results in a dead money charge for 2022 of the same amount.
The Packers have almost $7.6 million in cap space according to Overthecap. So why did the Packers scrape the bottom of the barrel to get additional cap relief this year that will have to be accounted for in 2022? And why now?
My first thought it is that 2021 is a big year for Sullivan. After a nice year in 2019, he by some accounts regressed in 2020. It is possible that Sullivan preferred to bet on having a good season as a springboard to a bigger contract in 2022. Sullivan has earned something in the area of $5 million in his NFL career to date. The Packers also might have preferred to wait. I note that the Packers converted as much as possible of Tonyan’s RFA tender into a signing bonus while adding void years rather than reaching a long-term extension. The reasons are probably much the same in both situations.
My next thought is that converting base salary to a signing bonus does not qualify as a renegotiation under the CBA. Contracts can only be renegotiated once every 12 months under the rules. That allows the Packers some flexibility later if Sullivan remains in the team’s plans after this year.
My last thought is that the Packers want to be able to add a player after week one when a veteran’s contract is no longer guaranteed for the rest of the season. If the Packers had added a veteran prior to today’s game and that veteran was on the roster for the Saints game, his salary would be guaranteed. Also, restructuring Sullivan’s deal before game one means the maximum can be converted. If they waited, the team would issue game checks to Sullivan for each game played, reducing the total that could be converted.
Although the Packers have roughly $7.6 million in cap space, that figure always diminishes over the course of a season due to injuries. The cost of elevating 2 players from the practice squad to the active roster each week would exceed $900,000 (not that I expect the Packers to always elevate two players). The Packers also have to concern themselves with incentives that may have to be paid and additional injuries. Last year, the Packers’ cap space decreased by some $5 million from game one to the end of the league year.