With the 2013 NFL Draft now just four days away, activity finally picked up for the Green Bay Packers during this last week.
On Monday, the first organized team activities started. Taking a break from his apparently full itinerary, Aaron Rodgers showed his willingness to negotiate in good faith by showing up for team activities even as his extension continues to be worked out. Evan Dietrich-Smith signed his one-year tender just in time to participate.
Sam Shields did not. However, the restricted free agency period ran out on Friday. The Packers were correct that the second-round tender was enough to stop any other team from making an offer to Shields. He now has three simple options: sign the tender and play it out, negotiate a long-term deal and play or hold out. The third option is practically no option at all since Shields holds virtually zero leverage. If he doesn’t play, the Packers play Casey Hayward in his spot and Shields still doesn’t qualify for unrestricted free agency until he plays another six games.
So, Shields might use his contract issue to skip some OTAs, maybe even some training camp, but ultimately he will be compelled to show up.
The biggest news of the week came on Wednesday when Clay Matthews signed a five-year extension for $66 million. Now, I assume that every Packers fan not in a catatonic state is well aware of the details of this extension, which have been reported in multiple mediums, including on this site. However, I would like to focus on three details of the contract that I believe the media has not given enough attention to.
The first detail of this contract that is great for the Packers is that they were able to sign an actual extension. That means that the final year of his rookie contract still stands. Because of that, the Packers can begin to prorate the $20.5 million signing bonus in 2013, before the extension even starts. Usually these big contracts are good for the first three years and then they are ripe for renegotiation. With this one, after three years there will only be one year of bonus left to prorate. At that point, the Packers can easily create more cap space by cutting salary and handing out another bonus, similar to what Dallas does with DeMarcus Ware every offseason.
Secondly, the fact that only a prorated portion of the signing bonus is added to this year means that the Packers still have over $15 million in cap space for 2013. With that space, the Packers can throw an extra bonus towards Aaron Rodgers and have it apply to the cap right away, essentially front-loading at least a small portion of Rodgers’ huge contract. Keep in mind that Rodgers is currently counting $10 million against the cap right now. So, the Packers can now add another $10 million to that and count $20 million of his new contract towards the cap right away.
A last little piece of wisdom in this contract is that the Packers added a $500,000 bonus that is paid out based on the number of games that Matthews plays. Obviously, Clay has a hamstring prone to injury and so a bonus based on games on the active roster is a little incentive for him to get back on the field sooner rather than later while saving the Packers some cap space if he can’t.
These three details along with the relatively modest-sized guarantee makes this contract a pretty sweet deal for the Packers. It locks up their best defensive player for the next six years while opening the door to lock up their franchise quarterback.