If Aaron Rodgers were a selfish player — which he's not — he could hold up the Packers in similar fashion.
With Drew Brees signing a five-year, $100 million contract that includes $60 million guaranteed, Rodgers ranks 11th in the NFL among quarterbacks. His average salary is $12.704 million.
Of the 10 quarterbacks with a higher annual salary, only five have won Super Bowls — No. 1 Brees (one), No. 2 Peyton Manning (one), No. 3 Tom Brady (three), No. 4 Eli Manning (two) and No. 8 Ben Roethlisberger (two).
Peyton Manning (four), Brady (two) and Rodgers (one) are the only active quarterbacks to have won MVP honors.
On the other hand, No. 5 Michael Vick, No. 6 Philip Rivers, No. 7 Jay Cutler, No. 9 Mark Sanchez and No. 10 Sam Bradford have neither a Super Bowl championship ring on his finger nor a MVP trophy on his mantle. Neither do Kevin Kolb and Matthew Stafford, whose average pay is within $500,000 of what Rodgers is earning.
Rodgers, who is the NFL's career and single-season leader in passer rating, is a proud player with a chip on his shoulder. Going from a possible No. 1 overall pick to the 24th selection in 2005 continues to motivate him. So, it's likely Rodgers has a pretty good idea — if not an exact idea — where he ranks in salary among his peers.
On the other hand, Rodgers knows how the system works. He was only halfway through his first season as a starting quarterback in 2008 when he was rewarded with a lucrative contract extension. The Packers went all-in on Rodgers by giving him a 2008 base salary of $23,762,222 (not to mention a comical $4,920 workout bonus) and an additional $7,420,000 roster bonus for 2009. At that point in his career, Rodgers wasn't worth that much money, just like the no-championship quarterbacks ranked ahead of Rodgers aren't worth what they're being paid.
Rodgers is a huge bargain. With three years remaining on his deal, he has cap numbers of $8.5 million in 2012, $9.75 million in 2013 and $11 million in 2014. Combined, those numbers are $7.75 million less than Brees' signing bonus of $37 million and $10.75 million less than Brees' first-year pay of $40 million.
Brees told WWL radio Friday night that he was not seeking to become the NFL's highest-paid player.
"I can tell you from the start of this negotiation, I never thought once, 'Hey, I want to be the highest-paid guy," Brees told the radio station, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "It was more about trying to look purely objectively at numbers over the last decade of top-tier quarterbacks, where it's been and where it's going, and trying to do what's fair and justified."
Brees' contract tops the $96 million deal Peyton Manning signed with the Denver Broncos in March.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.