INDIANAPOLIS — The way one NFL team executive sees it, Aaron Rodgers can name his price when it comes to his next contract. Especially with the kind of money the San Francisco 49ers just gave Jimmy Garoppolo and what some team will surely pay Kirk Cousins.
“The quarterbacks who are more established and much better than a Garoppolo, much better than some of these guys, they could literally say, ‘Redo it right now,’” Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Tuesday at the NFL scouting combine.
There’s no doubt Rodgers’ next contract will set a new bar, just like his five-year, $110 million extension did when he signed it in 2013. Rodgers’ $22 million average per season made him the NFL’s highest-paid player, let alone the richest quarterback. Now, he ranks sixth and still has two more seasons left on that deal.
No wonder the Green Bay Packers have already opened the lines of communication with Rodgers and his agent about a new contract, team president Mark Murphy told ESPN.com at the combine.
Rodgers’ current deal — negotiated by Russ Ball, the team’s executive vice president/director of football operations, and signed off on by then-general manager Ted Thompson — has remained salary cap friendly throughout. The figures ranged from $12 million the first year to $21.1 million in the final season (2019), and won’t hit the $20 million mark until this coming season, when it’s $20,562,500.
Garoppolo’s five-year, $137.5 million deal took advantage of the 49ers’ salary-cap situation — they had more than $100 million in space under the projected cap. It contained a $28.8 million roster bonus, all of which will count on the 2018 cap. After a $37 million cap change this season, the figures range between $20 million and $27 million.
“It’s whatever your team is comfortable with,” said John Elway, the Denver Broncos‘ president of football operations and general manager. “It’s whatever fits into your team. It’s got to fit into the puzzle.”
For Rodgers, it might be about the cash, especially guaranteed money. But for the Packers, it will be about the structure and the cap to ensure new GM Brian Gutekunst has the ability to rebuild the roster how he sees fit.
“We want to create a win-win [situation],” Murphy said of Rodgers’ next contract.
The Packers have remained in good salary-cap shape despite having to pay a top-tier quarterback, and Murphy said their cap should be able to absorb another blockbuster deal for Rodgers without having to cut corners at other positions.
“Oh yeah,” he said, “although obviously there’s only so much money.”
The Packers carried over $3,934,518 in cap space from last season, according to the NFL Players Association. It puts the Packers at $15.9 million under the projected 2018 cap, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
“At some point the quarterbacks, it’s like with [Tom] Brady — you have to decide how much of the cap you want to take,” Jones said. “These quarterbacks want to win football games, too, at some point. I know [Tony] Romo was that way. I don’t know Aaron, but I’m sure these other quarterbacks are that way, if they feel like they take up too much room. … You want to have a good football team around you.”
As long as the cap grows each season, there’s not likely to be a ceiling for quarterback contracts.
“That’s how our business works,” Jones said. “The bigger surprise probably for everybody has just been the guys who haven’t really done a lot that are getting paid these types of numbers, and of course that’s risky business. But obviously these teams make decisions that they feel is in their best interests.
“Your quarterback is your partner. At some point when we sat down with Tony we told him, ‘You just need to decide how much of this you want, what you think is fair.’ The rest of it, they know us, we’re going to spend it on teammates. So I think that’s probably what every team with a top quarterback faces. It’s up to them. It’s, ‘How much of this do you want?’”