Packers Rumors: QB Aaron Rodgers Wants a New Contract

The ongoing (and mystifying) Mike Glennon sweepstakes are sending ripples throughout the league, and the appear to have reached Green Bay.

Appearing with Jason Wilde on ESPN 540, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers seemed to imply that Glennon’s expected new contract, which could pay $15 million per year, could (and perhaps should) lead to a re-evaluation of his own deal.

“I think it has to,” Rodgers told Wilde. writer Aaron Nagler read between the lines Rodgers provided: the two-time MVP wants a new deal.

Rodgers, for his part, does not agree with that assessment.

It feels like Rodgers is trying to walk back a small media explosion over his remarks, which is understandable. Rodgers always maintains a public even keel, rarely playing the malcontent, if ever. It's possible he was just weighing in on rumors over Glennon's contract.

But if he was just weighing in on Glennon and didn't realize how his remarks would be perceived, it's a rare missep for a player who always chooses his words extremely carefully when speaking publicly. 

For the sake of argument, let's say that Rodgers did want the Packers to re-work his deal. What would that look like?

Green Bay’s last extension with Rodgers in 2013

Rodgers last inked a new contract with the Packers in 2013, signing a five-year, $110 million agreement with $40 million guaranteed. At the time, Rodgers was the highest paid player in NFL history, earning a then-record $22 million per year over the extension. Rodgers will earn a base salary of just over $12.5 million in 2017.

Though his deal was a very rich one, Rodgers hasn’t stayed on top for long. Since Rodgers signed his contract, four players (including two quarterbacks) signed contracts worth more than Rodgers’ massive deal.

Just one year after Rodgers signed his extension, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler struck an ill-fated seven-year, $126 million dollar deal, complete with $38 million guaranteed at signing. Just last offseason, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck set a new ceiling with a six-year, $140 million dollar contract.

Defensive players have also surpassed Rodgers: Von Miller of the Denver Broncos and Ndamukong Suh of the Miami Dolphins have both agreed to deals worth around $114 million since Rodgers signed his last extension.

Rodgers is no longer paid as an elite quarterback

On the surface, it might look like Rodgers is still being paid what he deserves, and to be fair, he’s still fabulously wealthy and amazingly well-compensated. But a deeper dive into the numbers shows that Rodgers probably doesn’t rank where he should among his quarterback peers.

Digging into Rodgers’ deal last summer, Green Bay Press Gazette reporter Pete Dougherty argued that Rodgers is vastly underpaid compared to the rest of the quarterback market. Here is an especially relevant portion:

Rodgers’ last contract extension, in 2013, was billed as averaging $22 million, because that’s what the five new years on the deal averaged. But he received a $35 million bonus the day he signed, so in effect he’d ripped up his old contract and signed a new, seven-year deal worth $130.75 million. That’s an average of $18.67 million. That’s his real average.
Same for Luck. The five-year extension he signed in June was reported as averaging $24.59 million, but that was only the new money. In reality, he’d signed a new six-year deal that averages $23.18 million.
This matters, because if you Google quarterback salaries, most lists go by the new money, and Rodgers’ $22 million ranks No. 3 in the league behind Luck and Joe Flacco ($22.1 million).
In reality, Rodgers is a lot farther down. By my calculations, based on NFL salary information from Over The Cap and Spotrac, Rodgers ($18.7 million) is the ninth-highest paid quarterback in the game, behind Luck ($23.2 million), Flacco ($20.8 million), Eli Manning ($20.3 million), Drew Brees ($20 million), Roethlisberger ($19.8 million), Philip Rivers ($19.8 million), Cam Newton ($19.7 million) and Matt Ryan ($19 million).
With Mike Glennon, who has played in eight games over the past two seasons, about to cash in, Rodgers undoubtedly sees an opportunity to bring his compensation more in line with where he ranks among the league’s great quarterbacks. In other words, he wants to be closer to the top.

Will the Packers do a deal?

Unfortunately for Rodgers, the ball is entirely in the Packers’ here. Since Rodgers is under contract for three more seasons, the Packers may not have an immediate incentive to re-do his deal, no matter where he ranks among quarterbacks. Though they surely want to keep their star happy, the Packers do need to remain cost conscious; re-doing Rodgers’ deal could prevent them from negotiating other contracts.

But on the other hand, the Packers have chosen unusual times to extend Rodgers before. In 2008, the Packers signed Rodgers to a hefty extension though he had started just seven games for the team at the time. The ticking clock was a much more significant factor then, as Rodgers was approaching the end of his rookie deal. But the overarching point is that the Packers didn’t have to do a deal at the time, and they chose to get it done.

Using Tom Brady's recent deals as a blueprint

If both sides decide they want to get something done, it may be instructive to look at Tom Brady’s most recent extension. In 2016, Brady signed a two-year $41 million extension that brought his total compensation from 2016 through 2019 to $60 million. The exact numbers aren’t important, but what the Patriots accomplished with the deal is worth noting.

Brady’s deal is heavy on bonuses and low on base salaries, meaning he gets a lot of money up front while his cap number stays low over the long haul. This lets the Patriots keep most of Brady’s salary in the past while saving cap space for the future. Essentially, they cut Brady a big check once every few years, then move on with their lives.

If the Packers, who regularly stockpile cap space, could accomplish something similar with Rodgers, they could both keep their star quarterback happy and maintain cap flexibility for the future. Whether or not a deal gets done is a mystery, but both sides have a path forward should they choose to go in that direction.