The Green Bay Packers announced on Friday that they have signed quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a contact extension through the 2014 season.Terms were not available and agent David Dunn did not immediately return a phone call. According to NFL.com, the contract is for six years and $65 million, including about $20 million guaranteed.
"I appreciate the commitment that they've made, and I plan to reciprocate that commitment in my play and hopefully prove to them that they made the correct decision giving me this extension," Rodgers said at his locker after practice.
Rodgers started only seven games, but the Packers — after watching him behind the scenes for the previous three seasons — felt the time was right to strike for several reasons.
First and foremost, by getting the deal done before Monday, the Packers were able to take advantage of a league rule that allowed the team to structure the contract in such a way that instead of a prorated signing bonus, the team could simply dump most or all of that up-front money onto the 2008 salary cap.
The Packers entered Friday just a shade less than $20 million under the salary cap. With at least a large chunk of Rodgers' up-front money going on this year's cap, his salary-cap hit will be less in succeeding years, which will allow the Packers greater flexibility to retain their future free agents or perhaps do some shopping.
Second, Rodgers was set to become a free agent after the 2009 season. In a calculated gamble, the team no doubt felt it only would get more expensive to sign the fourth-year pro, who ranks seventh in the NFL with a 98.8 passer rating and has 12 touchdowns against just four interception.
"As we talked about in the past, we try to be proactive in our discussions with our current players, and we felt like this was an appropriate time to try to come to an agreement with Aaron," general manager Ted Thompson said in a statement. "We feel like this is good for the organization and the players, and we will continue this approach as we move forward."
Had he continued to perform at an upper-echelon level and not been signed by season's end, there's a chance Rodgers and his agent could have elected to test the free-agent waters following 2009. There's a reason top-flight quarterbacks never hit free agency: the price tag would have been astronomical had Rodgers maintained a high level of play.
That's no longer an issue. Rodgers will have barely turned 31 when his new contract expires.
"I couldn't be happier to know I'm going to be a Green Bay Packer for a long time," Rodgers said.
Beyond Rodgers' high level of play, the native of Chico, Calif., has impressed his teammates by playing superbly the last three games with an injured throwing shoulder. His passer rating has topped 100 in all three of those games. Still, for as bright as his future looks, Rodgers is far from a proven commodity. He is 4-3 as the starter, and has played well enough to win every game with the possible exception of Tampa Bay, but he hasn't single-handedly won any games, either.
Rodgers' contract, which averages about $10.8 million per season, compares favorably to the one signed by Dallas' Tony Romo last year. That seven-year deal averaged $9.6 million per season and included an $11.5 million signing bonus and $18.5 million in guaranteed salary. Romo got that payday based on 13 starts.Rodgers' base salary for this season was $680,000. He collected $5.6 million in salary and bonuses in his first three seasons, but missed out on about $5 million in salary escalators because of his time behind Brett Favre.
Up next for a new contract figures to be receiver Greg Jennings and safety Nick Collins, both of whom are under contract through 2009 and are having superlative seasons. Jennings told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he would rather wait until after the season to talk contract.
Defensive tackle Colin Cole and right tackle Mark Tauscher are the big names who will be unrestricted free agents following this season. Will Blackmon, Brandon Chillar, Chad Clifton, Daryn Colledge, Donald Driver, Aaron Kampman, Ryan Pickett are Jason Spitz are part of a long list of key players who will be free agents after 2009.
Bill Huber is the Lead Analyst for Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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