Aaron Rodgers takes advantage of free plays like no other quarterback

Michael David Smith
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

Every quarterback knows that when the defense jumps offside or gets caught with a 12th man trying to run off the field as the ball is snapped, that’s a free play: The defense has committed a penalty, so the quarterback should take a chance. If something goes wrong they can take the penalty, and if something goes right they can decline the penalty.

But only one quarterback really gets the most out of those opportunities: Aaron Rodgers.

According to the NFL’s Football Operations, since 2006 Rodgers has thrown 84 passes on free plays, and has thrown those passes much farther downfield than any other quarterback: Rodgers throws on those free plays, on average, 25 yards downfield.

Since 2006 Rodgers has thrown nearly 2,000 yards downfield on all those free plays: Ben Roethlisberger has just barely topped 1,000 yards downfield on free plays; he’s a distant second behind Rodgers.

At the other end of the spectrum from Rodgers is Kirk Cousins, who has thrown only 13 passes on free plays in his career, and only a combined 87 yards downfield. Rodgers routinely gets more yards on free plays in a season than Cousins has in his career.

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