Mega contracts like the one signed by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers are so often restrictive agreements that handcuff an organization and require nothing short of a salary-cap genius to work around.
But Rodgers' new deal doesn't fit that traditional mold, and it's clear that both sides achieved their intended goal when the Packers quarterback signed his five-year extension last Friday.
On Monday, details of Rodgers' historic deal began trickling out.
According to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Rodgers can make up to $110 million in money over the five new years and $130.75 million if he plays out the entire seven-year deal. The extension also contains $54 million in guaranteed money, including a $35 million signing bonus.
However, when counting the guaranteed money left in his remaining two years, Rodgers will actually make a total of $62.5 million in total guaranteed money over the life of his contract.
To be fair, this is not a suggestion that Rodgers' deal isn't massive. It's actually historic. The extension averages a record $22 million, and Rodgers will make more money in the first three years ($65.2 million) than any player ever. He also tied Drew Brees for take-home money in the first year at $40 million.
While Rodgers has to be happy about the hoards of money up front and his new status as the game's highest-paid player in history, the Packers have to feel equally elated that his deal didn't devastate the franchise's well-being over the length of the deal.
At no point over the next seven years will Rodgers count more than $21.1 million on the salary cap, which is an accomplish in itself. All of the other mega quarterback deals have at least one or two years in which their cap numbers rise above $25 million.
According to Spotrac, Flacco will count $28.6 million against the Ravens' cap in 2015 and $31.2 in 2016. Romo is scheduled for a $25.3 million cap hit in 2015. And Brees will count for $26.4 million in 2015 and $27.4 million in 2016.
Here's the full breakdown of cap hits over the life of Rodgers' deal:
2013: $12 million
2014: $17.9 million
2015: $18.6 million
2016: $19.6 million
2017: $20.7 million
2018: $20.9 million
2019: $21.1 million
The Packers can certainly work around those numbers, especially in early years and even in later seasons. Considering Rodgers won't cost any real money to release in 2018 or 2019, there may even be incentive in those years to restructure.
General manager Ted Thompson will appreciate the cap flexibility afforded in early years.
Rodgers will count just $12 million against the 2013 cap, which is a raise of just $2.25 million over his original cap number of $9.75. The Packers are now roughly $13 million under the cap for next season, with draft picks eventually taking up somewhere near $5 million.
If Thompson so chooses, he can use that cap room to negotiate new extensions for defensive lineman B.J. Raji or cornerback Sam Shields, or carry that space over to next season, when receiver James Jones is also scheduled to be a free agent. The Packers carried over almost $7 million from 2012 to their 2013 cap.
Packers CEO and president Mark Murphy reiterated that this deal is a win for both sides.
Per Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee:
I think we structured it in a way where we’ll continue to be in a position where we can compete on the field. But every team faces it. It’s a challenge. But he’s been such a great player and represents the Packers so well. I think everybody in the organization is really happy for him but happy for the organization, too, because it’s good for both sides.
A challenge? Yes. But it's a challenge that could have been much more arduous.
Instead, the Packers structured a deal that pays Rodgers a record amount of money early but doesn't handcuff the franchise. In fact, Thompson has more options now than he did while the looming impact of the deal hovered over the front office.
Also, the Packers make enough in profit each season ($42.7 million in 2012, $17.1 million in '11, per Bloomberg.com) to handle the guaranteed money without much worry.
Now, Green Bay doesn't have to worry about having a franchise quarterback for the next seven years, or seeing the money needed to make that happen cripple the club in the short- or long-term.
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