The hot topic around the Green Bay Packers on Wednesday is not a free agent signing or even a rumor about a signing. Instead, the talk is about the contract of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The two-time NFL Most Valuable Player was a guest on ESPN Wisconsin’s Wilde and Tauscher program this morning, and things were going smoothly until host Jason Wilde asked Rodgers about the reported $15 million per year contract that the Bears are rumored to be offering for quarterback Mike Glennon:
Aaron Rodgers on if Mike Glennon possibly getting $15M/year in free agency should lead to talks about his own contract: "I think it has to."— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) March 8, 2017
At first glance, this might appear to be Rodgers complaining about his contract in the current market and angling for a big raise immediately. Some media outlets immediately reported the comments as such. But before jumping to any conclusions, let’s examine how that market has developed since Rodgers signed his current deal after the 2014 season.
Rodgers’ deal added five years and $110 million onto his contract, which ran through 2015 at the time, an average of $22 million per season. The deal included guarantees of just under 50% of the money. That average value was the highest ever in the NFL at the time, but four quarterbacks have eclipsed it since then: Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, and Joe Flacco. In addition, Kirk Cousins is scheduled to make over $24 million in 2017 by virtue of receiving the franchise tag in back-to-back years.
More critically, however, is how the quarterback market has inflated for average and unproven free agent players at the position. Last year, Brock Osweiler signed a contract worth $18 million per season, with just over 50% of his money guaranteed. Now, with Glennon expected to sign a deal in the $15 million per year range, it is obvious that Rodgers is underpaid.
Whereas Osweiler had seven starts before signing his big contract last year and Glennon has 18 in his career, Rodgers led the NFL in touchdowns a year ago; in addition, he is just two years removed from an MVP season, and he earned votes for the honor in 2016. However, with three years remaining on his contract — each with cap hits a smidge above $20 million — our bet is that next year is when something gets done rather than during this offseason.
Now, let’s shift back to Rodgers’ comments themselves. The quarterback saying that the recent market “has to” lead to contract discussions for him is not the same as saying “pay me now.” Rodgers gave no indication that he would consider holding out for more money, or even that he is dissatisfied with the deal that he signed. To say that he is demanding a new deal is a gross overstatement of his comments.
Does Rodgers want to be paid a fair market value for his services? Absolutely. Would he like that to happen as soon as possible? Almost certainly. But that could be said for just about any player in the modern NFL, when the salary cap increases significantly each year.
Is he banging the table and demanding that Ted Thompson and Russ Ball rewrite his deal or risk him becoming a distraction and a problem for the organization? That is an awfully big stretch based on five words. And Rodgers will be the first person to call you out if he feels you have misrepresented what he says:
Make your own judgments about what those
four five words really mean. But I am not concerned about Rodgers’ relationship with the Packers at this point.