Short term gains, long term pains? Breaking down Aaron Rodgers contract options

Packers

Aaron Rodgers has accomplished just about everything possible in the NFL, but how and where he finishes his career will not only define his legacy as a Green Bay Packer, it will have a direct impact on the future of the franchise financially.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers pumps his fist after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Los Angeles Rams Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers defeated the Rams 32-18 to advance to the NFC championship game. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – “It was just ultimately the realization, I think, that my future is not necessarily in my control.” Aaron Rodgers words still ring loud and clear two months after losing in the NFC Championship Game to the eventual Super Bowl champions from Tampa Bay. Rodgers has since softened his tone a bit, but his recent contract negotiations, or lack thereof, have put the leader of the Pack back in the spotlight.

Last week Green Bay had a chance to save some cap space but according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Rodgers’ $6.8 million roster bonus wasn’t deferred and according to his sources, “It vested Friday like it was scheduled to.” Michael Silver of the NFL Network reported on Monday that the Packers are working on restructuring Aaron Rodgers’s contract, now that the deadline for converting his roster bonus has come and gone.

So moving forward, there are really only two ways that the team can go about finding more cash to make any moves in free agency. Change his current contract, or ask him to take a pay cut. And the latter isn’t likely to happen. Rodgers is ranked 6th among quarterbacks in terms of average salary, but for a player who just won the MVP and had arguably the best season in NFL history, he is still a bargain and underpaid.

At this point, it would seem the only way to create more room under the salary cap would be to give both Rodgers and Davante Adams big lump sum signing bonuses, and prorate their deals over the rest of a contract extension. But then you run the risk of not having enough room under the cap to sign other players down the road, especially if those guys with large signing bonuses get injured.

The 3-time MVP is technically under contract through the 2023 season after signing a four-year, $134 million extension in 2018, and he accounts for roughly $37 million against Green Bay’s salary cap this year. Prior to the re-signing of DB Kevin King today, the Packers had around $4 million in cap space according to Spotrac.com.

Heading into 2021, six players on their roster account for over 50% of the recently set cap number of $182.5 million dollars. Four of them have already restructured their current contracts. The top two players that command almost 1/3 of their entire cap number haven’t been restructured – Rodgers and Davante Adams. It would appear the organization is sending the message that they are going to have a “win at all cost” mentality. And since they let backup QB Tim Boyle walk and sign with the Detroit Lions, it’s obvious they aren’t going to let Jordan Love run the scout team offense. As we all know by now, when General Manager Brian Gutekunst and his staff drafted Love in the first round, the move not only raised eyebrows among Packer nation but all across the league. Rodgers has never been someone who needed any extra motivation in his career but winning a third MVP six years after his previous one, creates quite the conundrum.

Green Bay has a slew of draft picks this year (10) and is always confident about building through the draft. And since they didn’t sign any outside free agents, they clearly believe that they already have enough talent on their roster. In addition to the amount of restructuring that was done with Za’ Darius Smith, Preston Smith, David Bakhtiari, Adrian Amos, Billy Turner, even guys like Devin Funchess have adjusted their contracts.

All the way back to Ron Wolf era, the Packers personnel department has always had a draft and develop philosophy, but they also built the Packers into a Super Bowl contender by bringing in hired people from the outside. And it wasn’t just Reggie White. The 1996 Super Bowl championship team had impact guys like Santana Dotson, Sean Jones, Eugene Robinson, Keith Jackson, Don Beebe, Andre Rison, along with role players like Ron Cox and Mike Prior, who came in as free agents and made major contributions. Even the 2010 squad that brought home the Lombardi trophy had Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett, Donald Lee, Frank Zombo, and Howard Green come from the outside.

Corey Linsley was the biggest free-agent departure this year and no one knows for sure what David Bakhtiari’s timeline to return will be, leaving questions on an offensive line that is sure to change a bit. And what sort of impact will not re-signing Jamaal Williams have on the offense? Ultimately, will the 3-time MVP retire in the green and gold and play his entire career here in Titletown? Nobody knows for sure, but his childhood football idol Joe Montana went to the Chiefs after playing in San Francisco.

We all saw what happened to Brett Favre at the end of his career. Tom Brady proved that a one-year fix can be done with the right free agents, chemistry and coaching. And one thing is for certain, Rodger’s timetable to win another Super Bowl in Green Bay is getting shorter as every offseason comes around.

Aaron Rodgers is clearly happy with his life off the field.

Soon we will find out if he can continue to be content on it.

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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