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Packers' Preston Smith took a $4 million pay cut has the opportunity to earn it back via incentives.

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GREEN BAY — With more than $9 million to shed off their salary cap at the start of the day, a much-ballyhooed first-round draft pick who needs to move up the quarterback depth chart and relative pennies to pinch in salary to set the stage for any free-agent moves they hope to make, the Green Bay Packers got down to financial business on Friday with a handful of moves.

The team:

  • Restructured the contract of outside linebacker Preston Smith, who took a significant pay cut with the opportunity to earn that money back via incentives, according to Sports Illustrated and the NFL Network;
  • Moved money around within starting safety Adrian Amos’ contract to create cap room, according to ESPN;
  • Informed No. 2 quarterback Tim Boyle that he would not be receiving a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent, according to NFL Network;
  • Released tight end/fullback John Lovett, the ex-Princeton quarterback-turned-NFL Swiss Army knife who suffered a season-ending knee injury last year, with a failed physical designation as Lovett works his way back from a torn ACL.

The Packers had basically two choices with Smith, whose onerous $16 million cap number for 2021 would have been problematic even if he was coming off a second straight strong season.

But after seeing Smith’s production drop precipitously in both sacks (from 12 to four) and quarterback pressures (from 55 to 26) last season, the Packers had to decide whether to move on from him or convince him to accept a pay cut.

With the free-agent market set to be flooded by cap casualties, Smith had to decide whether to accept a reduced salary with the incentives or try his luck trying to find a deal elsewhere.

Smith had been scheduled to be paid a $4.5 million roster bonus next week, as well as a $6.8 million base salary and a $650,000 workout bonus in 2021 for $12 million in total compensation.

According to NFL Network, Smith is now set to be paid $8 million this season — a $1 million base salary, a $6.5 million signing bonus (with cap hits that can now be spread out over future years); a $200,000 workout bonus, and a potential $300,000 in weekly roster bonuses for being on the active 46-man game-day roster.

He can then earn back $4.4 million in incentives tied to his sack production, NFL Network reported.

Smith will receive a $500,000 bonus for recording six sacks; an additional $750,000 for reaching eight sacks; another $750,000 for reaching 10 sacks; another $1.2 million if he records 12 sacks; and another $1.2 million if he reaches 14 sacks.

Adjusting Amos’ deal was essentially a no-brainer as the ex-Chicago Bears safety emerged as one of the defense’s most reliable players in his second year in Green Bay. No one on the Packers defense played more snaps than Amos (1,008 during the regular season), and he led the team in tackles (83) and finished second in interceptions (two).

The restructuring of Amos’ deal, which called for him to carry a $10.3 million cap number in 2021, created about $750,000 in cap space. Before the Packers altered Amos’ deal, the veteran safety was scheduled to make $4.9 million in base salary and receive a $1.5 million roster bonus.

Lovett saw action in eight games last season before landing on injured reserve on Nov. 13.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst still has a host of other maneuvers to do before the new league year kicks off next Wednesday, with the free-agent negotiating window opening on Monday. According to salary-tracking website OverTheCap.com, the Packers began the day about $9.68 million over the NFL’s 2021 salary cap of $182.5 million.

Among those moves would be tendering restricted free-agent tight end Robert Tonyan, who’s likely to get a second-round tender after his breakout season; trying to get a long-term deal done with Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones, who did not receive the franchise tag earlier this week; and restructuring other key players’ contracts to clear more cap space.

The decision not to tender Boyle as a restricted free agent was hardly surprising given that 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love, whom the Packers traded up to select in last year’s draft, spent the entirety of his rookie season as the team’s inactive No. 3 quarterback. Assuming Boyle doesn’t return to Green Bay, Love is now all but assured the No. 2 quarterback job.

With no in-person offseason program, a truncated training camp, zero preseason games and limited in-season reps because Boyle needed his snaps in practice to be ready in the event Aaron Rodgers went down, Love’s rookie year was a difficult one. Even Love’s coaches couldn’t say earlier this month just how much progress the ex-Utah State player had made during his COVID-19 pandemic-influenced first year.

“It’s going to be a challenge for him. Obviously, we don’t know what’s going to happen right now with how we’re going to be able to work with the players (this offseason),” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “I think always being in the system for a second year is huge for a quarterback, understanding the language, understanding how we go about our everyday process and even just being able to get out there in practice — I think that’s huge.

“Obviously, we’re very excited if we can be able to practice because I think that’s something he needs. The last time he was able to really get after the practices was in training camp.”

Boyle, who made the team as a little-known undrafted free agent in 2018, never got to see any meaningful action behind the durable Rodgers, spending most of his 11 regular-season appearances kneeling out the clock or handing off to running backs.

Boyle threw just four regular-season passes during his three years in Green Bay, completing three of them. The rest of his in-season stats? Eighteen career “rushes” for minus-16 yards. Among the teams that could be interested in him would be the Dallas Cowboys, coached by ex-Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who was a big Boyle fan in 2018.

Boyle completely outplayed Love during training camp last year, and bringing him back would have made for an interesting summer if the two had dueled in practice and preseason games for the right to back up Rodgers. In the 2018 and 2019 preseasons, Boyle completed 60 of 110 passes for 650 yards with nine touchdowns against two interceptions for a passer rating of 91.9, including an NFL-best 112.9 passer rating in exhibition play in 2020 while earning head coach Matt LaFleur’s trust.

“I’ve been around Tim for a long time,” Rodgers said last summer. “I think what has separated him in the last couple years from his competitors is how well he’s played in the preseason. He’s had two really, really good preseasons, putting up numbers and stats and moving the offense efficiently. That’s what allowed him to make the team his first year and to really solidify himself as a backup (in 2019).

“But the separation that he has from any other player on the squad is his aptitude. He’s very intelligent. He understands the offense, knows the intricacies of the offense. It’s (a matter of) getting him more experience, more reps. It is different one-against-ones, it’s just a different type of tempo and obviously slightly more talented players you’re going against. And the more reps you can get with the No. 1s, the more experience and better feel.”


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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