The Green Bay Packers now have a little more breathing room against the salary cap for the 2023 season after restructuring the contract of one of their offensive tackles ahead of their season opener against the Chicago Bears last weekend.
According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the Packers restructured their one-year contract with fifth-year offensive tackle Yosh Nijman on Saturday, September 9, adding four void years to his deal and creating about $2.54 million in cap space for the current season.
Nijman was originally scheduled to cost $4.304 million against the cap for the Packers during the 2023 season after they placed a second-round restricted free agent tender on him in March ahead of the start of the new league year. After the restructuring, though, Nijman’s cap hit has been reduced to about $1.724 million for the current season.
The tradeoff with the contract restructure, however, is that the Packers will now owe roughly $2.579 million to Nijman in 2024 when his contract voids next March. A larger part of Nijman’s salary — about $3.179 million — is also guaranteed after the move.
According to Over the Cap, the Packers have about $10.01 million in effective cap space for 2023 after restructuring Nijman’s contract.
Yosh Nijman Has Lost Starting Job at Right Tackle
Nijman has proven to be one of the more recent examples of the Packers taking a relatively unknown offensive line talent and turning him into a full-fledged starter.
Green Bay rather quietly developed him on its practice squad during the first two years of his career, but when injury presented opportunity in 2021 he was given the chance to prove himself as the starting blindside blocker for former quarterback Aaron Rodgers. In the two seasons since, he has started 21 games for the Packers at a combination of left and right tackle and played more than 1,350 snaps between the two positions.
Unfortunately, Nijman lost out to 2022 fourth-round pick Zach Tom in his quest for the starting right tackle job heading into his fifth season in Green Bay and is now stuck in a limited role as their backup right tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, he played just five total snaps at right tackle in the season opener against Chicago and was only used as a run-blocker; although, that was likely less an indictment of his abilities and more to do with the fact that the Packers had a sizeable lead when he entered the game.
Still, Nijman no longer has the prestige he once did with the Packers. It would be one thing if he was acting as their top swing tackle on both sides of their offensive line, but 2022 seventh-rounder Rasheed Walker appears to have overtaken him on the left side as the primary backup to All-Pro David Bakhtiari. At this point, if an injury were to happen, it is unclear whether Nijman or Walker would have first dibs on a promotion.
Nijman’s Restructure Could Indicate Move is Coming
Nijman’s restructure could be a sign the Packers are looking to make a move that would require additional cap space, but don’t assume it has anything to do with Rashan Gary.
Gary is the most prominent 2024 free agent on Green Bay’s ledger for next offseason and has more than proven himself deserving of a lucrative contract extension, but he is also currently scheduled to play out the rest of the 2023 season on a fifth-year option that costs $10.892 million against the Packers’ salary cap. If the Packers were to extend him during the season, their tendency to backload contracts likely means they would be able to reduce his cap hit from its current figure, even if he signed a high-priced deal.
The Packers could still be gearing up for a different type of expense, though. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, among others, the Packers were having trade conversations with the Indianapolis Colts about star running back Jonathan Taylor in the lead-up to the start of the regular season. If they are still motivated to get a deal done, they would need additional cap space to be able to extend Taylor — who is trying to get out of Indy specifically because of the lack of movement on an extension.
Of course, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst is also just a planner. It is just as plausible that he is freeing up room now to give himself the option of making a move later on in the season, whether it be a deal before the Halloween trade deadline or a signing that can help them complete their push for the playoffs — if they get that far.