The long-awaited Aaron Rodgers contract that puts him back at the top of the NFL salary hierarchy is finally complete. Rodgers had two years remaining on his contract where he was scheduled to make $41.5 million through the 2019 season. He was to make $20.4 million this year, which doesn't include the $500,000 workout bonus that was paid prior to the start of training camp, and $21.1 million next year.
Let's take a look at Rodgers' new contract:
Signing bonus: $57.5 million ($13 million with 10 days of execution; $37 million paid concurrently with 2018 base salary during the regular season; $7.5 million on Dec. 26)
Guaranteed money: $98.2 million
Fully guaranteed at signing: $78.7 million
New money total: $134 million ($175.5 million over 7 years)
Maximum value (with performance bonuses): $138 million ($179.5 million over 7 years)
Contract length: 4-year extension
Average per year: $33.5 million
|Year||Base salary||Workout bonus||3rd-day roster bonus||Signing bonus proration||Salary cap number||Cash flow|
*Roster bonus 5 days after signing; guaranteed for skill & injury; salary cap guarantee
**Roster bonus guaranteed for skill and injury, salary cap on 5th day of 2019 waiver period
Note: The $500,000 2018 workout bonus already earned is part of Rodgers' 2018 salary-cap number but isn't reflected in cash flow.
2020 base-salary escalators ($1 million maximum)
A. $100,000 with at least 72.5 percent offensive playtime during the 2019 regular season, and the Packers must make the playoffs. An additional $120,000 with the same regular-season playtime qualifier and 72.5 percent or more playtime in the divisional playoffs. Another $130,000 at those playtime thresholds for the NFC Championship Game. An extra $150,000 for making the Super Bowl with the same playtime standards as before.
B. $100,000 each for finishing top three in the NFL in (1) passer rating, (2) completion percentage, (3) interception percentage, (4) yards per pass and (5) touchdown passes in 2019 with a minimum of 224 pass attempts and 72.5 percent of more Green Bay's offensive snaps that season.
2021-2023 incentives ($1 million per year; $3 million total)
These incentives have the exact same thresholds and dollar amounts as the 2020 base-salary escalators.
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1. Rodgers' $33.5 million per year is 11.67 percent over the $30 million-per-year contract extension Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan signed in early May. This is the biggest increase over the previous benchmark under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which was ratified in 2011. Percentage-wise, it's slightly better than Andrew Luck (Colts) overtaking Joe Flacco (Ravens) in 2016 as the NFL's highest-paid player. Luck got an 11.12 percent increase.
2. The top-of-the-quarterback market has skyrocketed over the last 12 months. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford's $27 million-per-year-contract was the NFL's highest at the roster cutdown last year. The market has gone up 24.1 percent, while the growth in the salary cap from last year is 6.11 percent.
3. Rodgers' $57.5 million signing bonus is the biggest ever. Stafford was the previous record holder at $50 million. It's unheard of for such a large amount to be paid in the calendar year of signing. Most big signing bonuses have deferrals. Of Stafford's $50 million, $16.5 million wasn't paid until this past February. Ryan won't get $23.5 million of his $46.5 million signing bonus until next April. Rodgers is making a whopping $66.9 million, which includes the $500,000 workout bonus that was already paid, in 2018. It's nearly twice as much as the 2017's highest-paid player, Stafford, who made $34.5 million.
4. Rodgers' didn't set new standards in guarantees. His $98.2 million of overall guarantees is just shy of Ryan's $100 million. None of Rodgers' 2018 through 2020 base salaries are guaranteed. They could be construed as practically guaranteed although not technically guaranteed because it doesn't start becoming economically feasible to cut Rodgers until 2021. Base salaries in Rodgers' 2013 extension weren't guaranteed either. His $78.7 million fully guaranteed at signing trails Ryan's $94.5 million and Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins' $84 million.
5. Rodgers' $102.5 million three-year cash flow is a new benchmark. Ryan is now second at $94.5 million. The vastly superior cash flow during the first three years seems like a fair trade off for fewer guarantees.
