Anew day has dawned on the Green Bay Packers organization, and general manager Brian Gutekunst is doing everything short of shouting that from a mountain top to let the world know.
In the last 19 months the Packers traded the best wide receiver in the NFL (Davante Adams), one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time (Aaron Rodgers) just one regular season after he won an MVP Award, and a beloved teammate and locker room leader in cornerback Rasul Douglas.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano wrote on November 3 that former Pro-Bowl running back Aaron Jones is a likely cap casualty next offseason. He probably won’t be alone in that regard considering the onerous contract of left tackle David Bakhtiari.
“Jones will have one year left after this season on a deal he had to rework this past offseason to avoid being cut. The Packers would save $11.45 million next year in cap space if they made him a post-June 1 cut,” Graziano wrote. “David Bakhtiari is the most obvious cap-saving move for Green Bay, but his circumstances are different and well-publicized.”
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Bakhtiari played one game in 2023 before knee issues knocked him out for the season. The knee in question is the same one in which he tore an ACL in late 2020. That injury sidelined Bakhtiari for all but one contest the following year and played a factor in the left tackle suiting up for just 11 of 17 games in 2022.
When healthy, Bakhtiari has been a perennial All-Pro selection (every year between 2016-2020) and one of the best tackles in football. However, over the past several years the Packers have been paying Bakhtiari for what he has already done, not what he is going to do.
Green Bay didn’t create those circumstances intentionally. This isn’t an L.A. Lakers/Kobe Bryant at the end of his career kinda thing. But come season’s end, the team will have paid Bakhtiari three full years of a four-year, $92 million contract to suit up in just 13 regular season games. That’s the sort of math that makes winning in the NFL next to impossible.
The financial circumstances of Bakhtiari’s deal only grow worse next year, when the cost of restructures render his salary cap hit a whopping $40 million. Green Bay can save $21.5 million by cutting or trading Bakhtiari next offseason.
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After Gutekunst’s decision to deal Douglas ahead of last week’s trade deadline and his comments on those circumstances — not to mention his recent track record of parting with aging players while they’re still very good — it is difficult to imagine Bakhtiari ever taking another snap in Green Bay unless he’s willing to rework his contract and take far less money.
“Long-term, it’s going to be in our best interest,” Gutekunst said of the Douglas trade on November 1.
The GM was citing the third-round pick the Buffalo Bills sent back the Packers’ way in return, but the message underneath that is clear — Gutekunst is playing the long game. That is bad news for older veterans on big contracts and it could be bad news for head coach Matt LaFleur, who will need to display significant gains on offense to secure his job in 2024 and beyond.
The Packers will save $11.5 million by excising Jones’ contract from the books, which means he probably isn’t long for Green Bay. At nearly 4x that amount, Bakhtiari’s departure appears all but a certainty.