The Green Bay Packers face tough financial realities this offseason, which could end with some of their most recognizable players in opposing uniforms come next year.
Perhaps the most intriguing player on that list is left tackle David Bakhtiari. The 10-year NFL veteran has spent his entire career in Green Bay, earning first- or second-team All-Pro honors in half of his professional campaigns. But the 32-year-old has been hampered by various injuries over the past two-plus years, primarily a torn ACL that has required multiple surgeries, and will count nearly $29 million against the salary cap next season.
Evan Western of SB Nation’s ACME Packing Company on Wednesday, January 18, took a deep dive into Bakhtiari’s contract situation and what Green Bay can/should do with it this offseason considering the franchise must cut approximately $16 million from its roster budget.
“The financial piece could force the Packers’ hand, and if they decide that they do want to take a hard reset in the upcoming season — moving on from Aaron Rodgers and potentially a few massive contracts — Bakhtiari’s large cap hit for the next two seasons may be something the Packers simply wish to unload entirely,” Western wrote. “If the Packers were to decide it is indeed time to cut bait on the team and fully embrace the rebuild, moving on from Bakhtiari entirely could make sense.”
According to Western, Bakhtiari carries the second-largest cap hit on the Packers’ roster in 2023 and the eighth-largest non-quarterback cap hit in the entire NFL.
Rodgers Openly Advocates For Packers to Retain Bakhtiari
One strong argument in favor of Bakhtiari returning to Green Bay next season is Rodgers is openly threatening to leave if the Packers don’t retain his long-time protector and close friend.
Rodgers appeared on The Pat McAfee Show Tuesday, during which he lobbied for the team to keep not only Bakhtairi, but a handful of other players as well.
“A guy like Marcedes Lewis, he’s an important cog in the wheel of the locker room and the momentum of the team. That’s a guy I want to finish my career with. If I’m playing, I want that guy next to me,” Rodgers said. “I want the Randall Cobbs of the world, if he wants to be playing, in my locker room — guys you can win with. Allen Lazard, [Robert] Tonyan, David Bakhtiari: there’s a lot of interesting names that we’ll see [Green Bay’s] desire to re-sign these certain guys who are glue guys in the locker room. There will be an interesting conversation to be had.”
Packers Could Restructure Bakhtiari’s Contract, Retain Him
With Rodgers fully behind him, the more likely scenario for Bakhtiari is that the Packers restructure his contract rather than waive him outright.
Western noted that while the left tackle has been battling the knee injury for a protracted period of time, the end of his 2022 season was relatively clean, save for an entirely unrelated appendectomy that cost him three games.
“Bakhtiari played every meaningful snap in his final five games of the season and appears to finally be through the ongoing issues with his injured knee,” Western wrote. “With another offseason to get back to full health, Bakhtiari should return to full availability for next season, and a reasonable expectation is that he will be an All-Pro candidate once again.”
“The question around Bakhtiari therefore centers largely around how to adjust his contract, which runs through 2024, and probably not whether the team wants to keep him around for 2023,” he continued.
There are multiple financial paths the Packers could tread that would subtract between $12 and $15 million from Bakhtiari’s cap hit next season, either starkly increasing his cap number in 2024 or, more likely, spreading that hit out over several seasons by employing the use of void years.