GREEN BAY - Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers agreed on a four-year extension that will make the star quarterback the highest-paid player in NFL history and keep him under contract until he is 40.
Rodgers told people in the Packers organization that he was going to let former Packers receiver James Jones of NFL Network break the story on the contract agreement, and he was true to his word. Jones reported Wednesday that the deal was worth a yearly average of $33.5 million in new money plus incentives.
The Packers officially announced the Rodgers signing Wednesday afternoon. Earlier, Rodgers had provided confirmation via an Instagram post:
"It's been an amazing ride the last 13 years; excited to start year 14 knowing that my future is here, in Green Bay, for our 100th season. I've grown up in this place, and grown older and a little wiser along the way," Rodgers wrote. "Thank you to our incredible fan base for inspiring us players to be better year after year. Thank you to the Packers organization for standing by me time and time again and giving me the opportunity to lead this football team. And thank you to my teammates along the way, past and present who have impacted my life in so many positive ways, giving me the friendships for life. Looking forward to making some more memorable moments this year, and for years to come."
According to Mike Jones of USA TODAY, Rodgers and the Packers agreed on a four-year extension worth $134 million with a maximum potential of $180 million. The deal includes $103 million guaranteed and $67 million before the end of the calendar year.
The yearly average of $33.5 million vaults Rodgers over the $30 million mark, which Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan received on a five-year, $150 million extension he signed earlier this year, making him the highest-paid player in the league.
Ryan’s deal eclipsed the $28 million per year Minnesota gave quarterback Kirk Cousins in a free-agent deal signed in March. All $84 million of Cousins’ contract was guaranteed.
Rodgers, 34, had two years left on a five-year, $110 million extension he signed in April of 2013 and the new agreement extends that through the 2023 season. He will turn 40 on Dec. 2, 2023 and has indicated that he would like to play at least until he is 40.
The agreement ends months of negotiations between Packers executive vice president/ director of football operations Russ Ball and Rodgers agent David Dunn and reports of the final numbers indicate that the Packers were able to stand firm on their refusal to do anything but a standard contract.
At issue for Rodgers and Dunn was whether a standard deal that made him the highest-paid player in the league would stand up over time. It’s likely Dunn floated the idea of tying Rodgers’ salary to a percentage of the salary cap, thus assuring the value of the deal would increase in step with the players’ overall piece of the pie.
Though the Packers won out on the type of deal, they had to pay a price for it. The $103 million guaranteed sets a record for NFL players and it essentially makes the next four years of the deal fully guaranteed.
The Packers are going to have to dig into their reserve fund to deliver the signing bonus and other guaranteed money included in the contract. The most profit the Packers have made in a year is $72.8 million in 2016-17, but that was when they received $27.1 million in relocation fees from the NFL.
This past year, the Packers posted $38.6 million in net profit, which would not cover the entirety of Rodgers’ signing bonus.
Because the Packers must put all guaranteed money not included in the signing bonus in an escrow account, it’s very likely they will have to draw from the reserve fund, which has been reported to contain $380 million. If Rodgers does have $100 million in guarantees, it won’t break them.
From a salary cap standpoint, the structure of the deal will matter greatly. The Packers were $11 million under the cap prior to the Rodgers deal.
The $57.5 million signing bonus can be prorated over five of the six remaining years, which means $11.5 million will be part of every year of the deal.
Rodgers had a base salary of $19.8 million this year and $20 million next year. However, based on reports that Rodgers would make $67.5 million by the end of the year, it’s likely his base salary this year was cut to $10 million.
In that scenario, the Packers would only be adding $1.5 million of cap charges ($11.5 million of prorated bonus minus $10 million of salary reduction). That would leave them $9.5 million under the cap.
Prior to this new deal, eight NFL quarterbacks ranked higher in average salary than Rodgers. Only two (New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco) had won a Super Bowl as Rodgers did (Super Bowl XLV in the 2010 season) and none had won an MVP award, let alone two, like Rodgers (2011 and '14).
The ongoing saga of Rodgers' contract talks took on another twist in early June when NFL Network reported that Rodgers would like some sort of out clause in an extension that would allow him to renegotiate a new deal should he again be surpassed as the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback.
Another possible sticking point could have been the question of a potential contract extension for Tom Brady. The New England Patriots quarterback is in the second year of a $41 million contract and is considered vastly underpaid. However, the Patriots probably wouldn’t have signed Brady to a deal as long as Rodgers’ and the per-year average wouldn’t be as big a factor.
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said last week he thought Rodgers’ deal could get done soon.
"The perception of when the deal was (possibly) getting done is probably why people are anxious outside of this building," Gutekunst told Pete Dougherty of PackersNews.com during a one-on-one interview in his Lambeau Field office. "Inside the building it’s always one of those things that’s taken its normal course. Again, both sides want the same thing, so we’re all encouraged that it’s moving in the right direction and we’re able to come to a conclusion. From my perception it’s not something that’s dragged on longer than I thought it would. It’s just something that’s taken its normal course."
Asked whether Rodgers should be the game's highest-paid player, Gutekunst said: "I think Aaron is one of the more unique players that I’ve ever been around or seen. It’s a tough question, but I think he’s as deserving as anybody."
Rodgers is looking to rebound from an injury-marred 2017. He missed seven games after suffering a broken right collarbone in a Week 6 loss at Minnesota. Rodgers returned for one game (a loss at Carolina) before being shut down for the final two weeks.
On the season, Rodgers threw for 1,675 yards and 16 touchdown with six interceptions for a passer rating of 97.2.
Over his 13-year career, the 2005 first-round draft choice out of California has completed 3,188 of 4,895 passes (65.1 percent) for 38,502 yards, 313 touchdowns with 78 interceptions for an NFL-record regular-season passer rating of 103.8.
Renowned for his mobility and elusiveness, Rodgers also has 525 career rushing attempts for 2,670 yards and 25 touchdowns.
After serving as Brett Favre's backup for three seasons, Rodgers took over as the Packers' starter in 2008. He was voted first-team All-Pro in 2011 and '14 and has earned six Pro Bowl berths.