The Packers Wasted Their Salary Cap on Defense

Whether Dom Capers is to blame for the Packers’ defensive struggles or not is up for debate, but one thing is for certain about the 2016 roster: the money spent on defense largely went to waste.

Thanks to the ever-helpful, we can look in excruciating detail at exactly how little the Packers got for all their defensive spending.

I was surprised to learn that Green Bay spent more on its defense this year than its offense: according to Spotrac, nearly 49% of what the Packers spent went towards defensive players, compared to just 44% on offense.

Those figures in and of themselves aren’t a big issue, but who the Packers gave that money to and what they got in return is a big problem.

The Packers top five highest paid defensive players this season were Clay Matthews, Sam Shields, Julius Peppers, Mike Daniels, and Morgan Burnett. Burnett and Daniels were not a problem; Daniels was his typical excellent self, and Burnett was again very solid.

But those top three names were a huge issue for the Packers this year. Matthews, Shields, and Peppers represented 22.17% of the Packers’ total spending this year, and for a variety of reasons, much of that money went by the wayside.

Due to a concussion, Shields played just one game this year and may never play again. Scouts are divided on how effective of a player he actually is, but having him available for 2016 could have shaped the Packers’ season in a big way.

The same goes for Matthews. Battling ankle, hamstring, and shoulder injuries, Matthews was limited to just 12 games this year and only produced five sacks, looking like barely a shadow of the dominant player he once was.

Peppers, too, is a bit of an issue. While he was effective late in the season, it’s far from ideal to have your third highest paid defensive player function essentially as a part-time contributor.

By way of comparison, Vic Beasley was the third highest paid defensive player for the Atlanta Falcons this year, and he led the league in sacks. Though sacks are hardly a reliable measure of defensive prowess, I’d rather have Beasley’s stat line than Peppers’ for their respective contracts.

The Packers may never be a big spending team in free agency, and that’s fine. But if the team is to be judicious with the money it doles out, the contracts must be worthwhile. As far as the top end of the defense this season, they weren’t.