6. Rodgers was able to avoid the per-game roster bonuses that are a requirement in Green Bay's most lucrative veteran contracts. His previous contract had Green Bay's biggest per-game roster bonuses at $600,000 annually. The per-game amount is only payable if a player is on the 46-man active roster for that particular game. Rodgers' broken collarbone last season cost him $337,500 because he didn't earn nine games worth of the roster bonuses. The collarbone injury limited Rodgers to seven games.
7. The deal is practically cap neutral in the first year. Rodgers' 2018 cap number increases by $337,500 to $20.9 million. His $26.5 million 2019 cap number is tied for seventh-highest in the NFL. Rodgers has a league-leading $32.6 million cap number in 2020. He drops a spot to second behind Ryan in 2021 with a $33.5 million cap hit. He's on top again in 2022 at $37 million.
Who's next in line? Russell Wilson
It took nearly three years for the $22 million-per-year extension Rodgers signed in 2013 to be eclipsed by Joe Flacco. The same thing shouldn't happen with Rodgers' new deal. His reign as the NFL's highest-paid player could come to an end before training camps open next July if the Seahawks have the same timetable to extend Wilson's contract as with his rookie deal.
Wilson will have significantly more leverage next offseason during his contract year than in 2015, when he was entering the final year of his rookie deal. At the time, Wilson had made just under $2.2 million from his playing contract. This dynamic was going to make it extremely difficult for Wilson to reject an offer with a fairly player-friendly structure putting him near the top of the NFL pay scale. The Seahawks made him the league's second-highest paid player at $21.9 million per year, although he hadn't demonstrated that he could carry the offense for extended periods of time, which isn't an issue anymore.
Wilson will have made just over an additional $72 million on the field since that time when this season ends. This financial security will allow Wilson to play hardball in any negotiations for an extension.
The Seahawks also didn't do themselves any favors by restructuring Wilson's contract for cap purposes last year. Wilson's 2019 cap number increased by almost $2.1 million to $25,286,766. At a minimum, it will be $30,344,119 to put a non-exclusive franchise tag on Wilson in 2020 under the 20-percent increase over the prior year's salary (typically cap number) provisions for this designation.
An exclusive franchise tag would seem more likely since it would prohibit Wilson from soliciting an offer sheet from other NFL teams. The calculation is different from the non-exclusive version. An exclusive designation for Wilson would be the average of the top five 2020 quarterback salaries when the restricted free agent signing period ended, which would be about a week before the 2020 NFL Draft. This number currently projects to $30.86 million. A second franchise tag in 2021 at a 20-percent increase over Wilson's 2020 franchise number would be $37.032 million A third franchise tag in 2022 with a 44-percent increase over the 2021 figure would be too cost prohibitive. It would be slightly over $53.25 million.
Wilson embracing the franchise tag, like Cousins did, could be appealing because of the high salaries. He would stand to make almost $68 million over the two years before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2022, when he is 33, a year younger than Rodgers is now. Since good, healthy quarterbacks who should still have several highly-productive years still ahead of them almost never hit the open market, Wilson could be a position for a mind-boggling contract by going this route.
Seattle is probably going to need to offer Wilson an extension establishing new benchmarks in practically all major contract metrics to get him to forego playing the franchise-tag game. It may not be a matter of whether Wilson becomes the NFL's first $35 million-per-year player but how far he gets above this mark, where there are upwards to $125 million in overall guarantees, if not fully guaranteed at signing.
Carson Wentz could also raise the bar
Wentz could be also in line for a new deal next offseason. Eagles executive vice-president of football operations Howie Roseman has continued former longtime team president Joe Banner's practice of signing key young players to extensions well before they could hit the open market. He signed 2013 fourth-overall pick Lane Johnson at the earliest possible instance. Johnson received a five-year, $56.25 million extension (worth up to $60 million through salary escalators) to dramatically reset the right-tackle market before the 2015 season's playoffs were over. The expectation was he would eventually switch to left tackle but it hasn't occurred yet.
Wentz regaining the form that made him the leading candidate for league MVP before tearing multiple ligaments in his left knee late last season could put him in position to move past Rodgers. The 2016 second-overall pick might be better off waiting to see whether Wilson gets done at some point before the 2019 season starts because his new deal would likely raise the financial bar for quarterbacks.