The past NFL offseason included a steady buzz that Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers were close to a contract extension. Then they weren’t. And last week, ESPN reported that the two sides are “creeping along towards a deal.”
Now, from the mouth of Rodgers, comes an official update, with Rodgers saying his relationship with the team “is a partnership” and explaining that he doesn’t think the Packers “would want to nickel and dime me, and I’m not trying to screw them.” Neither, though, is he stepping up with some kind of discount double-check for his employer, which will bring us to the start of a season with no deal yet in place.
With two years left on his present contract and the Packers holding the power to put the franchise tag on him for two more years, there is no real pressure on the Packers, other than ensuring the general contentment of their franchise quarterback and restoring the two-time NFL MVP as the league’s highest-paid player. Rodgers, who will turn 35 in December, had that distinction briefly when he signed a five-year, $110 million extension in the spring of 2013, but that contract has since repeatedly been eclipsed. The Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan is at the top of the heap now, and Rodgers would like some sort of out-of-the-box thinking that would keep him there. Unfortunately, he is dealing with a deeply inside-the-box league.
“First of all, I’m making $20 [million] this year, so I know how fortunate I am. And I love what I do. It’s a tough question. It really is. It’s tough to answer it the way I want to answer it,” Rodgers said in an interview on ESPN’s “Wilde and Tausch” show Monday. “Look, nothing’s changed. Both sides would love to get something done. And it hasn’t gotten done yet. Until something’s done . . . I feel good about where I’m at.
“. . . Obviously, [the contract] is important to me,” he went on. “Obviously, I’d love to finish my career here. But I’m busy right now. I’m focused on being the leader of the team. And if nothing gets done, it won’t change anything. Because all I’m worried about right now is playing ball. If something does get done, it’s fantastic. It’s great. Then I’d think about that I can finish my career here — hopefully. And that changes the down-the-line stuff, the legacy stuff can be even more important. But I’m not thinking about that.”
Money isn’t all Rodgers is seeking, although he clearly will get that. The highest-paid bar now has been set by Ryan, who signed a five-year, $150 million deal that included $94.5 million guaranteed at signing and $100 million guaranteed overall. That puts Rodgers in line for something like $125 million in guarantees. He might like an opt-out clause that would give him the kind of freedom NFL players do not often have but admitted that he does “not know how feasible that is.” He also might like an ownership stake, if he weren’t playing for a team that is publicly owned.
So, while talks chug along, Rodgers says he wants both sides to be happy, as they were with the last deal, which was salary cap-friendly in addition to making Rodgers the NFL’s highest-paid player for a brief time.
“In both our opinions, we’ve been able to still add guys to the mix and have a competitive team,” he said. “And from my standpoint, they paid me a ton of money. And I’m super, extremely financially blessed and very happy.
“If we do another deal, that obviously is the goal,” he said. “I don’t think they would want to nickel and dime me, and I’m not trying to screw them, you know? This is a partnership. That’s the only way this is going to work, and the best way things work in this situation — is that we’re in this thing together. And if they make that financial commitment, that’s what they’re saying. And also there’s an expectation that you’re going to play well. And then that’s my side of the bargain.”
Now, his agent, David Dunn, will have to find common ground with the Packers.
“He’s handling it exactly the right way,” General Manager Brian Gutekunst told WTAQ on Monday evening. “He’s handling his business and letting David handle the contract part of it, just like we’re letting [the team’s negotiator] Russ Ball take care of it from our end. I think the nice thing is, both parties want the same thing. We want Aaron to be here for a long time and finish his career as a Packer. And usually when that’s the case, it’s just a matter of time before that happens.
“It’s been a really good, open dialogue between the Packers and Aaron. At no time has there been any hiccups. I feel really good about the way we’re going and the possibilities it could get done.”
Gutekunst seemed to dismiss the idea of letting the current Rodgers deal run out and then using the franchise tag in 2020 and 2021, an expensive option but one potentially worth considering, because of Rodgers’s age.
“I don’t think we would ever [do that],” he said. “We want to get an extension done with Aaron, and I think Aaron does as well. We’re not thinking about it in those terms. We’re just diligently working toward that extension, and I think that’ll get done. Those things are not in any kind of play at this time.”
There you have it.
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