The calendar now reads June and that means that the dead cap hit of releasing veterans under contract for the coming season can now be stretched over two years. That makes it easier and more beneficial to release players after June 1.
The one player that has been mentioned most as a potential post-June 1st cut candidate is defensive lineman Dean Lowry. So, what should the Packers do with the veteran defensive lineman?
Lowry will have a cap hit of $8,072,000.00 this season according to both overthecap.com and spotrac.com. The Packers could save $5.95 million against the cap in 2022 if they let Lowry go before the start of the season.
But is that the right move? The former Northwestern star is coming off a career-best statistical season. He recorded five sacks and nine quarterback hits, both of which were career highs. He also made 42 total tackles and five tackles for loss while appearing in all 17 games for the Packers.
Lowry has a strong work ethic and maximizes his talent. He is also durable. Since the Packers selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, he has missed only one game and that came in his rookie season. Lowry is the kind of player who doesn’t always show up in the box score but does the little things that allow his teammates to make plays by occupying blockers and being in the right position at the right time.
Lowry will be 28 later this month and is in the final year of his contract. He should be able to continue to play at roughly the same level in 2022 as he did in 2020 and 2021 if he continues to stay healthy. Is he worth an $8 million cap hit? Probably not, but he is a useful player and a solid contributor to the defense.
There are two main reasons Lowry may be expendable this season. One is his high cap hit and the other is that the Packers have more depth along the defensive line now than they’ve had in recent memory.
The Packers still have Pro Bowler Kenny Clark to anchor the line. Clark has predominantly lined up on the nose but can also line up outside. He is one of the few interior defensive linemen in the league who can occupy multiple blockers at the line of scrimmage against the run or penetrate against the run or pass and get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
T.J. Slaton is looking to build off his rookie season and the Packers are hoping he can be a solid run stuffer in the middle who can add an occasional push in the pass rush from the inside.
The Packers also signed free agent Jarran Reed. The veteran may not be able to match his career-high of 10.5 sacks that he recorded in 2018, but he can still be a reliable part of the rotation and see significant action along the defensive line.
GM Brian Gutekunst used one of the Packers first round draft picks on Devonte Wyatt out of Georgia who is expected to see playing time as part of the rotation as soon as he makes the adjustment to the NFL. Wyatt is very quick off the ball and should eventually give the Packers another talented and dynamic player along the defensive line.
The Packers also drafted big Jonathan Ford in the seventh round of this year’s draft and have second-year man Jack Heflin returning to training camp to fight for a roster spot.
With only three starters and a five or six man rotation at the position, the Packers may feel that they are in a good enough position along the defensive line where they are better off saving nearly $6 million in cap space which is money the team needs to sign their practice squad and to possibly add another moderately-priced free agent or two either before training camp starts (like De’Vondre Campbell last year) or during the season (like Whitney Mercilus and Rasul Douglas) when injuries strike.
The decision isn’t an easy one. Lowry is reliable, coachable and a popular player in the locker room. He has experience and is coming off his best season in the first year of Joe Barry’s defense. The defensive line has been a question mark for the Packers for many years and now that they have a lot of potential depth there, would weakening this area to add more cap space be worth it at this time?
This is a tough question for Gutekunst and the coaching staff to answer. We may know their position on this sooner rather than later.
You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers