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Brian Gutekunst wants to see wide receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson and linebacker Clay Matthews on the Green Bay Packers’ roster in 2018.

But the first-year general manager acknowledged at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis this week that finances will definitely play a role on whether the three veterans do indeed stick around.

“If you have really good players, you need to keep really good players,” Gutekunst said Wednesday. “And you don’t let them walk out the door just for that reason.”

Nevertheless, there is a fiscal component to cheap authentic jerseys Gutekunst’s decision-making process on all three players, who are entering the final year of their existing contracts.

Nelson, who will turn 33 in May, is set to earn $10.25 million in 2018 and carries a cap number of $12.52 million. Cobb, who’ll turn 28 in August, has a 2018 base salary of $9.5 million and is set to count $12.71 million against the cap. And Matthews, who will be 32 in May, has an $11.4 million salary and an $11.34 million cap number.
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The Packers should have about $16 million under the projected $178 million salary cap when the new league year begins March 14, but if they are indeed going to be more aggressive in free agency, Gutekunst might need to create additional cap room. And he could do so by convincing Nelson, Cobb and/or Matthews to accept pay cuts or restructured contracts, or he could opt to release one or more of them.

“You go through a ton of scenarios, and you’re looking at it every way. We all understand if you do this, it affects this, and if you want to do this, you might have to do this,” Gutekunst said. “To me, the big thing I’ve stressed with our guys is we’re going to be as prepared as we can to know those scenarios and to know what each player’s value is in free agency, the draft and so forth, so when those opportunities present themselves, if it makes our team better, we’ll pull those triggers on whatever side that falls on.”

Asked if he’d like to make his decisions on the veteran players before the free-agent negotiating window opens March 12 or before the new league year begins March 14, Gutekunst replied, “We’d hope. One thing I’ve learned on this job so far is things are constantly changing and moving, and I think if you always focus on what’s best for the team, usually you’ll come to the right answer.”

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Both Gutekunst and coach Mike McCarthy spoke highly of Nelson and Cobb during a lunch meeting with reporters in Indianapolis on Wednesday, with Gutekunst calling Nelson “still a very strong contributor for us” and insisting Nelson isn’t washed up after a down year in 2017 without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who missed 10 games with a broken collarbone.

“He’s been a great player here,” Gutekunst said. “You saw early in the year the impact he had in those games. He’s still a really good player in my eyes.”

Said McCarthy: “Jordy and Randall can still play. But we need to improve. That’s a common conversation Brian and I have — how are we going to get better? Get better internally or externally.”

Gutekunst admitted it’s atypical for a team to have three receivers each carrying a salary-cap charge in excess of $10 million, as the Packers do after signing No. 1 receiver Davante Adams to a four-year, $58 million extension just before season’s end in December.

“To me, you have to look at the team as a whole, and obviously you’re going to have strengths and you’re going to have weaknesses,” Gutekunst said. “It’s probably a little unusual, but if you look across the league there are teams that are heavy in different positions. You’d love for it to be all kind of equal and measure out, but … It’s hard enough in this league to find (very good players), so we certainly wouldn’t want to let them walk out the door.”

Brian Gutekunst described the salary cap as a puzzle, but the problem is the Green Bay Packers’ first-year general manager doesn’t have room for many pieces.

With the salary cap set at $177.2 million for the 2018 season, the Packers don’t have much wiggle room at this point.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Packers have a little more than $16 million in available cap space. That ranks 23rd among all NFL teams.

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In reality, however, they have less than that.

With 12 draft picks, beginning with the 14th overall pick, they will need $9,260,960 in 2018 cap space to sign those picks, according to OverTheCap.com’s projections. Its projected cap number for the 14th pick is $2,507,504. Some of those draft pick contracts won’t factor into the salary cap because only the top 51 contracts count on the cap until the start of the regular season.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t leave Gutekunst with much room to maneuver at this point.

“It’s a big puzzle,” Gutekunst said last week at the NFL scouting combine. “I think as the information comes in and as we get closer to the free agent time period and we get through the combine and kind of get a better feel for the draft, some of those things will come into play.”

If Gutekunst wants the Packers to be players in free agency — and he used the word “aggressive” when asked about his approach to free agency — then he might not have any choice but to make a move with either receiver Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb or perhaps even both. Their combined salary-cap charge for this season stands at more than $25 million.

Gutekunst indicated last week that he preferred to keep both Nelson and Cobb, saying “you need to keep really good players, and you don’t let them walk out the door just for that reason.”

That could be code for asking one or both of the veteran receivers to accept a pay cut, especially if Gutekunst wants to sign veteran defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who is scheduled to visit the Packers on Wednesday.

Neither Nelson’s agent nor Cobb’s agent returned messages asking whether their clients would be open to such a scenario.