Free agency doesn’t officially begin until Wednesday, but the rumor mill has already kicked into high gear. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, multiple teams plan to offer free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins a three-year, fully guaranteed contract. Should Cousins sign such a deal, Aaron Rodgers could demand the same from the Green Bay Packers.
Cousins performed at a high level of the previous three years, throwing for over 4,000 yards in each of those seasons. Still, his play doesn’t match that of Rodgers, who has performed at an MVP level over the same stretch. Rodgers has also led his team to the playoffs in eight consecutive years, a streak snapped in 2017 when the signal-caller missed roughly half the season with a broken collarbone. While Rodgers is more than four years older than Cousins, he holds considerably more value and, therefore, leverage.
Anything Cousins receives this offseason becomes the basement for what Rodgers can demand from the Packers during their ongoing negotiations. It follows that a fully guaranteed deal for the former likely means the same for the latter.
NFL teams haven’t handed out fully guaranteed deals to veteran players, though doing so for Rodgers shouldn’t scare off the Packers. Not only has Rodgers proven his worth time and time again over his 10 years as a starter, but even a more traditional contract structure would effectively guarantee the first few seasons of the deal in practice.
For example, the Baltimore Ravens only fully guaranteed $44 million of Joe Flacco’s $66.4 million extension signed back in 2016. However, the team would have to take on nearly $29 million in dead money to release Flacco this season, losing $4 million worth of cap space in the process. As such, Flacco’s roster spot in Baltimore remains secure for at least one more year.
Accordingly, making the jump from “effectively guaranteed” to “fully guaranteed” with Rodgers doesn’t present many new challenges for the Packers, especially if it keeps the total value of his next deal in check. Doing a fully guaranteed deal with Rodgers makes even more sense for Green Bay if it prevents the team from giving up a percentage of the salary cap for his salary rather than predetermined amounts. A set salary allows a front office to more easily plan for future seasons while also allowing the contract to age into a value as the salary cap -- and the going rate for quarterbacks -- rises.
Still, the Packers and other organizations will monitor Cousins closely during free agency. His next contract will affect numerous negotiations throughout the league.