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GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers got down to the NFL’s 2021 salary cap on Wednesday, just in time for the new league year to dawn.

And they did it, it appears, without making any adjustments to three-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ contract, which still carries an NFL-high $37.5 million cap charge for 2021 — at least for now.

If the Packers intend to add anyone during free agency, they still may need to alter Rodgers’ deal, since they could clear additional cap space by converting his roster bonus and base salary for 2021 to a signing bonus and push money into the future with Rodgers under contract through the 2023 season.

But as of Wednesday, the Packers were in compliance with the NFL’s $182.5 million cap — with the Packers’ cap actually being $186.25 million, thanks to cap space they rolled over from 2020 — after a flurry of moves over the past month or so. And they did it without altering Rodgers’ deal.

The latest of those moves was the restructuring of Pro Bowl edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, whose onerous $22 million cap number for 2021 was reduced by $7.38 million when the team converted $9.76 million of his $10.75 million base salary and the entirety of his $5 million roster bonus into a $14.76 million signing bonus.

That allowed Smith to get that money up front while the Packers could push half the cost into their 2022 cap. Smith’s 2022 cap number is now about $28 million, which would be untenable. Smith appeared to be a candidate for an extension after back-to-back double-digit sack seasons, but the team opted simply to make the conversion.

His running mate, Preston Smith, agreed to a restructured contract last week, one that saved the Packers $7.25 million in salary cap space. Preston Smith took a sizable pay cut while getting other aspects of his contract converted into signing bonus money, but he’ll have the opportunity to earn back much of that pay cut if he returns to his 2019 pass-rushing form after managing only four sacks last season.

The Smiths weren’t the only ones who adjusted their deals. Left tackle David Bakhtiari, safety Adrian Amos and right tackle Billy Turner also reworked their deals since the team’s loss to the eventual Super Bowl LV-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 24. Wide receiver Devin Funchess, who had opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, also took a $750,000 pay cut for 2021.

Bakhtiari was the first to agree to adjust how he was being paid, converting a scheduled roster bonus into a signing bonus that saved the Packers $8.3 million in cap space, while Amos’ and Turner’s restructures reportedly cleared more than $4 million in cap room.

The Packers also cut inside linebacker Christian Kirksey and right tackle Rick Wagner on Feb. 19, moves that saved a combined $8.5 million in cap space.

While those moves took the Packers from well over to the cap to under it — despite signing Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones to a four-year, $48 million deal to keep him in Green Bay — the Packers hadn’t made any free agent moves as of Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, the Packers had lost first-team All-Pro center Corey Linsley, who got a four-year, $62.5 million deal from the Los Angeles Chargers, and No. 2 running back Jamaal Williams, who got a two-year, $7.5 million contract from the Detroit Lions.

Green Bay has reportedly been pursuing mid-level free agents on the cornerback and defensive line markets, but no deals were imminent as of Wednesday night.

If the Packers are planning to add outside help, they have a few more moves they can make, in addition to altering Rodgers’ contract to lower his cap number.

For starters, they could sign star wide receiver Davante Adams to an extension. Adams is set to count $16.8 million against the 2021 cap in the final year of his four-year, $58 million deal, and while the free agent wide receiver market was slow to heat up this week, Adams is in line to become the NFL’s highest-paid receiver.

They could also ask defensive end Dean Lowry to take a pay cut, as Lowry is set to earn a $4.1 million base salary in 2021 and count $6.3 million against the cap. Some believed the team would move on from Lowry, but that clearly hasn’t happened.

Speaking earlier this month, general manager Brian Gutekunst sounded reluctant to release players merely for salary cap saving purposes, and while Kirksey’s and Wagner’s releases weren’t surprising, it’s possible Gutekunst doesn’t want to release anyone else currently on the roster.

“The core of our team coming back and some of the things we’ve got going for us, I’m excited about what we’ve got going on for the future,” Gutekunst said at the time. “While we have our eyes on ’21 and that’s what’s most important, ’22 and ’23 are factors as well. … As we move through it, I think we’ll make the room we need to, to do the things we want to do. If we get to a certain point and player becomes available that we weren’t expecting or will require us to make more room, we’ll go down that route. But at the same time, there’s some danger in pushing everything into ’22 or ’23.”


Photos: Packers’ 2020 season in pictures

Photos: Packers' 2020 season in pictures

Check out photo galleries from every game of 2020 through the end of the regular season and the playoffs.

This article originally ran on madison.com.

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