In the pantheon of roster moves made by Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson, the selection of Aaron Rodgers in 2005 indisputably towers over everything else. The debate regarding Thompson’s second-best decision creates considerably more intrigue, as additions such as Charles Woodson in 2006 and Clay Matthews in 2009 would rank highly on any GM’s résumé. Now, the time has come to add “signed Jordy Nelson to two below-market extensions” to the conversation.
Twice since the start of 2011, Thompson struck cheap extensions with Nelson, the Packers’ No. 1 receiver. The first, a three-year, $13.1 million deal, paid Nelson well outside the top 15 receivers at the time. The second, a four-year, $39 million deal, barely scratched the top 10. In both cases, Nelson immediately responded with monster seasons, amassing 1,263 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011 and a 1,519-13 line in 2014. Needless to say, those deals appeared very team-friendly at the time.
They look like even better values now. On Tuesday, the Seattle Seahawks signed Doug Baldwin to a four-year, $46 million deal. Baldwin’s deal comes on the heels of the San Diego Chargers’ four-year, $45 million extension with Keenan Allen. In each instance, players not normally considered bona fide No. 1 receivers now average more per year than Nelson, a wideout who has registered 4,841 yards and 43 touchdowns since the start of 2011 despite missing an entire season.
As it stands, Nelson’s contract ranks 14th in average value (approximately $9.8 million per year). With new deals on the horizon for DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Floyd plus the rising salary cap likely to further inflate middle class salaries next offseason, the Packers’ lead receiver could realistically fall outside the top 20 by this time next year.
Even if Nelson doesn’t quite reclaim his pre-injury form, Green Bay still has quite a value on its hands. But if he can, the Packers have perhaps the best non-rookie contract for a wide receiver on their books.