A Fair Value for QB Aaron Rodgers


With Aaron Rodgers supposedly deep in contract negotiations I thought it might be worth looking at what he should expect to make. I don’t want to bother going into statistics or anything like that. (If you want to read my piece on statistical measures to assign contract values you can click to it here). I just want to look at the marketplace and some trends and see where we go from here.

I think most people will agree that Rodgers is the best player in the game right now. He has the one Super Bowl win. He has the prolific passing numbers. The Packers are a great regular season team. When it comes to comparables for a contract the two players I want to look at are Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Rodgers does not have the pedigree Manning had, with Manning being considered one of the all time great draft prospects and pretty much coming out of the gate firing. Rodgers sat for a few years behind Brett Favre before getting his opportunity and making the people of Green Bay forget about Favre. It took Brees some time as well to get going, though he had chances he just was not an exceptional player until late in his Charger run and then took it to another level when he hooked up with Sean Payton in New Orleans.

I want to try to find some trends with contracts when coming up with a fair market price for Rodgers. In my mind Joe Flacco should be looked at similarly to Ben Roethlisberger.  Roethlisberger signed an extension back in 2008 that was worth around $14.6 million a year in new money. It represented around a 5% increase in what Manning had earned per year in his $98 million dollar contract signed in 2004. Roethlisberger didn’t have the cache of Eli Manning, selected number 1 overall and with a famous last name, who would eventually go on to be the market setter at the position. Roethlisberger did have enough success, even when labeled as a perfect situation QB due to his franchise, to push the market at a young age. Though the market this year has been stagnant overall Flacco was able to push slightly past Brees and about 4.6% past Manning’s deal with the Denver Broncos.

With Flacco playing the Roethisberger role I want Rodgers to now take the position of either Manning or Brees. Manning’s  2011 contract represented an 18.3% raise over Roethlisbergers’ new money from 2008. Brees 2012 new deal was a 36% raise. That puts the APY for Rodgers between 23.7 and 27.3 million a season. Now I know that $27.3 million is unrealistic and looking at Flacco’s contract I tend to think that the Brees number is looked at as somewhat of an outlier. If we push Manning into the top slot at $19.2 million we come up with a high value of $25.1 million a season.

From the Packers point of view I think they will want to look at Flacco as Eli Manning in terms of a data point. Using Manning’s $16.25 million as the market setting base the Rodgers deal would then be $21.6 million at the low end and $23.7 million at the high end. Looking at those two sets of numbers I would say the logical “fair market value” is $23.7 million, representing the high end for the Packers and lowest acceptable level for Rodgers.

In some ways Rodgers bargaining would probably be helped if Matt Stafford or Matt Ryan had been able to accomplish what Flacco did. Since those players have a much higher pedigree I tend to think they would have made more than Flacco in a comparable situation. They would clearly be the Eli Manning. Flacco might be, but its definitely not clear that he is.

In fairness Rodgers is at a big disadvantage because he has two years remaining on his contract that the Packers can force him to honor, but he isn’t talking about holding out and I think Green Bay wants to get a fair deal done. I would think Rodgers rebuttal is that he is far younger than Manning was in 2011 and Brees in 2012 and you are paying for a player in his prime not coming out of it. It is also in the Packers best interest to make the move now to lessen the cap blows and possibility that the market does increase with Stafford and Ryan up for new deals soon, not to mention Eli and Ben in line for new contracts within the next 2 years.  It makes for a very tidy 4 year deal that gets Rodgers two important things- top of the market money now and a chance to be a free agent again at the age of 35, an age where top QBs are clearly going to still make massive amounts of money barring a market correction.

Remember that if the Packers agree to a $23.7 million dollar deal they will also roll into it the 2 remaining years at $20.75 million. From the Packers point of view a 4 year extension is going to technically be a 6 year contract for about $19.26 million, which for salary cap purposes helps them greatly. Given the Packers current cap situation they can pack away over $20 million in cap dollars on Rodgers without issue. He already counts for just under $10 million and using another $10 million is not an issue. For the Saints, who paid Brees $40 million in year 1 the cash to cap ratio was 3.85:1. For Flacco it will be 4.4:1. These are cap killers for a team in the future. The Packers can probably be close a 2:1 ratio which is extremely beneficial for long term planning.

So it just seems like a deal that should make sense to happen for both sides right around that $24 million a year mark. Both sides I think gain from making the move now rather than letting it hang out there and hang over the head of the team and the player. Rodgers gets his injury protection and a chance at one more payday down the line while the Packers get their guy on a relatively cap friendly contract.