When Aaron Rodgers signed his first contract extension with the Green Bay Packers in 2008, it didn't take long to discover how much of a bargain the team had gotten.
When the Packers and Rodgers tore up that deal and he signed a new extension in 2013, it set the market for bonanza NFL contracts — and specifically for quarterbacks — that barely has slowed down since then.
And for a third time now, Rodgers and the Packers reportedly have come to an agreement on a new deal. Once more, this contract should be filed under the market-setting and vault-busting category.
The two-time MVP Rodgers, 34, has re-upped with the Packers with terms that could keep him in Green Bay for the remainder of his NFL playing days. His former teammate, James Jones (who is now working for NFL Network), got the scoop on some of the details: a four-year extension that includes more than $100 million in guarantees. ESPN's Adam Schefter first had the news that a deal was imminent.
Rodgers’ $33.5 million average per year in new money is by far the most in NFL history. He's also now the league's first player to cross the $100M guaranteed-money plateau. According to Schefter, Rodgers' deal could be worth somewhere between $176 million and $180 million total, and it will include $67 million prior to the end of the calendar year with $103 million in practical guarantees.
Over the past five years, Rodgers' last extension helped usher in a new wave of paydays for high-end NFL players, and in the process Rodgers had fallen to 10th among NFL quarterbacks at $22 million per year of average salary. Recent extensions for fellow quarterbacks Matt Ryan ($30 million per year average), Kirk Cousins ($28 million) and Jimmy Garoppolo ($27.5 million) certainly pressed the issue for the Packers to get something done with their franchise QB well in advance of his deal running out after the 2018 season.
In the past six months, the NFL's quarterback market has been completely turned upside down in a way we've not seen before. It might be years before any QB can top this deal.
For years, the Packers took advantage of Rodgers' favorable financial status after he signed a six-year, $63 million deal (with $20 million guaranteed) in 2008. His signing bonus at the time: a stunningly low $7 million. Rodgers’ cap hit from 2010 to 2012 never was higher than $8.5 million. All he did in that time was deliver a playoff appearance in the 2009 season, a Super Bowl victory in 2010 and the best record in football and an MVP award in 2011.
Even his five-year, $110 million extension in 2013 soon looked outdated, wild as the numbers appeared to be at the time. In five years, it's possible we say the same — even with a new labor agreement coming following the 2020 season. With the NFL's salary cap rising between $10 million and $12 million annually since 2013, it now stands in 2018 at $177.2 million and should be in the $200 million neighborhood by the time a new CBA must be negotiated.
But for now, this contract is far and away the biggest in the NFL and should remain that way with no franchise-shifting passers due for an extension in this realm any time soon.
Now the Packers must find a way to maximize Rodgers' remaining years while doing so with smaller percentage of salary-cap space than they did when he delivered a Super Bowl title almost a decade ago. Can they do it?
Of course, knowing how special a player Rodgers is, the Packers also likely knew they had no choice not to do it.