GREEN BAY – There are never any iron-clad guarantees, but with his new contract extension, Aaron Rodgers feels he’s taken another significant step toward being able to play his entire career for the Green Bay Packers.
“This shows, in this contract, there’s a lot of mutual love and respect, and excitement about keeping this partnership together,” Rodgers said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday, one day after signing a multi-year extension that will keep him under contract with the Packers through 2023.
“And doing something I think is pretty cool, being able to start and finish my career as a Packer.”
Rodgers’ extension carries through the season in which he will turn 40 years old. He’s stated as a goal to play until he’s 40, and perhaps beyond.
While the ongoing negotiations were never a “stressor” or distraction to his leadership role and preparing for the 2018 season, Rodgers confessed it’s a bit of a relief to not worry about the ramifications of playing out the last two years of his prior contract and having the franchise tag potentially come into play down the road.
He also feels the team is happy with the salary-cap numbers moving forward, as after non-traditional elements to the deal were broached and explored by both sides, the structure ended up rather standard.
“They’re putting a lot of faith and trust in my continued play, and I have to in turn put trust in the team they will continue to do everything possible to promote the same type of culture we’ve had here – a winning environment, giving the players and coaches the tools necessary to achieve those goals,” Rodgers said.
“I think it just gives me even more clout and respect in the locker room with the guys knowing I’m committed and the team is committed to me for a number of years now.”
General Manager Brian Gutekunst, who held a media conference call shortly after Rodgers did, said he doesn’t feel the deal will unduly restrict the team with regard to future moves.
While it makes Rodgers the highest-paid player in the league and is the largest contract the franchise has ever negotiated, Gutekunst said a GM would always choose the challenges that presents over trying to build a team without a truly elite quarterback.
“It was really important for the organization,” Gutekunst said of getting this deal done. “We go as he goes in some ways. Obviously this is the ultimate team game, but he’s been such an important part of what’s gone on around here for a long time.
“It’s the most important position in our game, and to have the best that’s doing it at the helm, it makes things move forward that much faster.”
As Rodgers enters his 14th season with the highest regular-season passer rating in NFL history, he admitted the momentous signing made him a bit nostalgic. He fed the breaking news to former receiver, now NFL Network contributor James Jones, and then received congratulatory text messages from a number of past teammates and acquaintances.
He has sounded all offseason like a player eager to get back to action after missing more than half of 2017 to a broken right collarbone, an injury that in essence ended the Packers’ streak of eight straight playoff appearances.
He hasn’t discussed, nor shown, any ill effects from the surgery last fall. Of course, when he came back from his previous broken left collarbone, four years ago, he won his second league MVP award.
“Aaron is a rare player, and he has been since he took over the reins here,” Gutekunst said. “His level of play is certainly at the highest level and continues to be.
“Coming off last year … it’s impressive to see him come back and compete and see him playing with that edge. There’s no drop-off or any physical limitations at all.”
Not that there was ever any doubt or hesitation, but Rodgers’ comeback to this point has provided yet another layer of confidence this deal is a good one for both sides.
“Aaron’s professionalism, the way he takes care of his body, how much it means to him, how important winning championships are to his drive, and his talent – if there’s one thing you can count on from him, he’s going to give everything he’s got to make this team the best it can be,” Gutekunst said.
“He’s everything we’re looking for in a player, and we’re glad he’ll be here for foreseeable future, as long as we can keep him healthy.”