Last offseason, the Packers gave quarterback Aaron Rodgers a huge new contract, making him the highest-paid player in NFL history. The latest revelations about Rodgers’ relationship with the higher-ups in Green Bay raise a simple question: Why?
Why did the Packers give Rodgers an enormous new contract, when they still had him under contract for two more very affordable seasons? If Rodgers were still playing under his old contract, he’d be heading into the final season of that deal, and he would be highly motivated to have his best season ever before hitting free agency.
Instead, Rodgers pocketed a whopping $67 million last year. He has enough “screw you” money that he doesn’t have to be particularly accommodating to his team.
And the revelations from the new report by Tyler Dunne of BleacherReport.com indicate that Rodgers hasn’t always been accommodating in Green Bay. Rodgers apparently held a grudge going all the way back to former coach Mike McCarthy being part of the 49ers’ decision making in the 2005 NFL draft, when the 49ers chose Alex Smith first overall and Rodgers fell to Green Bay with the 24th overall pick. And Packers CEO Mark Murphy reportedly had to order Rodgers not to be the problem after Matt LaFleur was hired as McCarthy’s replacement.
“Don’t be the problem” ought to go without saying for a franchise quarterback. It’s doubtful that Robert Kraft ever had to tell Tom Brady not to be the problem in New England, or that Jim Irsay ever had to tell Peyton Manning not to be the problem in Indianapolis. The mere fact that Murphy felt the need to say those words speaks volumes.
So why did Murphy sign a quarterback who needed to be told not to be a problem to the biggest contract in NFL history? If the Packers hadn’t signed Rodgers to that extension, they’d have a great deal of leverage with him right now: They could tell him, If you’re the problem this season, you won’t be here next season, but if you get back to your MVP form, we’ll reward you with a lucrative contract extension.
As it is, the Packers have given Rodgers so much money that they couldn’t move on from him now if they wanted to: Rodgers’ huge signing bonus means he would have about a $45 million dead cap hit if he were traded. It’s simply not feasible.
The Packers would be in much better shape right now if Rodgers were going into the last year of his contract, motivated to prove any doubters wrong.