To Tyrann Mathieu, the Green Bay Packers have an easy decision to make with All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander.
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst was asked Monday whether the team intends to exercise Alexander’s fifth-year option and told reporters he would “certainly expect (them) to do so” before the May 3 deadline for 2018 first-round picks. Alexander was the No. 18 overall pick in 2018 as well as the player Gutekunst traded up to acquire with his first-ever draft selection as Green Bay’s GM.
The decision to pick up Alexander’s option wouldn’t be much of a shock considering the 24-year-old was one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks in 2020 and earned All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. It would also ask a bigger question: Will the Packers sign Alexander to a long-term contract extension prior to his fifth season or wait and see how things develop in 2022 before making a decision?
Mathieu, who is a big-time NFL earner in his own right as the Kansas City Chiefs’ starting safety, made clear where he stands on the debate.
This is in response to a tweet about the Packers planning to exercise Jaire Alexander’s fifth-year option. I wonder if Gutekunst will take Honey Badger’s advice. https://t.co/pSii1KS7YE
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) April 27, 2021
The latest Packers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Packers newsletter here!
Alexander Has Strong Case for Long-Term Deal
Mathieu’s unsolicited support for Alexander is no surprise between a pair of All-Pro defenders, but his first three seasons with the Packers can essentially speak for themselves. He was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded cornerback (90.5) during the 2020 season, getting targetted 69 times in coverage but allowing just 35 completions for 337 yards and two touchdowns. He also picked off two of Tom Brady’s passes in the NFC Championship Game back in January.
The Packers have questions to answer about their cornerback position, but not when it comes to Alexander. Even if they invest another early-round pick into a cornerback in this week’s draft, there is little question their secondary would be best served with Alexander among its ranks for years to come. He is a star player on the field and a team leader in the locker room — and even took on the title of alternate NFLPA rep behind Mason Crosby back in November.
Gutekunst has also proved in 2021 he is more willing than Ted Thompson to reward former draft picks who have earned new deals. While he went on a 2019 spending spree to bring Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos and Billy Turner to Green Bay and allowed Blake Martinez, Bryan Bulaga and Corey Linsley to leave in free agency, he has also worked out ways to extend or re-sign Mason Crosby, David Bakhtiari, Aaron Jones, Kenny Clark and Kevin King over the last 14 months.
How Much Could Alexander’s Future Cost Packers?
According to Over the Cap, the cost of the Packers picking up Alexander’s fifth-year option for the 2022 season will be $13.294 million in guaranteed money, which is nothing to shrug at but, frankly, a bargain compared with the league’s other top talented at the position. Alexander wouldn’t even crack the current top 10 in terms of highest-paid cornerbacks with Jalen Ramsey ($20 million average annual value) leading the way. Eight other cornerbacks average at least $14 million per season.
In other words, the Packers will have an even larger price tag to consider when looking at Alexander’s future beyond 2022, and that figure may only continue to swell if he repeats last year’s success in the upcoming season. The good news is there are plenty of pathways and motivations for them to make such a high cap cost work for them, but money spent on one player means less for others.