The Aaron Rodgers era in Green Bay is going to last at least six more years, or so the Packers seem to hope, after signing Rodgers to a $65 million contract extension through 2014, on Friday.
$65 million – that will buy you a lot of Miller High Life. $20 million of the contract is in guaranteed money.
First of all, let’s get this out of the way – we like Rodgers. He has performed well this year (1668 yards, 12 TDs vs. 4 INTs through 7 weeks) in leading the team and he has played through pain on more than one occasion. He’s proven himself as a leader and a stand-up guy, in less than half a season. Frankly, I’m happy for the guy.
However, let me play devil’s advocate for a moment. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I can’t help but think that Ted Thompson pulled the trigger on this deal a little too soon.
Rodgers had one more year left on his rookie contract before the extension, and while I’m all for rewarding productive players, Rodgers has only been at the helm for 7 games as the starting QB. How will this investment look if Rodgers suddenly goes back to being “injury-prone”? Or, what if this season is Rodgers’ Don Majkowski, circa 1989, magic year and he fails to duplicate it?
Do I think either of those things are probable? No, but they are possible.
Waiting a year would have given Rodgers a full season to prove himself worthy of $65 million, which will be approximately $10.8 million per year. Do seven games of steady play really warrant $65 million? I guess to Ted Thompson they do, but I would have felt more comfortable with 16 games and potentially, some playoff action.
So, why did Thompson do it now? The obvious answers are that he believes in Rodgers, wanted to guarantee his long-term service, and reward the quarterback with financial, ahem, stability (I wish I could get some of the NFL-like financial stability).
But he also did it for salary cap reasons.
By signing Rodgers before Nov. 3, the Packers can count more of the deal against this year’s ample salary-cap space and lessen Rodgers’ cost on future caps, which leaves Thompson with more cap room and thus more flexibility in the future to make personnel moves. Through Nov. 3, teams can count an increase in a player’s pay for the 2008 season completely against this year’s salary cap — those payments could be in the form of a roster bonus or increase in base salary — whereas after Nov. 3 any new money is treated as a signing bonus and thus is prorated for the length of the contract for salary-cap calculations, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
The Packers were approximately $20 million below the salary cap this season, and I would imagine that a large portion of Rodgers’ guaranteed money will be counted against this year’s cap.
If the numbers all play out in the fashion that I just described, then this really was the right move. Say Rodgers gets hurt and never plays another down in the NFL. The guaranteed amount of his contract is largely eaten up within this year’s salary cap, the Packers release him and are not liable for the remaining $45 million, and the team’s salary cap is back to a $20 million (or similar) cushion next year.
Forget the business side, though. We have our franchise quarterback locked up for the next six years.
Go count your money, A-Rod, and more importantly, go beat some Tennessee Titan ass on Sunday!