The Green Bay Packers took a huge step toward solidifying their defensive future by signing defensive tackle Mike Daniels to a four-year contact extension on Monday.
According to an NFL source, the deal is worth $42 million. Daniels received a $12 million signing bonus and will pocket $22 million by March 2017.
Daniels was happy to have the contract done but said his focus had already turned to next week's game and fixing a run defense that gave up 171 rushing yards to Dallas.
"It's here, it's done. My name is on the paper," Daniels said. "I've got to play against Oakland. Seriously, that's where I'm at."
Agent Brian Mackler said Daniels told him in June that he wanted to retire as a member of the Packers. The two sides had been talking since July but, during the bye, Mackler said Daniels asked him if he could get the contract finalized.
“He wants to retire as a Packer,” Mackler said on Monday morning. “His family loves it in Green Bay. He loves the fans and the organization and wants to win a couple of Super Bowls.”
The opportunity to win, Daniels said - pointing toward quarterback Aaron Rodgers' locker - was a key reason why he had no desire to test the market after the season.
"I told my agent this summer," Daniels said, "‘I don’t want anything to do with this. I want to focus on the season. I want to be in Green Bay. Make sure I’m still in Green Bay. I want to win Super Bowls with this team.’ This is like home to me. This is a great place to be. I don’t want to be anywhere else."
The deal keeps Daniels, who would have been one of the hottest commodities in free agency, off the market. Every-down defensive linemen are rare commodities, as the Packers can attest with Ted Thompson’s limited success in drafting that position over the years. Daniels, a fourth-round pick in 2012, was a home run while the Packers swung and miss with Jerel Worthy (second round, 2012) and Khyri Thornton (fourth round, 2014) and have had limited success with Datone Jones (first round, 2013). The only return on investment on Mike Neal (second round, 2010) came after he was moved to outside linebacker.
Daniels is the motor behind the Packers’ improving defense. Green Bay ranks sixth in the league in scoring. During the last five games, Green Bay has yielded only 15.6 points per game, including seven points on Sunday vs. Dallas.
Entering Sunday’s game vs. Dallas, Daniels led the Packers’ defensive linemen with four sacks, 11 quarterback hits and 56 tackles. Over his last three seasons, he’s recorded 16 sacks. He’s evolved from a situational pass rusher into an every-down defender.
“I feel like I’ve been growing every year,” Daniels said when asked about the contract a couple weeks ago. “I’ve been making it my business to get better every single day. You put together 365 days of getting better, that’s a whole year of getting better. My mentality is to always get better. I’d like to think my play is just a result of my work.”
The front-loaded deal averages $10.5 million, which ranks fourth among 3-4 defensive ends behind Houston’s J.J. Watt ($16.67 million), New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan ($11 million) and Arizona’s Calais Campbell ($11 million). In terms of guaranteed money, Daniels trails only Jordan ($23 million) and Watt ($20.9 million). Chances are, Daniels could have demanded more money had he reached the open market. That, however, wasn't his focus.
"I want to be with this team. This team is in it every year. It's a great, historic franchise," Daniels said. "We had quite a few vets from other teams, free agents, my rookie year, and all they kept saying to us rookies were, 'Wow, you guys you don't understand how fortunate you are to start your careers off in Green Bay.' Why would I want to go anywhere else? So my agent, I told him 'Make sure we're still in Green Bay,' and he did. And like I said, I thank Russ (Ball) and Ted (Thompson) and all those guys upstairs for making sure that I'm still here."
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.