With reports stating that the Green Bay Packers and star quarterback Aaron Rodgers are close to an extension that would make Rodgers the highest-paid player in NFL history, and many in league circles speculating that he’ll make $25 million per season, fans and media alike are wondering aloud if he’s worth all that money.
In order to determine if Rodgers deserves to be the highest-paid player in the league, let’s examine the current top earners and compare them to the maestro of the Packers' high-powered aerial attack.
Right now, the top-three earners based on average salary are Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, he of the brand-spanking-new contract ($20.1 million), New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees ($20 million) and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning ($19.2 million).
Rodgers, 29, took over as Packers starting quarterback in 2008, giving him five full seasons as “The Man” in Green Bay.
His win-loss record in the regular season is a sparkling 52-26. He’s 5-3 in the postseason, and was the MVP of Super Bowl XLV, leading the Packers to their fourth Super Bowl championship, a 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Since 2008, Rodgers has thrown 170 touchdown passes against only 45 interceptions, a staggering ratio that is the best in football.
Let’s compare those numbers with Flacco, Brees and Manning.
Flacco is coming off one of the great postseason runs in the history of the league, and I believe he earned every cent of his big-money deal. With that being said, you simply cannot compare Flacco’s numbers to Rodgers’.
While their win-loss records are similar (Flacco is 54-26 in the regular season, 9-4 in postseason), Rodgers blows him away in every statistical category. He’s thrown 68 more touchdown passes than Flacco with 11 fewer interceptions in the same amount of time as a starter.
You could certainly point to Flacco’s win-loss record in the postseason as a reason why he might deserve to make more than Rodgers, but further analysis determines otherwise.
When Rodgers first became the starter, the team around him wasn’t great. Green Bay went 6-10 in 2008, while Flacco’s Ravens have never missed the postseason. If you were to switch the two, it’s safe to say that Rodgers would likely have won just as many playoff games as Flacco, if not more.
Also, in 2010, Rodgers had one of the great playoff performances in NFL history, slicing and dicing the Arizona Cardinals to the tune of 423 yards, four touchdowns and 45 points. It was the Packers' defense that let the team down, allowing 51 points in an overtime classic.
If the defense had played halfway decent in that game, Green Bay would have gotten a crack at eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans, and while it’s impossible to say whether the Packers could have won that game, you’d certainly give them a chance.
Brees would go on to win Super Bowl MVP that season for the Saints, and he’s currently one of the players paid more than Rodgers.
While Brees’ statistical output is gaudier than Rodgers', it’s important to note that Rodgers is five years younger and, since he became the starter in 2008, has thrown nearly 40 fewer interceptions than Brees .
As for Manning? There’s no questioning his Hall of Fame credentials. But, he recently turned 37, and since 2008, Rodgers has been flat-out better.
Rodgers has thrown more touchdowns than Manning, not as many interceptions and has performed better in the postseason, as Manning is just 2-5 in the tournament since 2008 with zero Super Bowl victories.
Rodgers also has the highest quarterback rating of any signal-caller since 2008, with Tom Brady coming in a close second.
When you consider all these facts, the Packers' decision is a no-brainer: Pay the man.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy agrees, recently having called Rodgers the “face of the franchise.” McCarthy knows that as long as Rodgers is under center, the Packers will be in the Super Bowl hunt every season. In today’s NFL, that’s the most valuable commodity.
Just look at the quarterbacking landscape across the league. The Bills signed Kevin Kolb to compete for their starting job. The Chiefs traded for Alex Smith. The Cardinals traded for Carson Palmer. The Raiders traded for Matt Flynn. The Vikings signed Matt Cassel, who could push Christian Ponder for playing time. The Browns signed Jason Campbell to push Brandon Weeden.
The Jaguars, armed with the draft’s second overall pick, have legitimate interest in West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. The Jets signed David Garrard, and have seemingly worked out every unemployed quarterback with a pulse and functional throwing arm.
Imagine being in the front office of one of those squads. Yikes.
Rodgers is significantly better than all of those players. Heck, Tony Romo is better than all of them, and that’s why Romo received his big-money deal. Does Romo deserve that kind of jack? Astoundingly, he does, and you realize that when you look at some of the players being trotted out at quarterback around the league.
Rodgers is the best quarterback in football, and that makes him the most important player in football. He deserves to be the highest-paid player in league history.
And soon, he will be.