GREEN BAY — With two years remaining on their star quarterback’s current contract, the Green Bay Packers don’t necessarily have to hurry up on Aaron Rodgers’ next deal. Nevertheless, the team is hoping to sign the two-time NFL MVP to an extension before the 2018 season begins.
Speaking at the annual NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday, first-year general manager Brian Gutekunst said he’d like to have a new contract in place with Rodgers before the offseason is over, which likely means before the team reports to training camp in late July. Team president/CEO Mark Murphy told ESPN.com on Tuesday that Gutekunst and executive vice president/director of football operations Russ Ball, the team’s chief contract negotiator, have engaged in discussions with Rodgers’ agent, David Dunn.
“I don’t know if there’s pressure (to get a new deal done),” Gutekunst said Wednesday. “I think we certainly would like to get it done sooner rather than later.”
With almost $4 million in cap room rolling over from last season and an expected $16 million in cap space on the projected $178 million salary cap for 2018, the Packers aren’t caught in a cap crunch that would force them to hurry on a new deal with their quarterback.
Rodgers signed a five-year, $110 million extension in April 2013 that made him the league’s highest-paid player, but he has since been lapped by a number of other rich quarterback contracts. At this point, Rodgers ranks sixth on the quarterback wage scale following San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garappolo’s five-year, $137.5 million deal, but with soon-to-be ex-Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins set to hit the open market, Garappolo’s stay atop the pay scale will be brief.
Rodgers would be wise to wait until Cousins gets his deal -- and perhaps until Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan gets his expected new contract -- before signing his extension.
“When you have the best player in the National Football League, it’s not going to be inexpensive,” Gutekunst said. “Obviously, Aaron is a high priority. He’s a great player and I think that should take care of itself at some point.”
Later, Gutekunst added he “wouldn’t expect it to be real difficult” to get the deal done.
Rodgers hasn’t said much about his contract situation publicly in recent months, though he said before last season that he wasn’t concerned about when a new deal would get done. His current deal calls for him to earn $20.9 million in 2018 and $21.1 million in 2019 before it runs out.
"Well, that stuff usually takes care of itself, and I have a fantastic agent, he does a great job. He worries about that stuff," Rodgers said then. "When it comes to setting the market values, I let that stuff take care of itself. I know my value in this league, and I know the team appreciates me. I'm going to continue to make myself an indispensable part of this roster. When you do that, when your time comes up to get a contract, you usually get a contract extension."
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday the 34-year-old Rodgers, who missed 10 games with a broken right collarbone suffered on Oct. 15 at Minnesota, should be ready to go when the team returns for the offseason program on April 16, though he couldn’t say whether team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie will fully clear Rodgers for all offseason activities when he has his physical upon his return.
“I can’t answer that question right now,” McCarthy said. “I feel confident that he’ll be ready to go. (I) just had a meeting (Tuesday) with Dr. Pat McKenzie. His assessment of Aaron so far is that everything looks good.”
McCarthy said he hasn’t gotten a great feel for how the new power structure atop football operations is different from the previous set-up because he’s been so busy with his new coaching staff. “There’s meetings, and the communication is weekly,” McCarthy said. “But, you know, the reality of what I’m doing specifically, I have a new coaching staff so I’ve been predominantly — probably the last five weeks — bunkered down with (the offense).” … Gutekunst acknowledged the team was disappointed it lost its grievance against tight end Martellus Bennett, but “it doesn’t change the course of what we were going to try and do. That was a legal thing that we were kind of hoping turned out a different way, but at the same time it won’t affect how we’re going to go about our business moving forward.” An independent arbitrator ruled Bennett could keep all of his $6.3 million signing bonus. … McCarthy expressed hope that running back Ty Montgomery, a converted wide receiver, could be a multi-position weapon in 2018 but emphasized that he must stay healthier than he has in his first three NFL seasons. “The most important statistic for me in evaluating players as we move forward to the next season,” McCarthy said, “is availability.”