COMMENTARY | Ted Thompson has been a master manipulator of the salary cap since he arrived in Green Bay.
He signed Jordy Nelson and James Jones for pennies on the dollar given what they're worth. Cullen Jenkins wasn't re-signed and after a solid first season in Philadelphia, Jenkins was a non-factor for the Eagles this past year.
No one in football builds more effectively through the draft than the Green Bay Packers and Ted Thompson is the biggest reason why.
But, Thompson's first, and indisputably best, draft pick will be due a contract after the 2014 season and given that Joe Flacco is reportedly looking for Drew Brees-type money, Green Bay is going to have to load up the Brinks truck and park it on Lombardi Avenue.
As one person joked on Twitter yesterday, if Joe Flacco is worth $20 million a year, then Aaron Rodgers should be asking for that trillion dollar coin.
Rodgers signed a six-year $65 million contract in 2008 with a modest $20 million in guaranteed money. Brees' contract, the biggest ever, was worth roughly double that in assured money. His five-year $100 million deal came with $37 million in bonus money and first-year salary.
In fact, his 2013 and 2014 salary numbers are basically the same as those of Rodgers, but in 2015, Brees' salary roughly doubles.
Green Bay can take a number of different approaches with their franchise quarterback and former league MVP. One would be to do a deal this offseason and front-load the contract like the Saints did with Brees. Throw a ton of money at Rodgers upfront, with a big bonus, understanding that Green Bay is going to be shedding contracts this offseason not re-signing them.
After the 2013 season, Green Bay will have to deal with the contracts of Clay Matthews, and in 2014, B.J. Raji's deal, both of whom are still playing on rookie deals - Clay was short a year because he was the lower of the two first round picks.
By front-loading a new Rodgers contract, Green Bay could keep his salary cap number low for the 2014 season which would include a new, much larger Matthews contract and a looming deal to be done with Raji.
On the other hand, Green Bay could also do the opposite: sign Rodgers to a long-term deal full of money at the end of the contract. It was something the Packers did with Favre; he got his mega-deal to ensure Green Bay would have the flexibility to go back and re-structure the contract to free up money to sign other players.
Rodgers, who has openly campaigned for his teammates to be re-signed, may be willing to take a hometown discount like his good buddy Ryan Bruan did for the Brewers, and his success with advertising should keep his pockets full for years to come.
All that being said, as an organization, you want to look like you're taking care of your guys. At some point Jordy Nelson is going to realize he's vastly underpaid. Sam Shields is a restricted free agent this offseason and was a key for the defense down the stretch. Plus, who knows what will happen if Green Bay really does pull off a trade for Darrelle Revis?
For Packers fans, it isn't so much how Green Bay extends Rodgers, but rather that it simply gets done as soon as possible. Ditto for Clay Matthews. Ted Thompson has had it pretty easy early on in his tenure as general manager. The hardest decision he's had to make is to jettison a 40-year-old Hall of Fame quarterback to make way for a player who has now established himself as arguably the best in the game. Drafting well means having a talented roster and Ted Thompson could soon become the victim of his own success with some very tough decisions to make.
But this is an easy one: give Rodgers a blank check and say, "Fill in the number."
Peter Bukowski lives in New York and has been covering sports since 2007. He is an award-winning television and newspaper reporter. Follow him on Twitter @BukoTime