The Impact, Good & Bad
Aaron Rodgers reset the NFL contracts market. End of conversation. No, he didn’t squeeze a fully guaranteed 5 year contract out of the Packers. No, he didn’t demand a sliding contract that guarantees he’s the highest paid player in the league at any point in time. No, he didn’t base his cash flow on a percent of the projected salary cap each year going forward. He (and by he, obviously we mean his agents) negotiated a deal that tops all other players in all major contractual categories, and he signed it, to remain in Green Bay for his entire career.
Asking Rodgers, a soon to be 35-year old, to be the poster boy for all contracts to come, is silly in its essence. Sure, he’s arguably the best player in the league, at the most important position in the league, but asking the Packers - the “victim” of a contract this big - to be the guinea pigs of a ground-breaking, creative deal that sets the bar for all elite quarterbacks to come, isn’t realistic.
That’s not to say that a more evolved, stronger-guaranteed, ceiling-lifting contract shouldn’t happen.
There’s a youth movement sweeping the league at the QB position, that could become even more prevalent after the 2018 season, with names like Roethlisberger, Manning, Brees, Brady, & Rivers all likely winding down in the near future. From that, it’s likely that one or two will begin to separate themselves to “tier 1”, and as those players look for their sophomore contract, around the ages of 27 or 28, these kind of variables can and should be discussed. No, Jared Goff & Carson Wentz aren’t Aaron Rodgers. And Patrick Mahomes and Mitchell Trubisky aren’t Tom Brady. But it’s possible that in two years, we’re talking about a few of those names as the “best player in football” as the annual lists get put together. It doesn’t take much to get a QB paid these days, but it will take some effort to change the way a QB contract is structured.
Was Aaron Rodgers the right candidate to do this? Of course. But asking him and the Packers to pioneer new concepts at this stage of his career, in a time in football where rosters change weekly, not just yearly, isn’t feasible. No, 34 going on 35 isn’t too old. But Rodgers has dealt with injuries of late, and the risk for injury after injury is greater than ever at this age. And the risk of an injured QB with fully guaranteed salaries that represent 18-20% of your salary cap on an annual basis would be terrifying to any team.
While specifics of the contract have not yet been confirmed to us, the reported cash flow can tell us a bit to start with.
- Including the $42M he was owed from his previous deal, Rodgers is looking at $176M over 6 years.
- Of that, $57.5M (43%) comes by way of the signing bonus, which means that nearly half of this deal will be paid out in the first two years.
- The deal includes $103M over the first three years, which averages out to $34.3M per year, a huge number in comparison to any other NFL contract.
- The deal includes $103M in practical guarantees, which means that all of the guarantees fall over the first three years of the deal. This is a bit of a disappointment, as many expected Rodgers’ guaranteed money to pour into the fourth year - something that never happens.
- Rodgers’ cash flow in the final three years of this deal breaks out as $22M, $25.5M, & $25.5M, which averages out to $24.3M a year, and brings us right back to his previous contract’s problems.
- The contract does NOT include per-game-active roster bonuses per a report, something many of the Packers have been forced to include in their contract. This is a win for Rodgers, especially with age + injury history.
- The deal contains $23M of dead cap in 2021 ($10.5M savings), and $11.5M in 2022 ($25.5M savings). It’s possible for the Packers to walk away If necessary in either of these years.
- Rodger’s 2018 cap hit barely changes. Often with extensions, the team is rewarded with a lower cap figure in the current year. This does not appear to be the case for the Packers. His near $21M cap figure represents 11.5% of their adjusted salary cap.
- Assuming a cap of $187M in 2019, Rodgers stands to account for nearly 15% of their cap.
- Assuming he plays out this contract in full, Rodgers will have earned approximately $313M over his career on the field.
Impacted Market Values
Russell Wilson, SEA - $29.9M
Wilson’s current deal expires after the 2019 season, meaning another Top 5 productive year from him in 2018 puts him on high-level warning for an extension. The Seahawks are young and cheap around him currently, meaning Wilson can REALLY push for a monster contract should he feel the need to. This is one to watch in terms of pay, structure, and longevity, as Russell turns just 30 years old this November.
Jared Goff, LAR - $25.1M
He’ll become extension eligible after 2018, but it’s probably not in the cards just yet. Rams are getting paid around him left and right, with Aaron Donald’s eye-popping deal still to come. Goff has a chance to REALLY thrive in this fun spread offense, with Gurley as the anchor, but he might have to wait a bit to see his sophomore contract come to fruition. The good news? He’s only 23.
Carson Wentz, PHI - $28.4M
Nick Foles got to lift the trophy, but Wentz did most of the heavy lifting for the Eagles in 2017, including a passer rating north of 101. If he can become a bit more efficient in his passing, and hang out to the ball in the pocket a little more consistently (23 fumbles in 2 years), he’ll be a lock to reset the QB market in the next 24 months. He’s got the best chance to becomes the “guinea pig” for new contract structures in my opinion.