Eight years after he sat waiting — and waiting and waiting — to be picked in the first round of the NFL draft, Aaron Rodgers signed a five-year, $110-million contract extension with the Green Bay Packers.
The extension on a contract that had two years remaining will pay him $40 million (some in the form of a bonus, according to ESPN) in the first year and gives him an annual salary that is the highest in the NFL. It trumps the six-year, $120 million deal the Baltimore Ravens gave Joe Flacco and, most importantly, his salary cap number does not exceed $21 million a year (via ESPN’s Chris Mortensen). That’ll enable the Packers to sign other players.
Big thanks to the Organization, our coaching staff, my teammates, and packer nation for the last 8 years!Excited about 7 more!#extension
— Aaron Rodgers (@AaronRodgers12) April 26, 2013
“Aaron is a true professional and a special player,” Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson said in a statement. “He works hard, is humble, and is focused on his actions, on and off the field. He is an excellent teammate and pushes himself and others to be the very best. We are happy to reach an agreement and extend his career with the Packers.”
Rodgers, under contract through 2019, was expected to be an early first-round pick in 2005. Instead, he fell to the Packers at No. 24 and joked about getting calls from friends about his clothing and hair while he waited. Rodgers was asked by Rich Eisen what 2005 Rodgers would have said if he’d been told back then that he’d be the highest-paid QB.
“Yeah, right,” Rodgers said with a big grin. “It’s funny to me to look back. Eight years ago, I was in that green room wondering if there was a team that wanted to take a chance on me. Green Bay did. I got to sit behind a legend [Brett Favre] for three years and learn the game, then I got an opportunity. Seven games into my first year as a starter, I was given a contract extension by the Packers and I feel like we accomplished some great things in the last five years. Now, I’m excited about the prospects about signing a five-year extension and excited about our team.
“We have a special situation here in Green Bay, where we have incredible fans, an incredible tradition of excellence from Curley Lambeau to Vince Lombardi to Mike Holmgren to Mike McCarthy. It’s fun to be a part of a community that really cares about football and a team that has pretty high goals.”
On Thursday night, quarterback Geno Smith was in the same spot, waiting unsuccessfully to hear his name called. Rodgers tweeted to him a quote from then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue: “Good things come to those who wait.”
“I was down in Milwaukee watching my Bucks get beat by the Heat,” Rodgers said of his decision to fire off a tweet to Smith. “A lot of people were comparing him dealing with not being picked and falling in the draft to my situation. I remembered what I was going through and thinking about and how difficult that was and the feelings of frustration, embarrassment and wondering if there was a team that was going to take you and knowing that the camera was on me the entire time. … I just tweeted to him what Paul Tagliabue told me when I shook his hand onstage.”
Rodgers has been a starter for five years since replacing Favre and the Packers are 53-27, with a Super Bowl victory. He has passed for 21,661 yards and 171 touchdowns with a passer rating of 101.2 or better in all but one season. And maybe sitting there on draft night helped him a little bit.
“I kept those feelings on my mind as I was training in my offseasons and continued to believe that there was greatness in my future,” Rodgers said. “I’m sure Geno feels the same way.”
Congratulations 2 my man @aaronrodgers12. Frankly, he deserves more, but thank you 4 saving some 4 the rest. Every dinner on u sir! Let’s Go
— Jermichael Finley (@JermichaelF88) April 26, 2013
@aaronrodgers12 hey man can I come on your 150 ft yacht sometime?
— TJ Lang (@TJLang70) April 26, 2013
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) April 26, 2013