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Starting with QB, Packers set to pay top three priorities

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David Dunn is sure to be seeing a lot of the 920 -- the Green Bay area code -- popping up on his cell phone this offseason, if it hasn't been already.

The agent represents three of the Packers' top players: quarterback Aaron Rodgers, linebacker Clay Matthews and nose tackle B.J. Raji. At least two of them (i.e., Rodgers and Matthews) are in line to receive substantial contract extensions before next season.

Speculation on Rodgers landing a whopper of a new deal in the near future has picked up after the champion Baltimore Ravens recently rewarded Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco with a six-year contract worth $120.6 million.

Flacco's eye-popping arrangement makes him the NFL's highest-paid player with an average potential earnings of $20.1 million per year. Flacco has guaranteed earnings of $52 million.

By comparison, Rodgers is set to enter the fifth year of a six-year, $65 million contract extension he signed during the 2008 season. That deal had guaranteed money of just $20 million.

According to at least a couple published reports by national outlets in recent days, the Packers are preparing to make Rodgers the league's richest man sooner rather than later.

Green Bay has the spending power with more than $20 million in salary-cap space for the start of the 2013 NFL year March 12 to broker a mega-contract with Rodgers, who is slated to play for $9.25 million next season with another $1 million in bonus earnings.

Rodgers isn't hung up on getting a new contract and said as much in comments made before the Flacco deal went down.

"The team, when they're ready to talk contract, we'll get there when we get there," Rodgers said on his radio show on ESPN Wisconsin in early February, when asked whether it was more important for him to become the highest-paid quarterback or get an equitable deal that would still give the team some spending flexibility for other players.

"Obviously, you've got to be able to have guys around you to compete and win every year, and we'll see what happens with some of the free agents that we have," Rodgers added. "When that time comes, we'll get a deal done. I'm not worried about that. I think the Packers want to keep me around for a little while longer, and I'd love to be a Packer for life."

The Packers already bid adieu to three veteran players. They cut defensive back Charles Woodson and center Jeff Saturday, the latter of whom is retiring, along with receiver Donald Driver.

Starting wideout Greg Jennings also is on his way out when free agency opens March 12 after general manager Ted Thompson didn't use the franchise tag for the third straight year.

Since Thompson has more often than not taken a low-key approach to courting free agents from other teams and relied almost exclusively on the draft to shape his team, the offseason priorities would seem to be to lock up Rodgers and Matthews for longer terms. Matthews is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

Raji, who like Matthews was a first-round draft pick in 2009, also has a year left on his original pact. Thompson probably would be more willing to wait until next season or even after it to try to work out something with Raji.

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