GREEN BAY – Nick Perry found out what it’s like to feel wanted – really wanted.
The Green Bay Packers started to put a full-court press on Perry on Wednesday, fearing that if he reached the start of free agency Thursday afternoon they would not be able to sign him.
Proving that he was their No. 1 priority in free agency, the Packers signed Perry to a deal, according to a source with access to NFL salary information, that will pay him $60 million over five seasons, including an $18.5 million signing bonus.
“Everything is here for me,” said Perry, who was made available to reporters in the Packers’ locker room after signing his contract. “My residence is here, my family is here. We’ve had a great time here. We’ve communicated great throughout the years with coaches and with front office.
“I think we’ve meshed as a whole, and I think all of those things played in part to the reason why I wanted to stay here. We’ve got a great team. I think we’re really pushing the envelope to try to win this thing.”
One source said Perry and his representatives had a conference call with the Packers on Wednesday to discuss their positions, which was a pretty good sign they were committed to keeping him. Perry was receiving considerable interest from the Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets and the Packers made it clear they intended to keep him.
The yearly average of $11.8 million makes Perry the fourth-highest paid player for the Packers behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers ($22 million), linebacker Clay Matthews ($13.2 million) and left tackle David Bakhtiari ($12 million). Defensive tackle Mike Daniels ($10.25 million) is next after Perry.
There was no way the Packers would pay Perry, who led the team in sacks last year with 11, more than Matthews, but they came close, giving him nearly the same amount of guaranteed money as his fellow outside linebacker ($20.5 million).
“They wanted me to be a core guy,” Perry said. “I’m one of the core guys who can provide stability.
“As a rusher, I think that’s one of the best positions that’s needed to win a championship and I think I have a lot of great things to look forward to doing this year and moving forward.”
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Perry didn't emerge as a playmaker until the end of the 2015 season after four mostly unproductive years, but Matthews was beat up last year and second-year pro Kyler Fackrell would have been next on the depth chart with Datone Jones and Julius Peppers unsigned.
Even though it is a good draft for outside rushers, the Packers would've been woefully thin at a position that only Matthews has come in and mastered as a rookie since Dom Capers installed his defense in 2009. So they were in a precarious position.
Thus, they made the decision to pay up to keep their best pass rusher from last season. They now have $25 million per year tied up in their two starting outside linebackers.
“We’ve built a good outside unit that’s able to stop the run and get after the quarterback,” Perry said. “Things didn’t go as great as we wanted it to go last year, but I think we have a lot to build on, a lot to learn from last season and previous seasons, and I think this is going to be an even better one.”
Perry’s deal was structured so his salary-cap number ($5.85 million) stays low this season. The huge bulk of the cap money is offset by rising salary caps in the final four years: $10.9 million in 2018; $14.7 million in 2019; $14.3 million in 2020; and $14.1 million in 2021.
Perry will earn $28 million in the first two seasons, including roster bonuses due on the third day of the league year in 2018 ($4.3 million) and ’19 ($4.8 million). After the first two years, Perry will receive $11 million in salary and bonuses in 2019; $10.6 million in 2020; and $10.4 million in 2021.
Perry benefited from the top pass rushers slated for free agency – Arizona’s Chandler Jones, San Diego’s Melvin Ingram and the New York Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul – getting slapped with the franchise tag and being taken out of the market. That left Perry (11 sacks, 12 tackles for loss) and New England’s Jabaal Sheard (five sacks, seven tackles for loss) as the top two edge rushers available.
If the 26-year-old Perry stays healthy, the deal may work out, but Perry has missed 20 out of 80 regular-season games because of injury and the Packers’ investment doesn’t come without some risk.
Last year, he was healthy during the offseason for the first time and that may have been the reason he had a career year. He did suffer a broken hand against Houston on Dec. 4, missed two games and was forced to play the remainder of the season with a club on his hand. In the five games with the club, he had 10 tackles and four sacks.
The Packers are banking on him being the player he was last year and hoping it wasn't just a matter of him performing well in a contract year.
“I’m signed for a five-year contract,” Perry said. “I’m not done. That (last season) was just one year. And that’s all the progress that needs to be had moving forward. I’m putting the best foot forward for me and for the team and I’m excited to work hard and do things that I know that I can do.
“It will definitely help me in the long run. It’s paid off so far, and it’s going to continue to do the same just moving forward.”
Ryan Wood of USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin contributed.