The Green Bay Packers have locked up receiver Jordy Nelson, one of the game's most underrated players, with a contract extension that rewards Nelson for a fantastic three-year stretch but also safeguards the team in terms of guaranteed money.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Packers and Nelson agreed to a four-year extension worth $39 million, with $14.2 million guaranteed and an $11.5 million signing bonus. Nelson's deal, which was announced on the first day of Packers training camp, averages $9.76 million in new money and ties him to Green Bay through 2018.
ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky reported Friday on Nelson's desire for an extension worth at least $10 million per season. He didn't hit his mark, but the new money included on his four-year extension ranks Nelson as the eighth-highest-paid receiver, one spot ahead of the Houston Texans' Andre Johnson ($9.6 million) and just below the Chicago Bears' Brandon Marshall ($10 million).
Nelson, also 29, was scheduled to enter the final year of a three-year, $12.6 million deal he signed back in 2011.
He earned his payday.
|Jordy Nelson: NFL Ranks Since 2011|
|Yards per Catch||16.5||5th|
|Receptions over 25 Yards||41||3rd|
|Yards per Game||75.5||12th|
|*Played 44 of 48 possible games|
Since 2011, Nelson ranks 13th in the NFL in receiving yards (3,322), sixth in receiving touchdowns (30), fifth in yards per reception (16.4) and third in receptions over 25 yards (41). Over the last three seasons, no receiver has provided a high passer rating when targeted than Nelson's 135.0. He also set new career highs with 85 receptions and 1,314 yards in 2013 despite the Packers shuffling through three different backup quarterbacks after Aaron Rodgers' collarbone injury.
“Jordy Nelson is an outstanding football player and ambassador for the Green Bay Packers," head coach Mike McCarthy said, via the team's website. "I’m glad to see Jordy will be here for some time. I was just made aware of it on the field. He’s the ultimate pro."
The Packers will now keep Nelson locked into a receiving corps that has lost Donald Driver, Jennings and James Jones in recent seasons. While Jennings and Jones were allowed to walk after expiring contracts, the Packers deemed Nelson too valuable and ensured he wouldn't play the 2014 season on the final year of a deal.
A legitimate No. 1 receiver, Nelson creates big plays, stays on the field (just seven missed games in six seasons) and dominates near the boundaries. Versatile, he's proved his worth as a perimeter receiver, in the slot and as a deep threat. He has also earned the unquestioned trust of Rodgers, an MVP quarterback who has developed an uncanny chemistry with Green Bay's second-round draft pick in 2008.
Nelson, who averaged just $4.2 million on his last deal, must feel good about the Packers taking care of him in the form of almost $10 million per season in new money.
But general manager Ted Thompson and vice president of player finances Russ Ball must also like the fact that Nelson's new deal only includes $14.2 million in guaranteed money. A total of 17 receivers have deals featuring more in guarantees, including two rookies. Sammy Watkins of the Buffalo Bills received $19.9 million in guarantees, while Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got $14.6 million. Jennings ranks 10th at $17.8 million.
Andrew Brandt, a former Packers executive, has some insight on why Nelson's guarantees might seem low:
Nelson can also feel comfortable with his chances of playing out the contract and seeing most (if not all) of the $39 million. At 29, he is still in his prime, and it would likely take a significant injury for him to fall off considerably in terms of production. Rodgers, 30, is signed in Green Bay through 2019, and as long as he's taking snaps for the Packers, receivers in Green Bay will be utilized assets.
Getting Nelson done now also frees Thompson and Ball to begin work on a new deal for Randall Cobb, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Cobb's case is a little trickier; he's been a featured player for the Packers for only two years, and he missed 10 games last season with a significant leg injury.
The Packers might be gun-shy on giving away another big deal, especially after paying Nelson almost $10 million per year in new money. And Cobb may wait on an extension and gamble on himself, hoping to maximize his value with a productive 2014 season.
Either way, the Packers can now concentrate their efforts on Cobb's future and forget about worrying whether Nelson will hit the open market next spring. He won't, and Green Bay will now feel confident in having one of the game's best receivers for the next five seasons.
Zach Kruse covers the NFC North for Bleacher Report.