There has two major developments since Pay That Man 2.0 (which I wrote just after Kirk Cousins’ received a three-year, $84 million contract that was completely guaranteed). First, Matt Ryan signed what is currently the largest contract in the game at five years, $150 million, with $100 million guaranteed. That makes him the first player to receive $30 million per year and the first to get a nine-digit guarantee.
The second development was much more surprising and it’s only come to light in the last few days. Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reported that Aaron Rodgers wants more player control than any player in league history.
One thing to watch on the Aaron Rodgers contract negotiations is how much control he will have built into the deal. I discussed here. pic.twitter.com/bGA1VLZlLU
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) May 31, 2018
Put simply, Aaron wants to be able to opt out of his contract in the future. This is no surprise as players across the major sports leagues have sought to flip the script on franchises. Normally, teams, especially in the NFL, give players non-guaranteed deals that force the player to play at the agreed upon rate but allows the team to release the player at any point in time. This was the case with Jordy Nelson. The Packers simply decided he wasn’t worth the money anymore and they cut him, there was nothing Nelson could do about it. If Nelson’s deal had been guaranteed, the team would have stood to benefit nothing by cutting him, save for the extra roster spot.
Put simply, guaranteed contracts allow players to get what they agreed upon as opposed to allowing the teams to tuck and run at cost to the player at anytime. Rest assured, Aaron wants a fully guaranteed contract. Whether or not he gets that is up in the air, but his guarantee should be north of the $100 million that Matt Ryan received.
The second facet of player control is the opt-out. This is rare in football but fairly common in the NBA. LeBron James is notorious for player opt-outs. By opting out of his contract he’s able to increase his pay each year as the salary cap rises and prevents himself from being handcuffed to a flailing franchise for years on end. Now, Rodgers has shown no signs of wanting to leave Green Bay, and his rationale for wanting an opt-out clause is not to free himself from the shackles of the Packers. What he is likely aiming to prevent is what has happened over the past five years. His $22 million per year contract was the largest ever as of 2013, but currently he is just the 10th highest paid QB in the NFL. Had he been able to opt out of his deal in the past few years, he could have kept pace with the highest paid quarterbacks rather than being passed by a quarterback or two every year.
A common fan complaint is that it’s not fair to the team. Why should Aaron make so much money that it prevents the team from signing other players? That question does have some merit, as other players have shown a willingness to take pay cuts to allow their team’s to sign more players. However, the Packers have had money left over at the start of the season every year since the Rodgers deal in 2013. Why on Earth would a player want to take a pay cut if the team isn’t even using all of its available resources year in and year out? Admittedly, new GM Brian Gutekunst has shown to be much more willing to spend money, but the fact still remains that Aaron is worth the money, he deserves the money. Aaron’s value to the Packers and to the NFL is greater than any other player, and he wants his pay to reflect that.
So, with all that being said, what will his contract look like? I’m going to stick to my guns and say that his contract will hover around the $32 million per year average, which would be 18% of the 2018 salary cap (the same percentage he received in 2013), and include an opt out after two years. This would give him some leeway without giving him so much as to be able to completely hold the team hostage year in and year out with contract negotiations. Additionally, expect him to get a near, if not full guarantee.
Let me end with this. What Aaron Rodgers could receive on the open market is far more than what he’ll get from the Packers. Teams would do whatever necessary to bring in what is unquestionably one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. As much of a shot to the chin as it is for the Packers to pay Rodgers so much money, teams have shown that they can win with a high paid quarterback and we’ve shown we can’t win without Aaron. It’ll be a lot of money, the most in NFL history, but if you’re the Packers you have to do it. You have to pay that man.