If the Green Bay Packers learned anything this year, it’s that you can’t put a price on elite quarterback play. As luck would have it, that’s exactly what they have to do now. Whether in the pocket making throws with surgical precision or watching a season circle the drain from the sidelines, it’s all proof that Aaron Rodgers is indispensable. As we enter the NFL offseason, the Aaron Rodgers contract extension will top the priority list at 1265 Lombardi Avenue. The new deal will make him the league’s highest-paid signal caller once all the numbers are worked out.
Price of Excellence: The Aaron Rodgers Contract
The numbers speak for themselves. Rodgers is high on the all-time list of just about any relevant statistic. His 313 passing touchdowns are already good enough for 10th all-time with several years to go. The man only throws an interception on 1.6 percent of his attempts which is first all-time and quite frankly, absolutely ridiculous.
To put his unprecedented accuracy in perspective, he once went 1,043 days between interceptions at home. Rodgers is fifth all-time in touchdown percentage, seventh in completion percentage, and first in adjusted yards per attempt. Even more impressive is his 103.8 career quarterback rating. Rodgers’ rating is the best ever by a mile. Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks is currently second with a 98.3 rating. Other than this five-point gap, no two quarterbacks in the top 12 are separated by more than 1.1 points.
With historic NFL production comes historically high income. These days, the highest paid player is the one who most recently signed a new contract. There are two years left on the current deal with Green Bay, but procrastination will only drive up the price. It’s time to address it. Don’t expect a big “hometown discount” either. Rodgers knows what he’s worth. He’s also well aware of the current fiscal climate. Rodgers has been vocal in recent weeks about his former quarterbacks coach, as well as free agents.
“Now you’ve got Kirk Cousins, what’s going to happen with him?”, posited Rodgers. “You’ve got probably five guys that are going to get drafted in the first round, Jimmy Garoppolo, and his situation. There’s a lot of moving pieces.”
We now know Garoppolo’s situation is a lucrative one. The San Francisco 49ers have agreed to a five-year $137.5 million contract with a guy who has thrown seven career touchdowns. That’s not to say Garoppolo isn’t worth locking up long term, but it’s an indicator of the blockbuster deal we can expect to see with Rodgers.
Setting the Market
Make no mistake, Cousins is going to be richer than he already is having played under the franchise tag two straight years. How high that bidding war goes is anyone’s guess, as many teams are involved. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is also entering the final year of his contract, and the aforementioned Garoppolo is getting top tier money despite being relatively unproven.
The longer Green Bay waits, the more it will cost them. If Cousins inks his new deal before Rodgers, then the comparisons come into play. After all, Rodgers has won five times more postseason games (10) than Cousins has ever started.
Logic and recent trends dictate that Rodgers will either get a bigger contract than Cousins, or more guaranteed money. Alex Smith just signed a four-year, $94 million deal with the Washington Redskins, $71 million of that is guaranteed. Alex Smith. That’s the state of the NFL quarterback salary bubble today. Of all the quarterbacks due to get contract extensions, Rodgers is by far the most accomplished.
Worth His Weight in Gold…and Then Some
According to Spotrac, Rodgers has an annual market value of $28.2 million. Based on this, a four-year contract would bring him $113 million. However, this doesn’t factor in his unparalleled value to the team. Without Rodgers under center, the Packers looked mediocre at best, certainly not a playoff threat. With him, they’re a Super Bowl contender year in and year out. He’s in an unbelievably great position to negotiate. If the situation’s leverage were put in pie chart form, it would be one solid color with a number “12” in the middle.
Another thing Rodgers has mentioned recently is longevity. Everyone knows New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady just started a Super Bowl at age 40, and he plans to keep playing. Brady is the exception rather than the rule, but Rodgers envisions this for himself as well.
“Oh I’d definitely like to be 40 and be an NFL starter,” Rodgers said, referring to Brady’s success. Perhaps then, a four-year deal isn’t nearly long enough for the 34-year-old signal caller. Contracts in the NFL are normally back-loaded, meaning the pay gets progressively higher each season. If the Packers were to get locked into a long-term deal, they’d be betting on elite production from Rodgers well into his late 30s. Anything short of that would really paint the team into a corner, so to speak.
Breaking the Mold
Throughout his career, Rodgers has been exemplary. He’s the face of a franchise and a darling of the league itself. He’s also something of a trendsetter. Former Packer Mark Tauscher proposed an unconventional idea on his local radio show recently. What if instead of a set annual salary, Rodgers gets a fixed percentage of the fluctuating salary cap? Something like this would prevent him from falling to the seventh highest-paid quarterback two or three years down the road.
“He’s got all the leverage. The Packers could tag him, but Green Bay wants to keep him happy,” Tauscher said. “If it’s 20 percent of the cap, let’s say it’s a $200 million salary cap, you’re looking at $40 million per year. Is that crazy?” Considering the direction things are going, it may not be.
A Delicate Balance
There is a point at which one player’s pay becomes detrimental to the team’s construction. On the other hand, football is a dangerous occupation. Careers can end in the blink of an eye, which is why so much salary is guaranteed to the player. The next Rodgers contract needs to accomplish a few things. Rodgers himself needs to be monetarily satisfied, and he also has something of a duty to progress the pay threshold for his peers. It’s a case of the rising tide lifting all ships.
The organization obviously cannot let their franchise player leave Green Bay, but they can’t hamstring themselves financially in the process. Luckily for the fans, this matter will be handled by those most qualified. Our only role in the process is sharing the gaudy numbers online, and asking friends and co-workers if they can believe what just happened.