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What does Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract mean for Aaron Rodgers’ future deal?

The Packers’ QB should break the bank at some point in 2018.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Rodgers is headed for a huge payday — anyone who thinks otherwise is crazy. However, the NFL and its fans got a taste of how incredibly highly the league values quarterbacks on Thursday afternoon when news broke of the new contract between the San Francisco 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo.

The terms of Garoppolo’s deal come to five years and $137.5 million, making him the highest-paid player (in terms of per-year average annual salary) in league history. Guaranteed money numbers are not yet available, but reports indicate that Garoppolo will get approximately $90 million over the first three years of the contract. As our Jason Hirschhorn noted, that is almost as much money as a theoretical situation in which the 49ers had given him the exclusive franchise tag each of the next three years.

Of course, this deal just sets the bar for the next big quarterback contract extension, which probably will not be for Rodgers. In fact, if he and his agent, David Dunn, want to maximize his leverage, they would wait for new deals for Matt Ryan (whose contract has just one more year remaining) or Russell Wilson (two years) before negotiating their new pact with the Pack. Ryan’s deal will likely come in higher than Garoppolo’s, with Rodgers presumably getting more than Ryan in turn.

In terms of contract value, however, the Garoppolo deal gives us an idea of what scale a Rodgers deal would be. Let’s look first at this contract based on percentage of the salary cap before breaking down a possible Rodgers contract.

Looking at deals through the lens of first-year cap percentage is arguably the best way to value deals against each other in different seasons. As J.I. Halsell (@SalaryCap101) pointed out on Twitter, the average annual value of Garoppolo’s contract — $27.5 million — represents an estimated 15.4% of the projected 2018 salary cap ($178 million), which is the fifth-largest number in history. The number one spot, unsurprisingly, goes to Rodgers for the deal he signed in 2013 (which takes him through the 2020 season). That year, his $22 million was 17.9% of the cap, which in 2013 was just $123 million.

Given the precipitous increase in the cap in the last five years, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Rodgers to want a similar cap percentage to that record-setting 2013 contract. If we assume the same 17.9% and a $178 million cap, that number would equate to $31.8 million per year.

If you go the opposite direction, say, $30 million per year, that results in a cap percentage of 16.85%, which would be just less than third place behind Rodgers’ earlier contract and Matt Ryan’s last deal (also from 2013). Kick that up to $30.5 million per year and it climbs back into second place.

For the sake of argument, let’s go with adding five years and $30.5 million per year, which totals out to $152.5 million. Now another key point to consider is guaranteed money. Rodgers got just under half of his 2013 contract guaranteed, and the total of $54 million still remains the second-largest guaranteed total in NFL history. Meanwhile, the going rate for the top quarterbacks getting contracts in the five-year range is the low 40s, as Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, and Eli Manning were all between 43-45% guaranteed. Joe Flacco and Tom Brady are both up around 66%, but both of them signed for shorter terms (Brady for two years and Flacco for three).

Still, let’s split the difference, even though Rodgers would surely love to use his leverage to shoot for a deal with more guarantees. Say the Packers offer 60% of the contract in guarantees; that would bring the total to $91.5 million guaranteed on that theoretical five-year, $152.5 million deal. That would shatter the previous record for guaranteed money, which was Stafford’s $60.5 million from his five-year, $135 million contract last summer.

Given Rodgers’ performance and value to the Packers, a 60% guarantee does not seem out of the question, nor does it seem unreasonable. Furthermore, with two years remaining on his existing contract, Rodgers could end up getting some of his base salaries restructured to be guaranteed in those next two years rather than having locked-in money out in the latter years of the deal.

Of course, this all could be moot; there have been rumblings that Rodgers and Dunn want to find a way to tie his compensation to a specific percentage of the cap in future years so that it increases relative to the increase of the cap. If that’s the case, then all bets are off in terms of just how that would be structured — but you can bet that the target value would be up around that 18% mark.

All told, Rodgers will be a beneficiary of the 49ers’ deal with Garoppolo. But if Matt Ryan signs a new extension before Rodgers does — a distinct possibility — that will move the bar once again for #12. And even more importantly, Rodgers may have an opportunity to dictate a fundamental shift in the way quarterback contracts are structured.