The NFL traditionally has a wave of contract extensions that get finalized just before the start of a new season every year, and it is possible the Green Bay Packers could have one among them heading into the start of 2022.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano emptied his notebook on September 8 and discussed some of the “league chatter” he has heard in recent weeks about possible extensions in the works for star players. Among them, he mentioned that Packers outside linebacker Rashan Gary as a candidate to receive “high-end extension” before the team begins its 2022 season against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, September 11.
Gary, a 2019 first-round pick, is coming off a breakout season for the Packers in which he notched 81 total pressures — second-most in the NFL behind Maxx Crosby — along with a career-high 10 sacks and 56 quarterback hurries. According to Pro Football Focus, he posted the seventh-highest pass-rushing grade (88.9) and the second-best win rate (26.0) among edge rushers during the 2021 season.
Other players Graziano mentioned could be in line for extensions before Week 1 gets fully underway include Indianapolis Colts guard Quenton Nelson, Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Jonah Williams, Los Angeles Rams safety Taylor Rapp and Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller.
The Packers will kick off their 2022 season on the road against the Vikings at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Gary Currently Set to Play 2023 on Fifth-Year Option
The Packers picked up Gary’s fifth-year option for the 2023 season back at the NFL deadline and are currently projected to pay him a salary of $11.5 million next season under the option, but both sides will likely want to get a long-term deal in place well before then. Gary has become a central part of the Packers’ young core of defenders and will seek to be paid accordingly, while an extension could also grant Green Bay some cap relief depending on the structure and overall value of the contract.
That said, it won’t be cheap for the Packers to sign Gary to a new contract.
According to Spotrac’s calculated market value projections, Gary is estimated to earn an average salary of $20.5 million on his next contract on a deal that could be as many as four or five years long. He might not touch the highest rungs of edge-rusher pay with T.J. Watt ($28 million per year) and Joey Bosa ($27 million per year) leading the pack, but another dominant year in 2022 could see him breach the top five at the position.
Interestingly enough, Watt signed his record-breaking contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers on the day of the first game of last year’s regular season — September 9, 2021. The Packers have typically gotten their high-profile extensions done before or during training camp in previous years, such as they did with Kenny Clark in 2020 or with Jaire Alexander earlier this year. Nothing suggests they wouldn’t be willing to put pen to paper on contracts near the start of or during the season, though.
Don’t forget, they signed David Bakhtiari to a record-breaking extension in November 2020 in the midst of a push for a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Who Else Could Be in Line for Extensions With Packers?
The Packers have a few other players who could be negotiating with them throughout the course of the 2022 season. Free safety Darnell Savage Jr. — a first-round pick from the same 2019 class as Gary — is also due to play next season on a fifth-year option and will most likely want to get something more concrete done before then.
Another candidate is veteran strong safety Adrian Amos. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the 2023 league year begins next March, but he is still under 30 years old and has played extremely well for the Packers secondary since joining them in 2019 free agency. Pro Football Focus ranked Amos at No. 40 among their 50 best players for the 2022 season and thinks quite highly of his abilities.
“Amos is one of the most underrated players in the game and has a real argument to be seen as the league’s best safety or, at the very least, one of the best,” PFF’s Sam Monson wrote on July 22. “He has never had a bad season in the NFL, recording seven pass breakups along with three interceptions this past year. He has missed fewer than 10% of his tackle attempts in each of his past three campaigns.”
Other players who could be candidates to sign new deals over the next several months include Pro Bowl offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins, tight end Robert Tonyan Jr. and wide receiver Allen Lazard and offensive tackle Yosh Nijman.