INDIANAPOLIS — The way one NFL team executive sees it, Aaron Rodgers can name his price when it comes to his next contract. Especially with the kind of money the San Francisco 49ers just gave Jimmy Garoppolo and what some team will surely pay Kirk Cousins.
“The quarterbacks who are more established and much better than a Garoppolo, much better than some of these guys, they could literally say, ‘Redo it right now,’” Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Tuesday at the NFL scouting combine.
There’s no doubt Rodgers’ next contract will set a new bar, just like his five-year, $110 million extension did when he signed it in 2013. Rodgers’ $22 million average per season made him the NFL’s highest-paid player, let alone the richest quarterback. Now, he ranks sixth and still has two more seasons left on that deal.
Rodgers’ current deal — negotiated by Russ Ball, the team’s executive vice president/director of football operations, and signed off on by then-general manager Ted Thompson — has remained salary cap friendly throughout. The figures ranged from $12 million the first year to $21.1 million in the final season (2019), and won’t hit the $20 million mark until this coming season, when it’s $20,562,500.
Garoppolo’s five-year, $137.5 million deal took advantage of the 49ers’ salary-cap situation — they had more than $100 million in space under the projected cap. It contained a $28.8 million roster bonus, all of which will count on the 2018 cap. After a $37 million cap change this season, the figures range between $20 million and $27 million.
“It’s whatever your team is comfortable with,” said John Elway, the Denver Broncos‘ president of football operations and general manager. “It’s whatever fits into your team. It’s got to fit into the puzzle.”
For Rodgers, it might be about the cash, especially guaranteed money. But for the Packers, it will be about the structure and the cap to ensure new GM Brian Gutekunst has the ability to rebuild the roster how he sees fit.
“We want to create a win-win [situation],” Murphy said of Rodgers’ next contract.
The Packers have remained in good salary-cap shape despite having to pay a top-tier quarterback, and Murphy said their cap should be able to absorb another blockbuster deal for Rodgers without having to cut corners at other positions.
“Oh yeah,” he said, “although obviously there’s only so much money.”
The Packers carried over $3,934,518 in cap space from last season, according to the NFL Players Association. It puts the Packers at $15.9 million under the projected 2018 cap, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
“At some point the quarterbacks, it’s like with [Tom] Brady — you have to decide how much of the cap you want to take,” Jones said. “These quarterbacks want to win football games, too, at some point. I know [Tony] Romo was that way. I don’t know Aaron, but I’m sure these other quarterbacks are that way, if they feel like they take up too much room. You want to have a good football team around you.”
As long as the cap grows each season, there’s not likely to be a ceiling for quarterback contracts.
“That’s how our business works,” Jones said. “The bigger surprise probably for everybody has just been the guys who haven’t really done a lot that are getting paid these types of numbers, and of course that’s risky business. But obviously these teams make decisions that they feel is in their best interests.
“Your quarterback is your partner. At some point when we sat down with Tony we told him, ‘You just need to decide how much of this you want, what you think is fair.’ The rest of it, they know us, we’re going to spend it on teammates. So I think that’s probably what every team with a top quarterback faces. It’s up to them. It’s, ‘How much of this do you want?’”
Lions releasing running back Kerryon Johnson, per reports
Detroit drafted the former Auburn standout in the second round in 2018. Johnson became expendable after the team drafted D’Andre Swift No. 35 overall in 2020, signed free agent running back Jamaal Williams in March and drafted Oregon State’s Jermar Jefferson last week.
Johnson ran for 1,225 yards and eight touchdowns over three seasons. He also has 61 career receptions for 527 yards and three scores.
Last year, he had 181 yards rushing and two scores on 52 carries. and had 19 receptions for 187 yards receiving and a touchdown.
NFL Network first reported that Johnson would be waived.
The Lions also added a player in free agency, signing tight end Darren Fells on Wednesday. The move gives the team a veteran at the position it can put on the field with Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson.
The 35-year-old Fells has 123 career catches with 1,483 yards receiving and 21 touchdowns. The previous two years in Houston, he had a combined 55 catches for 653 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Fells has started 76 games — including 13 with the Lions in 2017 — and played in 102 games with Arizona, Detroit, Cleveland and the Texans. He was a rebounding standout at UC Irvine and played basketball in Argentina, Mexico, Belgium, Finland and France before playing in the NFL.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
QB Blaine Gabbert re-signing with Tampa Bay Buccaneers on 1-year, $2.5 million deal, source says
TAMPA, Fla. — Once again, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians has kept his word.
Days after saying the Bucs would work to re-sign Tom Brady’s top backup, quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the team is indeed re-signing Gabbert to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
Gabbert, who has played in 60 career games with 48 starts, previously earned $1.187 million in 2020 and $1.6 million in 2019.
Last season, Gabbert, 31, completed 9 of 16 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, with all but one of those pass attempts coming in the second half against the Detroit Lions in Week 16, when Arians opted to rest Brady.
The Bucs selected quarterback Kyle Trask in the second round of the NFL draft last week, but Arians said that would not preclude them from re-signing Gabbert. The team also re-signed Ryan Griffin, who was last year’s third-string backup, earlier this offseason.
Gabbert enters his third season with the Bucs, after spending 2018 with the Tennessee Titans, 2017 with Arians and the Arizona Cardinals, 2014-16 with the San Francisco 49ers and 2011-13 with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Gabbert has had an eventful offseason. In addition to attending the Kentucky Derby with Brady and Griffin on Saturday, he married longtime sweetheart Bekah Mills in Paradise Valley, Arizona, in March.
NFL sends memo reminding clubs the league will not pay players who suffer injuries away from facilities
The NFL reminded teams Wednesday that they are not obligated to pay players who suffer an injury away from the team facility, an issue that moved this week to the center of an ongoing dispute between the NFL and NFL Players Association over in-person participation in offseason workouts.
The memo, obtained by ESPN, was prompted by several prominent players who were surprised by media reports about Denver Broncos offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James, who tore an Achilles tendon this week while working out on his own and could miss the 2021 season. NFL contracts have long classified such injuries as “non-football,” because they happen away from the team environment, and they are not covered by typical injury guarantees. As a result, the Broncos could withhold James’ salary for as long as he is sidelined. More than $10 million would have been guaranteed if the injury had occurred at the Broncos’ facility.
The NFL has noted this contractual leverage multiple times during negotiations with the NFLPA, which has advised players to skip the voluntary portion of in-person offseason training unless they stand to lose workout bonuses.
“According to the media coverage,” the NFL wrote in its memo, “several players have expressed surprise that Mr. James’ injury was not covered by his Injury Guarantee, although this point has been made frequently in our discussions with the NFLPA about the offseason program. Clubs are encouraged to remind players of the significant injury-related protection provided if they choose to work out at the club facility and the risks they undertake in choosing to train in non-NFL locations.”
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