Punter Tim Masthay's contract extension, reported Friday by NFL.com and multiple other news outlets, is a reminder of the massive challenge facing the Green Bay Packers as their talented group of core players matures.
Masthay was an important part of the Packers' late 2010 run to Super Bowl XLV, and a strong season in 2011 was enough to merit a four-year extension that includes a reported $1.2 million signing bonus. That figure, of course, is miniscule compared to what the Packers would have to pay out in order to secure quarterback Aaron Rodgers, linebacker Clay Matthews and receiver Greg Jennings in the next year or so.
We discussed the issue earlier in the offseason when many fans wondered what the team would do with its salary-cap space and record-setting profits. Rodgers is signed through 2014, but his contract is outdated relative to the five-year, $100 million deal that quarterback Drew Brees signed this summer with the New Orleans Saints.
Matthews has two years left on his rookie contract, putting him in a window where many NFL teams try to re-sign key performers before they get close to free agency. Meanwhile, Jennings' deal expires after this season. This spring, at least, the market value for a front-line wide receiver was the five-year, $55 million deal that Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave Vincent Jackson.
Conservatively, the Packers could be looking at three contracts with a total value north of $200 million, depending on how long the deals are. There are no indications of acrimony or concern from either side, and I wouldn't consider any of the three an urgent issue. Eventually, however, these challenging and costly issues must be addressed.