GREEN BAY - To the degree that National Football League contracts can be binding, the new agreement between Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers has tied the two together in an unprecedented fashion.
This was not lost on the 34-year-old quarterback, who has been able to spend the last day or so reflecting on not just the immediate impact, but where the ripples of his four-year, $134 million extension will take him.
“That was kind of the impetus behind the Instagram post (on Wednesday), was feeling nostalgic knowing that this deal takes me to 40 years old,” Rodgers said in a conference call Thursday. “I was drafted when I was 21 and knowing how much life happens and has happened between those years, I’ve grown up. And like I said, I’ve grown older in this area, in this city, in this region, in this state. And it has been a really, really fun ride. I’m proud of the fact that I’m in my 14th season, and I understand how fortunate I am to play for this team.”
Rodgers noted nothing is guaranteed beyond 2020, but on paper the extension carries him through 2023 and his 40th birthday in December of that year. Should Rodgers complete that season as Rodgers and first-year general manager Brian Gutekunst expect, Rodgers will surpass Bart Starr and Brett Favre as the longest-tenured quarterback in franchise history.
Each played 16 seasons with the club before Starr retired and Favre was traded.
“Thankfully I’m one of those players that he sees building this immediate future around, which is great,” Rodgers said of Gutekunst.
“But you have to prove yourself every year in this league that you can still play and you’re still an important part of the squad. Obviously, my financial commitment is such that I feel good about my place on the team in the next few years but that’s not the type of player I am, to just rely on something like that. I want to go out and prove that I’m still an elite payer in this league, and if I do that then I’ll feel good I’ve got the opportunity to finish my career in Green Bay.
“But I’m definitely not arrogant in the mindset that it would never happen to me. It happened to ‘Favrey,’ it can happen to any of us.”
The ability to reach $180 million in total and ability to reach over $100 million in guarantees are also historic, and they were numbers that were also important for the quarterback.
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Rodgers was cognizant of his role in setting the table for future players, but he and agent David Dunn came to realize they weren’t going to be the pair to break the barriers down for the non-traditional structures.
Rodgers did note his appreciation for Packers executive vice president and director of football operations Russ Ball however, saying Ball did explore those new avenues to see if they could work.
“Ultimately, I don’t think the NFL is ready for those type of contracts and willing to go in some of those directions,” Rodgers said. “The number of players on the active roster and counting on the salary cap is definitely a hindrance to some of that stuff. The guaranteed stuff — as people who know the CBA understand — there’s language in guaranteed contracts that need to change in the next CBA in order for those to become more standard across the league or more opportunities for those.”
On a personal level, Rodgers said the deal meant more to him regarding his place at 1265 Lombardi Avenue in Green Bay and forming, potentially, a true career-long partnership with the only organization he’s ever played for.
"I think so, when you’re talking about this type of financial investment,” Rodgers said. “Things have to change naturally anyway. The team is investing heavily in me, putting a lot of faith and trust in my continued play, and I have to in turn put trust in the team that they will continue to do everything possible to promote the same type of culture we’ve had here and a winning environment and give the players and the coaches the tools necessary to achieve those goals. Because when we win, everybody wins — the players, the coaches, the organization — and that’s how you create a winning culture.
“So it does feel good knowing that my future is going to be in Green Bay, and when I signed my deal it was nice to not only have Russ there, but Brian and Mark (Murphy) to kind of celebrate knowing I’m going to be here for what looks like my career.”