When general manager Ted Thompson took action, Aaron Rodgers had only started seven games for the Green Bay Packers.
Rodgers was less than halfway through his debut season as the Packers’ starting quarterback on October 31, 2008. Thompson signed Rodgers to a six-year, $65 million contract deal during the team’s bye week that year, making him the NFL’s fourth-highest paid quarterback.
Rodgers was 4-3 as a starter at the time, but he would go 2-7 the remainder of the season. Nonetheless, Thompson and the Packers had seen enough to sign Rodgers to a long-term contract.
“As we talked about in the past, we try to be proactive in our discussions with our current players and we felt like this was an appropriate time to try to come to an agreement with Aaron,” Thompson said at the time. “We feel like this is good for the organization and the players, and we will continue this approach as we move forward.”
The Packers’ strategy has been consistent over the last 15 years.
Now it’s time to put it to good use and sign Jordan Love for the foreseeable future.
When the Packers face the Detroit Lions tonight, Love will make his fourth career start. But, like Rodgers in 2008, the Packers should already be aware of what they have in Love.
Love is 24, the same age as Rodgers when he signed his first contract deal with the Packers. Love, like Rodgers, is in his fourth year with the organization.
And, like, you know who, Love has been extremely outstanding in his first few professional starts.
In May, Love agreed to a contract extension through the 2024 season that includes a $8.8 million signing bonus, $15.3 million in guarantees, and the potential for a total of $24.8 million between 2023 and 2024.
The Packers reduced Love’s basic pay in 2023 to the bare minimum of $1.01 million, but paid him the signing bonus in advance, giving him a $7 million rise this year. Green Bay also guaranteed Love’s basic pay of $5.5 million in 2024 and provided an additional $9 million in escalators.
Love is presently ranked 33rd among quarterbacks in terms of 2023 salary cap hit ($4.41 million), 23rd in terms of total cash for this season ($9.8 million), and 54th in terms of basic salary ($1.01 million).
It was a win-win situation for both parties. For starters, it guaranteed Love more money this season than he would have received on his original rookie deal. It also allowed Green Bay to take a closer look at Love to see whether he was the team’s long-term quarterback solution.
To be sure, Love’s sample size to date is modest. However, the Packers have had almost three and a half years to assess Love after picking him with the 26th overall selection in April of 2020.
Each time Love steps onto the field — and excels — the price tag rises.
“He’s definitely earned himself a nice raise with these first few games,” a representative told me on Wednesday. “If he keeps it up, he’s looking at a pretty big pay day.”
Love is third in the NFL in touchdown passes (seven), has thrown one interception, and has a passer rating of 94.7 through three games. Despite the fact that top wideout Christian Watson has yet to play, running back Aaron Jones and left tackle David Bakhtiari have each missed two games, and Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins has missed one and a half games, Green Bay is 2-1.
As the Packers split their first two road games, Love threw six touchdowns without an interception. He then rallied Green Bay from a 17-0 fourth-quarter deficit to defeat New Orleans 18-17 on Sunday. It was just the second occasion in team history that the Packers triumphed despite trailing by 17 or more points entering the fourth quarter.
“He’s just got swag,” Rasul Douglas, a cornerback, said of Love. “He knows who he is. He understands that the offensive will only go as far as he takes it.”
Preston Smith, an outside linebacker, concurred.
“We know what he can do, and as long as we have his back and we stay consistent, he can keep us in any game, and we can win any game with him as our quarterback,” Smith said. “Jordan Love has a lot of potential to win games in this league, man.” There are a lot of games.”
Love, as terrific as he has been on the field, may be even better off it.
Rodgers often ruffled feathers by disparaging teammates and coaches or humiliating them on the field with a variety of actions. Love’s leadership approach has been the polar opposite, and he seems to be well-liked inside his own locker room.
“I think the poise that he shows is really remarkable,” said Packers coach Matt LaFleur of Love. “I think the leadership he demonstrates is incredible.” Those men are going to battle for him. “I believe everyone in that locker room will fight for Jordan Love.”
Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs just reworked his contract and is now the NFL’s highest paid quarterback, earning $52.65 million per year over the next four seasons. Joe Burrow ($55 million), Justin Herbert ($52.5 million), Lamar Jackson ($52 million), Jalen Hurts ($51 million), Russell Wilson ($48.5 million), Kyler Murray ($46.1 million), and Deshaun Watson ($46 million) follow.
If Love plays the rest of the season and has a Pro Bowl-caliber season, he may ask for a contract in that area. If the Packers feel Love will be their quarterback beyond 2024, they might be proactive and sign him to a lengthier contract in the range of Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins ($35 million) or Detroit’s Jared Goff ($33.5 million).
In recent seasons, the Packers discovered how crippling it can be to have one player consume a large portion of the salary cap. In 2021, Rodgers accounted for 14.54% of the cap, and 13.24% in 2022. Rodgers counts for $17.78% this year owing to his dead cap hit of $40.31 million.
The Packers will be rid of Rodgers’ massive deal after this season, and they will save another $21.4 million by removing the often injured Bakhtiari.
If the Packers move quickly on Love, they should be able to maintain his cap hit around the 10% region for the next few seasons. Green Bay would have the financial luxury to keep its talented, youthful core together and perhaps pursue Super Bowls into the middle of the decade.
Love’s corpus of work is, without a question, limited. But the Packers must be overjoyed with his composure, leadership, and skill set.
The Packers took a chance 15 years ago when they signed Rodgers to a long-term contract after just seven starts — and won the Super Bowl two seasons later.
It’s past time for them to take a similar risk with Love.