Aaron Rodgers' Record Contract Confirms the NFL's Future Is All About Offense

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterAugust 29, 2018

FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2018, file photo, Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers gestures during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers just need to keep Rodgers upright and healthy for a full season again. A glimpse at what life is like without Rodgers showed just how precious these windows of opportunity can be with a two-time NFL MVP at quarterback.(AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps, File)
Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

If quarterbacks have seemed powerful in the NFL in the past, that was nothing compared to now, when they are the league's gods.       

Johnny Unitas made $100,000 a year in the 1960s. That was considered huge money. Today, quarterbacks pay that to get their golf carts detailed.

About 45 years after Unitas played his last game, on a normal Wednesday in August, Aaron Rodgers showed just how far the power of quarterbacks has come, and how much it's still growing.

Rodgers' four-year extension, according to a source with knowledge of the deal, is worth $134 million. He will get approximately $80 million by March. The deal includes over $100 million in guaranteed money.

This is gobsmacking.

Let's be clear: Rodgers deserves this. He and Tom Brady are the best in football right now. I'd argue that Rodgers is the most talented quarterback the game has ever seen. 

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 13:  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers rolls out to throw a hail mary pass against the Tennessee Titans at the end of the first half at Nissan Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by F
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

This is his moment. It's his time. It's money he's earned and should get.

The deal is also a signal of things to come. Rodgers will be the highest-paid player in the sport under this deal, but as extraordinary as it is, it might not last as the largest more than a few years. Or even six months.

The deals will get bigger because this is what the NFL wants. It wants offense. Then more offense. Then more after that.

Defenses will get less and less attention, viewed by many as props, like zombies in the background of a Walking Dead episode. Or something we someday will tell our kids about.

"Daddy, what's a linebacker?"

"Well dear, it was once a player who made tackles near the line of scrimmage."

"Daddy, what's a tackle?"

Need more evidence than the Rodgers contract of the shift toward offense at all costs

He wasn't even the only quarterback making transactional news Wednesday. The Saints agreed to send a third-round pick to the Jets for Teddy Bridgewater—even though they still have a top quarterback in Drew Brees. They were willing to pay because offense conquers all, because Brees can't play forever and because they know they'll only be a contender as long as they have a QB who understands the nuances of defenses to pair with coach Sean Payton, the best offensive mind in the sport.

"Great makeup, winner and the football skill set," Payton told B/R of Bridgewater. "Bill Parcells is very close to him, and I know how much [Mike Zimmer] loved him." 

Nick Wass/Associated Press

Payton, who also noted that he was impressed with how Bridgewater came back from his devastating leg injury ("Much like Drew, it was a matter of his recovery") doesn't reference a Hall of Fame coach in Parcells and a top current head coach, the Vikings Mike Zimmer, by accident. He knows what the Packers know: A quarterback with coach-level understanding of NFL defenses is crucial in the modern game.

The league is overflowing with outstanding offenses by design. The sport is engineering itself that way. The NFL is a carnival now. Right...next...to...the...dog-faced...boy.

NFL quarterbacks are the heavyweight fighters of their time. Mike Tyson was like an orchestra we had to witness with our own eyes. Rodgers, Brady and Cam Newton, too, are must-see events.

The NFL is trying to permanently put its offenses on the same entertainment plane as LeBron James. It is making football more about a show than actual football.

This has been a goal of the NFL for the past few years, but now we are really seeing it gain momentum. 

Sure, we'll always see defensive players like Aaron Donald or Von Miller make big money, coaches will always talk about "defense first," and there will always be an occasional defensive game that thrills us.

But the focus of the game now is all offense, all the time, and it will only become more so.

This week, we saw Rodgers get the moon, because this league wants quarterbacks to be the stars.

The NFL has been headed here, to this place, where offenses and the quarterbacks who lead them are everything. Soon, real soon, they will be practically the only thing.

             

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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