Friday, October 31, 2008

Rodgers Signs Extension: Trick or Treat?

It's been rumored for weeks, but today, on Halloween, the Packers announced a six-year contract extension with Aaron Rodgers, a rumored $65 million dollar deal with $20 million up front.

Trick or Treat?

Treat: This is completely in line with Ted Thompson's philosophy. He has changed the culture of this entire team by changing the paradigm we had under former GM Mike Sherman. Sherman, usually against the cap, waited until the last minute to extend players and had a culture of players wanting to get paid (Walker, McKenzie). Thompson has created an environment where players know if they are a valued member of the team, they will get paid ahead of their contract expiring.

Bypassing a free agent veteran quarterback this offseason (or any free agent, for that matter) allows for the $20 million in cap space remaining this year to be used to reward a player we would like to keep.

Trick: Thompson has given us reason to question some early extensions: Bubba Franks certainly comes to mind, and the big contract given to Brady Poppinga after signing Brandon Chillar made us wonder if he had run out of people to sign and was looking to burn some cap space.

The timing of Rodgers' extension wasn't unexpected, or perhaps even undeserved, but there is room to question the timing, and whether paying a guy $65 million based on seven starts is a bit of a risk. We all know that Thompson will spend his entire cap by the end of the season, but this does make us question whether it is the best use of it.

Treat: Rodgers is nothing like Ryan Grant, who held out while still under contract after struggling for the first part of the year, then trying to capitalize on nine solid games to finish the season. We could have rewarded Samkon Gado much the same way. Rodgers has been in the system for three years on the bench, losing his cockiness and gaining a lot of experience in how to run an NFL team.

Certainly, his play so far this season has given the team faith that their investment is worth an even bigger investment. Certainly, if allowed to test the free agent market, he'd command some big money if he continued to play as he has.

Trick: While his play has been solid and efficient, there are still those who have some doubts in him. He is merely 4-3 as a starter, though the case is easily made it is the team around him that is far more accountable for the struggles. He has fought valiently to shake the "injury-prone" label, playing through a painful shoulder injury, yet we have still to see him make it through one full season without injury.

I've classified his style as being one that takes what the defense gives him, but when the defenses have disrupted and not given him much, his performance has been stymied. Even the last game against the Colts saw an Aaron Rodgers that made few plays on his own, not needing to force anything.

While the terms are yet to be released, is Rodgers truly deserving of one of the highest quarterback salaries in the league at this point?

Treat: The signing sends a signal to much of the rest of the league. It communicates that Ted Thompson made a wise decision to go with Rodgers this summer. It communicates that Mike McCarthy's reputation as a quarterback guru is indeed intact. It communicates that Aaron Rodgers, after learning on the sideline for three years, is indeed coming of age.

It also communicates to other coaches and young quarterbacks that good things come to those who wait. Alex Smith, the #1 pick in the 2005 draft, now sits on a bench in San Francisco and will likely be released after the season, looking to become the next journeyman Tim Couch or David Carr. How much do you think Smith wishes he had been drafted by a team with a strong veteran ahead of him that would have forced him to ride the pine instead of being thrown into the fray right away?

Trick: The signing has the potential to create some issues in the locker room. In the past, a struggling Packer team saw the early reward system offered by Thompson as a building process, something to look forward to if you did good. Indeed, the paradigm shift from the Sherman ways to the Thompson ways is, in my opinion, the biggest positive change Thompson has brought to this team.

But, coming off a 13-3 record and the expectations that have been on this team this year, this may soon change. I always sympathize with the team that loses the Super Bowl, because it always seems like the trade-off for not getting a ring is a lot of players choosing to cash in their payday.

Paying Rodgers top-flight money for seven games has to have Greg Jennings licking his chops, since he's now put in a season and a half of Pro Bowl-level production. Nick Collins has to love how he's gone from potentially benched this pre-season to his recent success as a playmaker, and what he can get as a result.

Will this cause the payday line that many of us feared early extensions might bring about? Is rewarding a player for seven solid games going to have other players wondering what several seasons of solid play should bring them?

For now, congratulations to Aaron Rodgers, who waited patiently and is being rewarded for his solid play. For the Packers, we'll see if the extension is a trick or treat in the long run.


Anonymous said...

Ryan Grant did not hold out under contract. He was signed year to year and the Packers offered him a tender for a 2nd year guy $370K. He refused to sign and held out for a better deal. In order to really make out on the Deal he will have to perform and rack up the incentive clauses. If he performs no one on the team will care how much he makes. If he doesn't then he got a bonus for last years play and not much more.

C.D. Angeli said...

Thanks for the correction...I forgot he was under tender instead of contract.

However, I think the point still stands that he capitalized on nine games of success, unlike Aaron Rodgers who has proven himself in camp for over three seasons.

Grant counts for over $4 million against this year's cap. Yes, he does have a lot of incentives to meet over the course of his contract, but regardless, he got a pretty sweet deal for nine games and not having to prove himself with a different quarterback.