With all the smoke around the future of the Green Bay Packers’ franchise player, it’s hard not to yell “Fire!” Resist the urge.
First reporting suggested that Aaron Rodgers wanted his pay tied to the salary cap rather than an annual dollar figure, likely a trial balloon from the Rodgers camp that feels about as likely as Terrell Owens successfully making a comeback in the NFL.
Even setting aside the fact it completely robs the Packers of any ability to effectively plan for its financial future, at the numbers Rodgers will likely want there’s no incentive for Green Bay to give in to such demands. After all, they can franchise tag their star quarterback until he’s pushing 40. Unless he’s willing to stage a combative holdout, there’s just no intellectually honest way to see Rodgers as having the leverage to pull this off.
Even Rodgers himself dismissed this in an interview with Peter King for his new NBC Sports column.
Then there was the opt-out. Rodgers dismissed that out of hand.
“A lot of it is just conjecture,” Rodgers said earlier this summer, “or stories that aren’t really based in factual interactions or misrepresented actions. I think that’s just part of it. It’s kind of a slow period for football right now ... I don’t have anything to report at this point, but I’m sure there will be some unnamed sources close to me that have some sort of scoop along the way.”
In a recent interview with Peter King, Rodgers hinted that in addition to stability and assurance he wanted “more freedom,” perhaps a cryptic allusion to an opt-out. Or perhaps simply a desire to play on a shorter deal the same way superstars have began structuring their contracts in the NBA.
Coincidentally, Rodgers directly rebuffs the percentage of the cap conversation in the same breath.
“I never said anything about [tying the contract to] the cap. I just think there’s ways to do contracts where you can still be competitive so the team is happy about it, but have some more freedom.”
Can I interest you in parsing his words on how long he’ll play? For a while it was that he didn’t want to hang out when he couldn’t still play the way he wants to play. Then it was he wanted to play “into” his 40’s. And in that interview with King, Rodgers only managed a desire to play “until” 40.
Do we care? Should we?
And speaking of not caring, there was the Pro Football Talk column suggesting Rodgers ought to ask for a bit of equity in the team. An ownership stake for the most important player on the roster.
I asked a number of people around the game with intimate knowledge of the CBA and no one seemed to know if this was actually legal under NFL rules. In the NBA, league rules mandated Michael Jordan renounce his ownership stake in the Wizards in order to return to the court. There may be no such by-laws in the NFL.
But even if this were legal within the rules of the league, according to former agent and current cap expert for CBS Sports Joel Corry, any money paid from such a deal to Rodgers would still have to count against the salary cap. In other words, it might as well just be in the contract from the start and they can wink-wink some equity in the team for after he’s done playing if they really feel so inclined.
Here’s the bottom line: the Packers own the rights to Aaron Rodgers for the next two seasons and can franchise tag him the two seasons after that. Rodgers knows that. His agent David Dunn certainly does as well. They also know he’d turn 39 the following season and although there certainly would be teams interested in retaining his services, he wouldn’t be more valuable to anyone than he would be to the Packers.
Rodgers, the best player on this planet or any other, simply doesn’t have the leverage to “break the mold” as King writes. He may want to do that. And he should. No one has ever done what he’s done, been what he’s been to a franchise, to a football team on the field. He’s sui generis.
And he’s going to get paid enough he could hire a Latin tutor for every member of the team so they could learn what that means.
Rodgers is the kind of player and person who has takes. He has thoughts. And he’s so smart, practice bores him to the point he has to screw around to stay engaged, something he freely admits on camera. This is all a big thought experiment to him.
Maybe he’s thinking this: “Let’s try and be different. This is dumb. I should get the most, let’s leak this stuff and see if we can get some traction.”
I’m sure he really does think some of the stuff out there could be interesting. He clearly doesn’t want the same contract every other QB has signed from time immemorial. Rodgers wants to be different, to be unique, to be Rodgers and not another Stafford.
But ultimately he’s going to sign a big ass deal and it’s going to be a big ass deal because it’s Rodgers, but it’s not likely going to shift the entire NFL paradigm when it comes to contracts — as much as that would likely amuse QB1.
The details likely won’t matter much. There will be enough zeroes for everyone involved to be happy. The team will make some concessions in hopes of keeping Rodgers from asking for $40 million or 30% of the salary cap or something crazy and we’ll all live happily ever after doing the green and yellow brick road.
Everything else simply functions to
fill inches in newspapers get clicks online and drive Twitter engagement. Until he signs, it’s just noise. It’s like any Vikings season: no matter what happens, we know what will happen in the end.
Only in this case, instead of choking, it’s a contract for the best player in the league on a team hoping to write the ending for that story.
Maybe they’ll even use the same pen from Rodgers’ fat new contract.