Aaron Rodgers would like more inclusion when the Green Bay Packers are making major personnel decisions that impact him. Whether he speaks those words directly or publicly remains to be seen, but it’s a reality weighing on the quarterback as he moves forward in contract extension negotiations, according to multiple league sources who spoke with Yahoo Sports.
What triggered discontent for Rodgers?
While the relationship between Rodgers and the Packers isn’t in total disrepair, two league sources familiar with the quarterback’s mindset described him as both “frustrated” and “emotional” over a lack of communication from the front office prior to some significant decisions this offseason. Specifically, the sources said Rodgers has lingering discontent being completely cut out of discussions that resulted in the departures of wideout Jordy Nelson and quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt. And it apparently is entering his thought process when it comes to his next contract extension.
“Both of those decisions [with Nelson and Van Pelt] were made without him,” one league source close to Rodgers said. “In both situations, he had no influence with [the front office] before anything went down.”
“I know he’s thinking about that stuff when it comes to the next contract because he should have earned a voice by now,” the source continued. “In other places with [elite] quarterbacks, consideration is given to those guys. I think Aaron wants to be engaged in some decisions. But that’s just not the way it works [in Green Bay]. I think that’s obviously frustrating and it’s going to keep coming out.”
Passive-aggressive reaction to Packer moves
Rodgers has already appeared to touch on that twice this offseason. First in February when Van Pelt wasn’t retained, he told ESPN radio that he wasn’t “consulted” and called the Packers’ decision “interesting.”
“I thought that was an interesting change, really without consulting me,” Rodgers said. “There’s a close connection between quarterback and quarterback coach. And that was an interesting decision.”
Then Rodgers appeared to subtly reference his lack of involvement again nearly two weeks ago when talking about Nelson’s departure.
“I think it’s pretty clear that players play and coaches coach and personnel people make their decisions,” Rodgers told Milwaukee radio station 102.9 The Hog. “That’s the way they want it.”
Why Green Bay doesn’t have to hurry to extend Rodgers
With extension progress still apparently slow, any friction between Rodgers and the franchise could become accentuated in the coming months. Particularly with Rodgers entering the sixth year of a seven-year contract that has him vastly underpaid at his position.
From a public relations standpoint, extension talks are a front-burner issue for the franchise. But this is where things have the potential to get strained between the Packers and Rodgers because there is no looming deadline for Green Bay to do a deal and, in-turn, no driving inventive to lavish a record-breaking contract on the two-time league MVP.
For all intents and purposes, the Packers know they can approach extension negotiations as if Rodgers has four years left on his contract – two in his current deal and back-to-back franchise tags in 2020 and 2021. If exhausted, that contract timeline would take Green Bay through Rodgers’ 38th birthday during the 2021 season.
For Green Bay, the ability to take Rodgers deep into the winter of his career without the worry of impending free agency is a significant advantage in talks. Not to mention the reality that such a road would limit the Packers’ exposure should Rodgers experience a dramatic (but unlikely) decline. As it stands, Green Bay has three contract opt-outs: After his current deal expires in 2019, or following one of the potential franchise-tagged years in 2020 or 2021.
Here’s why Rodgers lacks leverage
Rodgers might want a bigger hand in some of the roster-shaping decisions going forward, but he lacks the contract leverage to really change the dynamic with new general manager Brian Gutekunst. With the Packers holding Rodgers’ rights for at least four more years, he’s simply not going anywhere. And that limits his ability to negotiate any number of situations that would give him a voice in future personnel matters.
Given that reality, it’s extremely unlikely he can secure any opt-out clauses in a contract extension. And it’s equally unlikely he’ll be able to negotiate a salary cap-percentage deal, which would adjust his salary to match cap growth (and thus consistently keep him at the top of the quarterback pay scale). Either of those scenarios would not only be landscape-changing for elite quarterback deals, but they also would give Rodgers continued leverage over the Packers.
As it stands now, he has none. There’s no impending free agency. There’s no contract clause or balloon payment that might force Green Bay’s hand in extension talks. Really, the only thing Rodgers has to hold over the Packers is that he’s arguably the best player in the NFL when healthy, and he will likely continue to be the centerpiece of the franchise for at least the next half-decade.
In some franchises, that kind of stature delivers immense sway and roster-building involvement for a quarterback. But as Rodgers is apparently struggling with this offseason, the Packers are not one of those franchises. And it likely isn’t changing anytime soon.
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