The Green Bay Packers have cemented a clear philosophy on player personnel this offseason, an encouraging sign for young players coming up on the end of their current contracts.
One such player to whom fans should pay attention is Rashan Gary.
The Packers have been talented on both sides of the ball for awhile now, but general manager Brian Gutekunst and company have decided to double down on a dominant defense for years to come. Despite making MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers the highest-paid player in NFL history based on average annual salary with a contract extension in March, most of the rest of Green Bay’s moves with regards to free agency, the draft and extending current members of the roster have focused on fortifying the defense.
The team signed breakout cornerback Rasul Douglas to a three-year deal worth $21 million (and up to $25 million with incentives) after signing him to the secondary last season. The Packers then put up $50 million to re-sign inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell for five years after he produced an All-Pro campaign during his one season with the team in 2021.
Green Bay ponied up even more, $52.5 million, to extend pass rusher Preston Smith for four years and solidify their pass rush. And most recently, the Packers broke the bank at $84 million over four seasons to bring back cornerback Jaire Alexander with the highest annual average salary in league history at the position.
Beyond that, the team utilized both of its first round picks last month to draft former Georgia Bulldogs defenders Quay Walker (inside linebacker) and Devonte Wyatt (defensive tackle). All these moves came despite a clear need for the Packers at the wide receiver position, particularly after trading away Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders in March for a couple of high draft selections.
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Gary Likely to Get Paid Handsomely by Packers Next Offseason
Green Bay’s offseason focus clearly shows that the team is valuing defensive talent, particularly young defensive talent, moving into the future. Thus, all signs point to the next big contract extension heading Gary’s way, as he enters the fourth year of his rookie deal and the team has already picked up the fifth-year option available to franchises with regards to former first-round draft picks.
The Packers have the rights to Gary’s contract for the next two years, which is why there was no need to break the bank on the pass rusher this offseason. However, to avoid using the franchise tag on Gary, or allowing him to explore the free agent market following the 2023 campaign, Green Bay is likely to make a sizable offer to the pass rusher next offseason — assuming this upcoming year isn’t marred by severe injury or a drastic step backwards in on-field performance.
Gary assumed a starting role for Green Bay in 2021 following a back injury to Za’Darius Smith in Week 1 that required surgery and sidelined the two-time Pro Bowl pass rusher for the remainder of the regular season. The Packers parted ways with Smith during the offseason in the name of cap savings, as he had one year left on a sizable contract. Smith ended up signing with the rival Minnesota Vikings and will line up across from Rodgers and the Packers’ offense during the first game of 2022.
Gary — who has been durable his entire career, appearing in 31 of a possible 32 games over his first two seasons — started 16 contests in 2021. He amassed 47 tackles, including eight tackles for loss, 28 quarterback hits, 9.5 sacks and two forced fumbles over that span, per Pro Football Reference.
NFL Trends Point to Packers Extending Gary Next Offseason
Beyond the Packers’ recent history, Kole Noble of Packers Talk laid out on Thursday, May 19, how the prevailing logic across the league also points to Gary being in line for a massive extension — assuming he can avoid injury or some other significant step back in play next season.
“On the defensive side of the ball, locking up franchise pass rushers seems to be the common trend in the modern NFL,” Noble wrote. “Look at the Pittsburgh Steelers making T.J. Watt the NFL’s highest-paid edge rusher at $28.02 million per year or the Las Vegas Raiders making Maxx Crosby the fifth highest-paid edge rusher at $23.5 million per year.”