Aaron Rodgers has finally put pen to paper on his new contract extension with the Green Bay Packers, securing his place as the franchise’s starting quarterback for at least the next two seasons.
According to Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Rodgers has agreed to an extension with the Packers that will pay him $150 million in guaranteed money over the next three years and will keep the four-time MVP squarely under contract through the 2024 season. The deal includes more than $100 million fully guaranteed for Rodgers over the next two years and also features a pair of dummy years in 2025 and 2026 to help the Packers spread out his cap costs.
Rodgers will make about $42 million in 2022 on his new deal with the number rising to about $59.5 million in 2023 and $49.3 million in 2024. As Pelissero noted, the Packers will also be using large option bonuses — $58.3 million in 2023 and $47 million in 2024 — to push his cap numbers into future years “when the salary cap should spike.”
“We are very pleased to be able to come to an agreement with Aaron that keeps him in Green Bay,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said in a press release about Rodgers’ extension. “His play on the field and leadership in our locker room remain vital in our pursuit of another Super Bowl title. The agreement also allows us to maintain and enhance what we feel is already a very competitive roster.”
Rodgers’ extension reduces his cap hit from about $46.66 million to $28.5 million for the 2022 season and creates about $18.2 million in cap space for the Packers. They have now freed up more than $45 million in cap space over the past 24 hours, saving money with Preston Smith’s extension and the releases of Za’Darius Smith and Billy Turner.
The Packers will still have to remove about $3.8 million more in cap expenses before the start of the new league year at 4 p.m. ET on March 16, but the task is made much easier with Rodgers’ new contract finally in place.
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Breaking Down Details of Rodgers’ New Contract
Is anyone surprised that a “complicated fella” like Rodgers is coming away from his negotiations with the Packers with a complicated new contract?
Ever since Rodgers confirmed on The Pat McAfee Show last week that he would be returning to the Packers for the 2022 season, it has been a waiting game to see just how much the two sides would end up committing to each other. He didn’t end up signing a four-year, $200 million deal like Rapoport originally reported, but it is still a doozy of a deal that pays Rodgers like a back-to-back MVP and ensures the Packers won’t cripple their ability to contend in the process.
Rodgers agreeing to lower his cap hit for 2022 was a given. The Packers desperately needed to clear space on their books and counted Rodgers as their most expensive player heading into the new year, providing a near-guarantee that any new deal would lower his overall cap charge from its original rate of more than $46 million.
What’s more impressive, though, is the Packers’ use of placeholder years to ensure Rodgers’ cap hit will stay manageable for years to come. According to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, Rodgers’ cap charge will climb to just $31.6 million in 2023 — he was already going to cost $7.7 million against the cap due to the voided year in his previous contract — and to $40.7 million in 2024. There will need to be some careful cap management, especially in 2024, but the pathway is much clearer for the Packers.
Rapoport also added one more note about Rodgers’ contract: The two placeholder years at the back end of the deal were structured with the expectation that Rodgers could be “likely” to retire following the 2024 season. If he chooses to keep playing, both the 2025 and 2026 years on his deal would be reworked in a more favorable way.
The downside is the gamble the team is taking on Rodgers’ potential retirement interests. Rodgers has legitimately contemplated retirement in each of the past two offseasons, including this year before he ultimately decided to return to Green Bay. If he decides he wants to call it a career before the timeline laid out in his contract, the Packers could be left with an enormous dead-cap hit as a result.
According to Pelissero, the Packers would be on the hook for a dead-cap hit of $68.205 million in 2024 if Rodgers retires or the team moves on from him following the 2023 season — after which, his cap hit rises back above $40 million.
How Else Can Packers Create Cap Space?
The Packers have executed some essential roster moves over the past 24 hours, but the work is not yet complete with less than two days to go until the new NFL year begins. Even once they are under the salary cap, they will need to create additional space to sign free agents — both their own and outside guys — as well as their draft picks.
Here’s a look at some of the moves the Packers could still make to create cap space:
Restructuring/releasing wide receiver Randall Cobb: The return of Rodgers increases the chances of Cobb staying in Green Bay for next season, but it will take some give on the part of the 32-year-old wide receiver. Cobb is set to carry a cap hit of $9.53 million for the 2022 season and could be released to create about $6.75 million in savings. Perhaps, though, he would be willing to take a pay cut to take another shot at a title with Rodgers. He caught 28 passes for 375 yards and five touchdowns while playing just 47% of offensive snaps last year, so the production is still there — even if the price to keep him is a bit egregious as it is.
Releasing placekicker Mason Crosby: Crosby didn’t have the prettiest season despite not being the worst part of the Packers’ special teams unit in 2021. He failed to convert on nine of his 34 field-goal attempts, missing three in Week 5’s win over Cincinnati and going on a rough 5-of-10 stretch in the month of November. He also missed a pair of extra-point tries that cast rare doubt on Green Bay’s kicking position. Maybe the Packers will shrug it off and stay committed to Crosby, but he has a $4.735 million cap hit in 2022 and can free up about $2.395 million in cap space if released. As of March 15, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky said there has been “no change” in Crosby’s status or his contract.
Extending cornerback Jaire Alexander: Getting a long-term deal done with Alexander could be more challenging after seeing how some of the league’s other cornerbacks have gotten paid this week, but the Packers are still trying to make it happen with Alexander currently set to play the 2022 season on his $13.294 million fifth-year option. According to Rapoport, the Packers and Alexander’s representation resumed contract discussions in the first week of March, which means a new contract is still possible before the start of the new league year. Even if it doesn’t happen before Wednesday, don’t be surprised if Alexander gets something new in place before the season starts.