GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Three years ago, Aaron Rodgers stood in the middle of an empty Green Bay Packers locker room, having just signed the most lucrative contract extension in NFL history. He spoke of how humbling it was, how much the security meant to him, how nice it was that negotiations never got ugly.
But it was the way Rodgers described the five-year, $110 million deal that, at the time, might have sounded like just a trite, nice thing to say -- but proved to be exactly right.
"I think the deal is one that we’re both happy with," Rodgers said that day. "This was different in the fact that there were two years left on my deal. They had to want to make this happen. Didn’t matter where we were at [with our contract demands] or what ideas we had, it had to be the Packers being on board with this. And for that I thank them. It’s exciting to know I have the opportunity to finish my career and be a Packer for life."
Since then, the now 32-year-old Rodgers has amended his timeline and suggested that he could play until he’s 40. That means he’ll need to sign another deal to make that happen, since he’s only signed through the 2019 season.
But three years later, it’s a deal both sides remain happy with, because of the way it has stood the test of time.
Ten quarterbacks -- New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Washington’s Kirk Cousins, Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, the New York Giants’ Eli Manning, Carolina’s Cam Newton, San Diego’s Philip Rivers, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, Dallas’ Tony Romo, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford -- have higher cap numbers for 2016 than Rodgers’ $19.25 million.
Rodgers, who went on to win his second NFL MVP award in 2014 after signing the deal, now ranks second in average pay per year at $22 million, just behind Flacco's $22.1 million.
And the way Rodgers’ deal is structured, his salary-cap number never exceeds $21.1 million. Whereas the Ravens had to restructure Flacco’s deal to reduce his salary-cap number from a scheduled $28.55 million to a more manageable $22.5 million this year. Though the Packers’ draft-and-develop roster-building philosophy has also helped them stay in an advantageous salary-cap situation, having their franchise quarterback’s cap number remain so palatable has helped a lot, too.
If the Packers and Rodgers decide to do another extension before this one runs out, they will be aiming for the same sweet spot between making the player and organization happy.
"This is like many deals, a lot of times you don’t see a deal all the way through if you’re playing well. It’s just the nature of some of these contracts," Rodgers said that day. "That’s a long way off. In order to even get to that conversation, it’s going to take many years in a row at a consistently high level of play for me, which I expect to do and I’m going to get myself in the best shape mentally and physically to do that. And hopefully we can have that conversation in seven years, where I can still play and maybe we can keep this thing going."