GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers didn’t dismiss the possibility of signing a contract extension this year, but now that the offseason has come and gone the Green Bay Packers quarterback said his thoughts are elsewhere.
The Packers embarked on their training camp Thursday with one major item on their offseason to-do list unresolved. Rodgers has two years left on the $110 million extension he signed in 2013, but for months the plan has been to extend Rodgers — presumably before the 2018 season.
Rodgers opened the door to a deal being reached after the regular season begins, but contract extensions usually are signed before then. To hear Rodgers discuss his situation Thursday, there’s a good reason why.
“I don’t know if there’s a timetable,” Rodgers said. “The feelings haven’t changed. Obviously, I’d love to be here, and I think they’ve spoken at length about wanting to extend my deal. But now that I’m here, my focus is definitely on other places. It’s on my teammates, my leadership role, my performance on the field. That’s why I have (agent) Dave Dunn to take care of all that stuff.”
Five months ago at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, general manager Brian Gutekunst said it was a “high priority” to extend Rodgers’ contract. Gutekunst didn’t set a deadline for reaching a deal, and negotiations are ongoing.
There is still time to extend Rodgers’ contract before the season starts. After the Packers shareholders meeting Wednesday night, president Mark Murphy said he isn’t disappointed or concerned an extension has yet to be signed and expressed confidence a deal will be reached.
Murphy did not, however, give any indication when that might happen.
“I don’t want to put a time frame on it,” Murphy said, “but I’m confident we’ll work it out.”
Rodgers’ contract doesn’t expire until after the 2019 season. The Packers could then use the one-year franchise tag during the 2020 and 2021 seasons before costs would become prohibitive.
That the Packers could retain Rodgers’ rights for at least the next four seasons gives the team leverage, but Rodgers’ extension is still expected to set the market for NFL players. The bigger mystery is whether a new deal will follow a traditional structure — where some money is guarantee, but not all — or if the two sides will get creative. Examples of alternative structures could include tying Rodgers’ salary to a percentage of the cap, or perhaps fully guaranteeing the contract.
Murphy declined to say whether the Packers are willing to use a nontraditional contract structure.
“It’s all part of a negotiation,” he said.
Those negotiations, Rodgers said, didn’t entice him to hold out from training camp. Rodgers might have gained leverage to force the Packers into arriving at a deal with a lengthy absence. Around the league, fellow NFL stars such as Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones and Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas took that approach.
Rodgers said he didn’t entertain the idea of a holdout, and his relationship with the team remains strong.
“I don’t really operate like that,” Rodgers said. “I have two years left on my deal. They’re obviously more than willing to talk about an extension. There wasn’t any animosity on either side.”