When the Green Bay Packers play the New Orleans Saints on September 30 at Lambeau Field, Aaron Rodgers needs to find Drew Brees and give him a big hug because Brees has just made a Rodgers a very rich man.
Last week Brees signed a five-year deal worth $100 million, with $40 million guaranteed for 2012 alone and $60 million guaranteed overall. This all but ensures Brees will be a New Orleans Saint for life (though stranger things have happened, right Peyton?).
Meanwhile, Rodgers mentioned earlier in the offseason that he wanted to remain a Packer for the rest of his career. Rodgers is under contract through 2014 with a base salary of $8 million for 2012, $9.25 for 2013 and $10.25 million for 2014 respectively. By Brees’ standards, these are paltry numbers especially for the player ranked number one over Brees as the best player in the NFL as voted by players themselves.
Keep in mind Rodgers signed his current contract in 2008, only one year into his tenure as the Packers starting quarterback. Rodgers showed potential despite the team’s 6-10 record, but he had not yet fully developed into the superstar we know and love today. With his performance in 2010 and 2011, Rodgers is a relative steal at his current salary.
That’s why it’s a given Rodgers is in for one heck of a raise even without Brees’ new contract raising the bar as much as it has. So what effect will the contract the Saints just handed to their quarterback have on Rodgers and the Packers?
Well, there are some things to keep in perspective here. Rodgers is 28, Brees is 33. Rodgers will likely sign two more contracts before retirement while this is very possibly the last one Brees will sign. Even if the Packers sign Rodgers to seven year deal, he would only be 35 at the time and will likely still have more left in the tank. Peyton Manning signed a five year deal with the Broncos which would put him at 41, though it’s unclear if Manning will actually play all five years with the uncertainty of his neck injury.
The Packers also are not one the teams in the NFL who are reckless with their checkbook. In 2001, they signed Brett Favre to a “lifetime” extension that would pay $100 million over 10 years, averaging $10 million a season. While that number would likely be higher in 2012 instead of 2001, it just shows how careful the Packers are with their money even when it comes to a future Hall of Fame player. They aren’t Jerry Jones or Dan Snyder.
Then there’s also the fact that Rodgers is not the only priority contract situation the Packers are facing in the very near future. Greg Jennings is up after 2012 and Clay Matthews and BJ Raji are up after 2013. They also will have to revisit Jermichael Finley’s contract after 2013 as well as giving Jordy Nelson a raise should he continue the high level of play he showed in 2011.
It was muttered by many this week that Brees is the richest quarterback in the NFL….until Rodgers signs his new contract. If that’s true, then the Packers need to tread carefully if they want to keep the entire core of their offense intact. In theory, if Rodgers deal was five years at $125 million, then the Packers could have trouble keeping Jennings, Finley, Nelson and Matthews. Raji is on the fence here thanks to his regression in 2011.
Packer fans need to realize that the team may not be able to hang onto their current talent pool for the long term, given the team keeps performing the way it has. While the players may be selfless in the press and with fans, their agents are not. They want to see their clients get top dollar for their talents and with the depth the Packers have, particularly at receiver where big contracts are the name of the game, it very well could take some incredibly shrewd negotiation by Thompson to keep everyone around.
Of course with Thompson being a firm believer in the “draft and develop” strategy, there is a possibility that he might see an upgrade at a position somewhere in the draft and may be more willing to let players go than many other NFL general managers.
This won’t be the case with Rodgers, however. It’s clear now that Rodgers is one the most gifted quarterbacks in the game today, and possibly of all time. He’s only entering his fifth year as the starting quarterback yet he already as the most accurate arm in the NFL and chemistry with his receivers (plural) that rivals that of some of the best quarterback/receiver tandems in the NFL.
So as 2014 approaches, what can fans expect when it comes to Rodgers’ new contract?
It is unlikely that the negotiations between Rodgers and the Packers would drag on as long as the ones between Brees and the Saints did. Ted Thompson hates holdouts and it is hard to see Rodgers threatening a holdout from training camp like Brees did. Then again, many didn’t think Brees would go that route either but he did.
It’s safe to say that Rodgers isn’t going anywhere. While it’s unlikely Thompson will go with the “lifetime” extension with Rodgers like the team did with Favre, he will likely sign his quarterback to a long-term deal that will equal or just barely surpass Brees’ should Rodgers continue his high level of play and continue to avoid injury.
It should be a smoother ride for Rodgers and the Packers. Thompson knows how to negotiate fair contracts and the Packers won’t be embroiled in a scandal like the Saints faced this offseason.
Rodgers is going to cash in some time in the next couple years and when he does, he needs to make a stop in the Bayou to thank the man who paved the way for #12 to become a very rich man.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke