Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff announced shortly after being eliminated from last season's playoffs by the eventual Super Bowl LII champion Eagles that quarterback Matt Ryan's contract extension was a major offseason priority. He has accomplished his objective. Ryan became the NFL's first $30 million-per-year player last week after signing a five-year, $150 million extension with an NFL record $100 million in overall guarantees.

The 2016 NFL MVP's contract raises the bar in practically all key metrics. In addition to becoming the standard bearer in average yearly salary and overall guarantees, Ryan's contract establishes new benchmarks in money fully guaranteed at signing ($94.5 million), three-year cash flow ($94.5 million) and first-three-new-years' compensation ($98.25 million). His $46.5 million signing bonus is the second most in an NFL contract, trailing only the $50 million Matthew Stafford received last August from the Lions in a five-year, $135 million extension.

The top of the quarterback market has seen remarkable growth in the last year, with deals rising by approximately 22 percent during this span. By contrast, high-end quarterback contracts increased by just under 23 percent in the first 52 months after Aaron Rodgers became the NFL's highest paid player in April 2013 with a five-year, $110 million extension.

Rodgers is expected to be the last piece of the quarterback-salary puzzle this offseason. Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has expressed optimism that a deal could get done soon.

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Rodgers has two years remaining on his contract, which is the same timetable as when he received his existing deal. He is scheduled to make $42 million through the 2019 season. Rodgers' salary is $20.9 million this year and $21.1 million next year.

It's probably just a matter of time before Rodgers replaces Ryan as the league's highest-paid player. The real questions are how much more will Rodgers get than Ryan and whether he will advance the ball in most of the important financial measures like the Falcons quarterback has. If the past is prologue, then developments in the quarterback market and Green Bay's structural conventions, particularly with Rodgers' current deal, should be fairly indicative of the two-time NFL MVP's next contract.

Average yearly salary

Average yearly salary is the most popular contract measure with the general public. This metric can be somewhat misleading because it doesn't give a complete picture of a contract. Nonetheless, the financial relationship between the NFL's highest paid and second-highest paid players by average yearly salary since the Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified in 2011 can help put into context Rodgers becoming the league's salary leader again. The chart below illustrates the difference. Players who were briefly at the top of the NFL salary hierarchy but were overtaken because of a subsequent deal shortly thereafter, as with Joe Flacco in both 2013 and 2016 and Derek Carr last, were not taken into account. 

YearHighest paidAverage salarySecond-highest paidAvg. salaryPercent difference

2011

Tom Brady/Peyton Manning

$18,000,000

Eli Manning

$16,250,000

10.77%

2012

Drew Brees

$20,000,000

Peyton Manning

$19,200,000

4.17%

2013

Aaron Rodgers

$22,000,000

Matt Ryan

$20,750,000

6.02%

2014

Aaron Rodgers

$22,000,000

Matt Ryan

$20,750,000

6.02%

2015

Aaron Rodgers

$22,000,000

Russell Wilson

$21,900,000

0.46%

2016

Andrew Luck

$24,564,000

Drew Brees

$24,125,000

1.82%

2017

Matthew Stafford

$27,000,000

Derek Carr

$25,005,000

7.98%

Total

$155,564,000

$147,980,000

5.13%

The 5.13 percent different between the highest paid and second-highest paid player over the last seven years suggests a $31.5 million average per year for Rodgers.

The Packers' preferred contract structure

An agent must know a team's structural conventions during a contract negotiation. Insisting that a team deviate from established structural preferences can hinder the negotiation process. It's usually an exercise in futility because teams are extremely reluctant to establish new contractual precedents that will be used against them in future negotiations with other players. Exceptions are most likely to be made with highly-sought-after free agents, superstars and quarterbacks.

Packers contracts typically have a vanilla structure. The only guaranteed money in Green Bay deals is a signing bonus. The bigger deals contain a third- or fifth-day-of-the-league-year roster bonus in the second and third years. The roster bonuses are supposed to be substitutes for additional contract guarantees. The overall guarantees in Green Bay contracts are usually less than comparable deals on other teams.

Per-game roster bonuses and workout bonuses are a requirement in Green Bay's most lucrative veteran contracts. Rodgers and Nick Perry have the biggest per-game roster bonuses at $600,000 annually. The per-game amount is payable only if a player is on the 46-man active roster for that particular game. For example, Rodgers' broken collarbone last season cost him $337,500 because he didn't earn nine games worth of the roster bonuses. The injury limited Rodgers to seven games in 2017. Multiple players have $500,000 workout bonuses in each year of their respective deals.

Rodgers' existing contract

Rodgers had two years left totaling $20.75 million when he signed the five-year extension in 2013. His 2013 salary was $9.75 million. It was $11 million in 2014.

Green Bay made structural concessions with Rodgers by giving him roster-bonus guarantees in his second and third contract years. His $9.5 million first-day-of-the-league-year roster bonus in 2014 was guaranteed for skill and injury at signing. The $9.5 million 2015 first-day-of-the-league-year roster bonus was guaranteed for injury at signing. It became fully guaranteed on the third of the 2014 league year. Rodgers is the only player on the Packers with a veteran contract that has guarantees after the first contract year. None of Rodgers' base salaries were guaranteed.

Rodgers' $54 million was the fourth-largest amount of guaranteed money ever received in an NFL contract when he signed his contract. Only Drew Brees ($60.5 million), Peyton Manning ($58 million) and Tony Romo ($55 million) had more. Ryan also topped Rodgers with his subsequent extension a few months later. Rodgers' $44.5 million was the most fully guaranteed at signing for a quarterback and second in the NFL. It trailed the $53.25 million Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson got in his 2012 extension, which made him NFL's highest-paid non-quarterback.

Rodgers' $35 million signing bonus was the second-biggest ever. Brees had an NFL-record $37 million signing bonus when he became the league's first $20 million-per-year player in 2012. Unlike most signing bonuses, none of Rodgers' money was deferred to the following calendar year. He made $40 million in 2013.

Rodgers had $62.5 million in the first three years of his contract, which was the best three-year cash flow in the NFL. His $68 million over the first three years was also more than everyone else's.

Slightly under 27 percent of the $130.75 million over the seven years was in a signing bonus. Out of the $110 million of new money, 27.41 percent (or $30.15 million) was received before Rodgers' first new contract year, which was 2015. Rodgers had 37.95 percent (2015), 49.4 percent (2016), 61.82 percent (2017) and 80.82 percent (2018) of the new money respectively through the new years.

Of Green Bay's existing 2013 salary cap room, $2.25 million was used on Rodgers under the new contract. Green Bay had slightly over $13.5 million of cap room after extending Rodgers' contract.

Rodgers' projected contract

Taking into consideration the dynamics that have been highlighted, below is chart breaking down the projected contract between Rodgers and the Packers.

Signing bonus: $52.5 million ($30 million with 10 days of execution; $22.5 million paid concurrently with 2018 base salary during the regular season)
Guaranteed money: $87 million
Fully guaranteed at signing: $69.75 million
New money total: $160 million ($202 million over seven years)
Contract length: Five-year extension
Average per year: $32 million

YearBase salaryPer-game roster bonusWorkout bonusFirst-day roster bonusSigning bonus prorationSalary cap numberCash flow

2018

$9,400,000

$600,000

$500,000

$10,500,000

$21,000,000

$63,000,000

2019*

$1,150,000

$600,000

$500,000

$17,250,000

$10,500,000

$30,000,000

$82,500,000

2020**

$1,250,000

$1,000,000

$500,000

$17,250,000

$10,500,000

$30,500,000

$102,500,000

2021

$19,000,000

$1,000,000

$500,000

$10,500,000

$31,000,000

$123,000,000

2022

$19,500,000

$1,000,000

$500,000

$10,500,000

$31,500,000

$144,000,000

2023

$25,500,000

$1,000,000

$500,000

$27,000,000

$171,000,000

2024

$29,500,000

$1,000,000

$500,000

$31,000,000

$202,000,000

* Roster bonus guaranteed for skill and injury; ** Roster bonus guaranteed for injury; skill & salary cap on third day of 2019 league year

Making sense of the projected contract

The idea was to stay within the same general structural framework of the last deal Rodgers' camp and the Packers negotiated. The average yearly salary is $32 million as opposed to $31.5 million to more accurately reflect the 6.02 percent difference between Rodgers' and Ryan's 2013 contracts, which had the two at the top of the NFL's pay scale.

Rodgers would set an NFL record with a $52.5 million signing bonus but doesn't with the guarantees: $87 million would tie with Colts quarterback Andrew Luck for the third-most ever in overall guarantees. Rodgers' $69.75 million fully guaranteed at signing would trail only Ryan ($94 million) and Kirk Cousins ($84 million).

The Packers would likely need to make another exception for Rodgers with base-salary guarantees in order for him to set new standards for overall guarantees and money fully guaranteed at signing. It would require Green Bay essentially making the first three years (2018 through 2020) completely secure when the deal was done.

Ryan's guarantees don't have offsets, just like his 2013 deal. Doing the same for Rodgers would mean Green Bay would be giving him something else their other players don't have in contracts.

Rodgers would be getting the first $200 million contract in league history. A $102.5 million three-year cash flow and average of $34 million per year in the first three years would become new benchmarks.

A trade off for fewer guarantees and having offsets would be superior cash flow: $63 million in the first year would be unprecedented considering practically all large signing bonuses have deferrals. For example, Ryan is making $29.5 million in 2018 because $23.5 million of his $46.5 million signing bonus isn't paid until April 15, 2019. His entire $10 million option bonus in 2019 is deferred until April 2020. Similarly, $16.5 million of Stafford's $50 million signing bonus wasn't paid until this past February. He made $34.5 million in 2017.

The percentage of money in the signing bonus and after each new contract year is consistent with Rodgers' current deal. The $35 million signing bonus was a little under 27 percent of the seven-year deal total, while $52.5 million is essentially 26 percent of $202 million.

The percentages after each of the five new years in Rodgers' actual contract and the proposed deal are in the chart below.

Contract1st New Year2nd New Year3rd New Year4th New Year5th New Year

2013

37.95%

49.4%

61.82%

80.82%

100%

Projected

37.81%

50.63%

63.75%

80.63%

100%

The signing-bonus-payment schedule mirrors Rodgers' existing contract. Slightly more than 57 percent -- $20 million -- was payable almost immediately, with the rest coming to Rodgers during the season. The payment ratios for the $52.5 million are the same as the $35 million.

The per-game roster bonuses would increase in the five new years because of Rodgers' injury history. In addition to missing nine games last year due to his injured collarbone, he was also out for seven games in 2013 with another break in his collarbone.

The deal is practically cap neutral in the first year. There's a $100,000 increase to Rodgers' actual $20.9 million 2018 cap number. Rodgers' cap numbers in the other years are pretty manageable given the size of the contract. His $30 million cap hit in 2019 should be the hardest for Green Bay to handle. It should be approximately 16 percent of the 2019 salary cap. Rodgers' cap numbers don't vary much in second through fifth years (2019 to 2022). Assuming the cap continues to go up roughly seven percent annually as in recent years, Rodgers will be taking up a decreasing percentage of Green Bay's salary cap in these remaining years as the deal progresses until the bonus proration ends, which is after the 2022 season. The lack of proration in 2023 produces the second-smallest cap number of the deal. The $31 million cap number in the final year is the same as the fourth year in 2021 but should be significantly less, percentage-wise, of the overall salary cap.