Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and now it’s come time to pay him like it. Careful planning will be required to give Rodgers the money he deserves and maintain the cap flexibility to continue building a strong team.
Finally we arrive at the main issue of the Packers’ offseason, the biggest elephant in the room. Every move seems to tie back into this issue, and hopefully it is the largest priority for the higher ups over at 1265 at this time. I’m talking about the contract of Aaron Rodgers.
What Is The Problem?
Rodgers right now is playing at a Drew Brees or Tom Brady level while getting paid Kevin Kolb money. This offseason has highlighted the ridiculous nature of the Rodgers contract with the resigning of the Tom Brady deal and the new contract given to Joe Flacco. Both deals make a certain amount of sense. Brady and the Patriots get long term security (or as much as you can have in the NFL) and lower cap hit. Flacco took advantage of coming off a Super Bowl MVP run to get overpaid. However, both point to what a franchise QB gets these days, and no one questions that Rodgers will make all that these two are making….and probably more.
Thus, the real problem of this for the Packers is the balancing act needed to sign Rodgers and not have the contract cripple the team under the cap. It’s safe to say that Rodgers will be able to command a $20ish million per year range for his contract (unless he takes some kind of discount). It’s also not hard to see how having a contract like that on the books can eat away at a large chunk of salary cap space. If anything is slowing this deal down it’s the finding the balance between giving Rodgers every cent he deserves and minimizing the cap hit to ensure he has a quality team around him.
How Did We Get Here?
There are lots of places to start this tale, but the best place is probably on Thursday, November 29, 2007. In 2007 Brett Favre was enjoying his first miraculous final season after being left for dead years earlier and the Packers were in the hunt for the number one seed in the playoffs. Their main competition was the Dallas Cowboys who had the same record. Favre came in and basically stunk up the place, playing a quarter and a half completing 5/14 for 56 yards and 2 INT’s. Favre eventually left with an injury. The Packers were down 27-10 and Rodgers came in. He then led them back into the game and within a field goal, before the team finally folded and lost the game 37-27. Rodgers completed 18/26 for 201 yards and a TD that day. It was the moment when the Packers knew they had their long term answer at QB….making Favre expendable.
When Rodgers took over the full time starter role in 2008 he was playing out the last year of his contract. As hard as it is to comprehend this now, there were many questions surrounding Rodgers at the time. Could he play out an entire season? How good could he be? Is he really the answer at QB for the Packers? The Packers looked past those issues and signed Rodgers to a six year $63 million dollar deal. Rodgers then went and outplayed that contract. He’s thrown for four thousand years in every season as a starter (well except 2010 where he threw for 3,922 yards and won a Super Bowl). He’s put together one of the best seasons for a quarterback ever, won league MVP, and Super Bowl MVP…if those things mean anything to you.
How Are the Packers Reacting?
It seems everyone is talking about this deal….except the Packers and Rodgers. Mike Florio has enjoyed getting on his soap box about this situation, shaking his shame finger at the team for not getting this deal done sooner. Every news outlet has put something out stating the Rodgers is going to get paid more than Flacco as soon as that contract hit. Jeff Saturday has weighed in on the situation. Packer beat writers have shared their two cents. It’s a hot topic in the slow news days of March.
The good news here is that this will not become a circus or distraction. Rodgers does not seem to be making a stink about the situation and the Packers clearly want to get the right deal done. There are even reports surfacing that a deal will be done "soon."
Once the Packers and Rodgers agree to a deal the landscape of the franchise will shift. Suddenly backdrop for deals with Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji become much clearer because there is a better understanding of how much cap space the Packers have available. Best of all though, the Packers will have the premiere player at the most important position in football under contract and happy for a long time.
Other Elephants In The Room