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Packers extend Jordan Love’s contract to 2024 rather than using 5th-year option

Love can earn a slightly larger amount of money as he would have on the option, while the team gets some protection on the guaranteed money front.

Green Bay Packers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

It is not ideal for an NFL team to need to make a $20 million decision on a player with just ten game appearances and one start to his name. It is particularly difficult when that player is a quarterback. However, that was the decision that Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst faced this week with Jordan Love.

In the end, the team found a way to balance its need for stability and its faith in Love against his unproven track record. As first reported by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the two sides have agreed to a one-year contract extension that carries Love’s contract through 2024.

That’s the same term that Love would have been signed for if the Packers had exercised the $20.2 million 5th-year option, which would have been entirely fully guaranteed. However, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the total potential earnings on the deal are $22.5 million — a boost of a few million over the option — while the guaranteed money on the deal is significantly less, at only $13.5 million.

For the Packers, this lower guarantee provides some insurance in the event that Love does not play like a capable NFL starting quarterback. Meanwhile, Love likely gets a significant signing bonus today, as the Packers typically only guarantee signing bonus money rather than including base salary as guaranteed money.

If that is the case and Love gets a signing bonus check of $13.5 million today, that will be split evenly over the 2023 and 2024 seasons — or longer if the deal has void years included. That would have the effect of lowering his salary cap number for 2024 while adding up to $6.75 million to the Packers’ cap number for 2023. This likely helps explain a move that was reported just before Love’s new deal came down: safety Darnell Savage restructuring his own fifth-year option, adding void years to free up about $5.5 million in 2023 cap space.

In public comments this offseason and in recent days, Gutekunst remained noncommittal about what the Packers’ decision would be. “It’s a lot of money for a guy who hasn’t played (much),” Gutekunst said following the 2023 NFL Draft, “but at the same time, obviously we’re moving forward with him.” It appears now that the team was negotiating this new deal with Love when Gutekunst made these comments.

As Gutekunst acknowledged there, a $20 million number is a large one to guarantee to a quarterback whose only start was a 13-7 loss, even if that took place with a short week of preparation and against a team that was in the Super Bowl the year before. Still, there’s no middle ground for the Packers. There are currently zero quarterbacks in the NFL other than Love who have a contract that pays between $10 million and $24 million on average per year. Indeed, 18 different quarterbacks average more than that $24 million number, with every player below that $10 million mark being on a rookie contract or serving as a backup.

The Packers significantly hedged their bet on Love being the team’s future starter with this deal. Had they not agreed to this deal nor used the 5th-year option, the team may have been forced to exercise a franchise tag on Love next season if he were to play well in the fall; that number would likely come in at a price tag well over $30 million. This deal is an ideal middle ground for the Packers, keeping Love under contract for next season while significantly dropping the guaranteed money he is due compared to either the option or the tag. If he plays like an average NFL starter, that will make the $20 million in compensation perfectly reasonable. And if he plays better than that, he’ll be sure to get a much bigger contract sometime next offseason.