GREEN BAY – The Tweet was certainly plausible, given the topic (a contract extension for Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers), the “reporter” (former Packers star safety LeRoy Butler, who remains friendly with several guys at 1265 Lombardi Avenue) and the numbers (five years, $96 million, an average of $19.2 million per year, the exact per-year average of Peyton Manning’s new deal with the Denver Broncos).
Aaron Rodgers extention almost done, 5 years 96$ million. He is way under paid,? thoughts?— leroy butler (@leap36) June 16, 2012
But while it turns out, according to an NFL source who would know, that no talks have even begun on an extension for the NFL’s reigning MVP, the timing of Butler’s “report” – citing no sources, but rather stating everything as fact – does beg the question: When will the Packers sign Rodgers to an extension?
Asked if there was anything to Butler’s report, the source replied: “100% false. There have been zero negotiations. Nothing.”
That news isn’t exactly surprising. The six-year, $65 million extension Rodgers signed in 2008, which included $20 million in guaranteed money after he’d made only seven starts, runs through 2014, and the Packers do have other core players whose contracts expire first, including two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Greg Jennings, who’ll be a free agent after the 2012 season.
Now, that doesn't mean the Packers and Rodgers' agent, David Dunn, won't strike a deal in the coming months, or that the team hasn't started budgeting for a new deal. But where Butler’s numbers came from – and what prompted his Tweet – is unclear.
The New Orleans Saints, awash in negative publicity in the wake of their bounty scandal, have not been able to reach an agreement on a deal with franchise-tagged quarterback Drew Brees, who reportedly is looking for a deal worth between $21 million and $23 million per year.
Late last season, Rodgers said on his weekly radio show on ESPNMilwaukee and ESPNMadison that he wasn’t thinking about when the team might tear up the remaining three years of his deal and sign him to a new extension.
“It’s not something I think about,” Rodgers said at the time. “We were so blessed to be able to have that contract done in 2008. We knew at the time that was more money than I ever could have imagined signing for, and it was a no brainer for me. But we knew if I performed the way I felt I was capable of performing, that by league standards that by the time I got into my third or fourth or fifth season, that I’d be underpaid by league standards.
“But I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as I’m fortunate to make the kind of money I make and be in the situation I’m in and be with the Packers’ organization. I want to retire as a Packer. They know that, the fans know that, my teammates know that, and this is where I want to be. I’m not worried about (a new contract). We’re still a few years away from me completing this deal, and whenever it comes time to make a new deal, I’m looking forward to maybe signing my last deal, playing it out, and retiring.”
Later, Rodgers also said he believes the team intends to extend the deals of outside linebacker Clay Matthews and defensive lineman B.J. Raji, both of whom are also represented by Dunn, before re-doing his. Matthews and Raji are set to hit the free-agent market after the 2013 season, as is tight end Jermichael Finley.
That said, Rodgers is clearly underpaid at this point. His remaining three base salaries are $8 million in 2012, $9.25 million in 2013 and $10.5 million in 2014, and he doesn’t even rank in the top 12 in terms of salary-cap numbers among quarterbacks in 2012.
Counting more against their teams' salary caps 2012 than Rodgers against the Packers' cap are Denver’s Peyton Manning ($17 million), New England’s Tom Brady ($15.21 million), New York Giants’ Eli Manning ($15.19 million), Detroit’s Matthew Stafford ($14.53 million), New York Jets’ Mark Sanchez ($14.25 million), Dallas’ Tony Romo ($14.03 million), San Diego’s Philip Rivers ($13.99 million), Philadelphia’s Michael Vick ($13.9 million), Atlanta’s Matt Ryan ($13 million), Oakland’s Carson Palmer ($12.5 million), Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger ($11.67 million) and Brees, whose franchise tag is worth $16.4 million although he has a grievance hearing set for June 27.
There’s also the question of how long of a deal Rodgers would sign. He suggested last year that doesn’t see himself playing until age 37, and he’s set to turn 29 in December.
“I like to focus on the here and now. I think that’s important to stay in the present,” Rodgers said. “You’ve also got to think about your end-of-your career and post career goals. I don’t really see myself 10 years from now still playing ball. I don’t. I’m in my seventh season. When you come in the league you want to get to five, and feel like that will be an accomplishment. When you get to five, you kind of want to get to eight. You get to eight, you get to 10, you think, ‘Man, that’s a decade of playing football.’ And anything after that is an added bonus.
“I just don’t see myself being 37 and still playing. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy it if I’m still healthy and playing the way I want to play, but I just see 12, 15 years, something in there, and it being quite an accomplishment, and something that I can be proud of."
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today,” and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.