Aaron Nagler talks the Packers' new deal with Davante Adams on Dec. 29, 2017.
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers completed one of the biggest items on their to-do list Friday by agreeing with wide receiver Davante Adams on a contract extension several months before he would have hit the open market.
Adams, who turned 25 last week, was set to become a free agent in March after completing his rookie contract, but general manager Ted Thompson and vice president of football administration/player finance Russ Ball moved swiftly to secure their No. 1 receiver before a potential bidding war drove up the price.
The two sides agreed to a four-year extension worth $58 million that places Adams among the highest-paid receivers in the league, according to a report from NFL Network. Adams received an $18 million signing bonus the moment he put pen to paper, and the deal includes $32 million over the first two years.
The Packers announced the extension in a news release Friday afternoon, but Adams was prohibited from speaking with reporters because he remains in the concussion protocol. He did, however, discuss the deal in a live stream on his mobile app.
“Stressful, stressful time but I’m glad we were able to get it done,” Adams said in the video. “Lot of work, lot of time put into this thing, man. Lot of back and forth, but we got it done and couldn’t be more excited to be in a better place, man. So shout out all the Packers fans out there, #PackNation, all my supporters (and) everybody, even shout out to the haters out there that didn’t want to see it happen, you know? You were part of it and you helped me get there too, so shout out to y’all, and let’s get to work.”
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Adams became the focal point of the Packers’ free-agency plans when Thompson picked up the fifth-year option on safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in May, assuring the first-round pick from the 2014 draft would remain under contract through the 2018 season. The rest of the class included Adams (second round, No. 53 overall), tight end Richard Rodgers (third round, No. 98 overall), center Corey Linsley (fifth round, No. 161 overall), cornerback Demetri Goodson (sixth round, No. 197 overall) and wide receiver Jeff Janis (seventh round, No. 236 overall).
Of that bunch, Adams and Linsley were the only realistic candidates for major extensions.
Re-signing Adams became an even greater priority as the 2017 season progressed. The collarbone injury to quarterback Aaron Rodgers served as the harshest of litmus tests for a wide receiver group that was densely populated but largely unproven beyond its top three contributors. So when age imprisoned Jordy Nelson and years of damage eroded Randall Cobb, the Packers were left with Adams as their only legitimate threat.
Rodgers was quick to congratulate Adams, posting on Instagram: "Well deserved @taeadams #4moreyears
Adams has 74 receptions this season for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns despite suffering a concussion Sept. 28 against Chicago and another Dec. 17 at Carolina, which forced him to miss last week's game against Minnesota and has ruled him out for the season finale Sunday at Detroit.
That opposing defenses treated Adams like a No. 1 receiver surely was a bargaining chip for his agent, Frank Bauer. That Adams continued to produce with Brett Hundley at quarterback might have been Bauer’s ace in the hole. After all, Adams caught six of Hundley’s eight touchdown passes and accounted for more than 35 percent of Hundley’s yards.
The end result was an extension that places Adams among the position’s elite. His yearly average of approximately $14.5 million ranks fourth in the league, according to salary information from overthecap.com, and trails only Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers ($17 million per year), DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans ($16.2 million per year) and A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals ($15 million per year).
Demaryius Thomas of the Denver Broncos and Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys both average $14 million per year. TY Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts and Alshon Jeffery of the Philadelphia Eagles, who signed a four-year $52 million extension earlier this month, average $13 million per year.
The Packers were nearly $10 million under the salary cap prior to re-signing Adams and could have carried the money over to next season, giving Thompson some $42 million in cap room. Instead, Thompson and Ball likely structured the deal to use as much of this year’s space as possible to lessen Adams’ cap number in 2018.
It’s all part of a potential reshuffle at the wide receiver position as Nelson and Cobb continue to underperform their current contracts. Both players have enormous cap figures for 2018 in what is the final year of their respective contracts, with Nelson at $12.55 million and Cobb at $12.75 million. Adding the extension of Adams gives the Packers three receivers with average salaries in excess of $9.7 million per year.
In other words, Thompson and Ball are likely to face difficult decisions prior to the start of next season as they project the future of their wide receiver group. It’s possible the Packers could move on from either Nelson or Cobb to free themselves from a burdensome contract, or perhaps they will ask to restructure with more friendly terms. Either way, the potential for awkward conversations is high.
Until then, the Packers can celebrate an important piece of business that keeps their No. 1 weapon in-house.
Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.