NFL Nation: Aaron Rodgers
Ask and you shall receive. (Sometimes. When I'm in the mood.)
The chart, courtesy of the data mine of ESPN Stats & Information, shows the average amount of time each NFC North quarterback spent in the pocket (TIP) before the pass during the 2012 season. NFL rankings are based on quarterbacks with at least two starts, and I also threw in the sack rate per drop-back to give you the best apples-to-apples comparison that I could between TIP and sacks.
(It's important to note that TIP doesn't factor in the time a quarterback spends outside of the pocket before a pass. But my sense is that most sacks occur on plays when quarterbacks stay in the pocket.)
To be sure, holding the ball too long is one of multiple reasons a sack can occur. Pass protection, coverage and play calls all play in to it as well. But it's worth noting the difference between, say, Matthew Stafford's average time and sack rate with that of Cutler and Rodgers.
Rodgers' numbers probably require a separate conversation that we'll only start today. I was asked in Tuesday's SportsNation chat if there is anything Rodgers could do better. My response: The Packers would love to reduce his sack total, which is at least a partial reflection of his responsibility.
Rodgers has been accused over the years of holding the ball too long, leading to additional sacks. The counterargument, which I accept for the most part, is that holding the ball for longer than an optimal time can also lead to more big plays. Would you trade a few additional sacks if you knew the approach would also lead to more touchdowns? Probably.
So I'm not ready to make any grand judgments on Rogers' TIP and his sack total. The numbers are open to interpretation. But to answer Jeff's original question: Yes, based on the way ESPN Stats & Information times it, Rodgers holds the ball in the pocket longer than any other NFC North quarterback.
Much of the concern, of course, was that the Packers had no other internal possibilities if Harrell couldn't handle the role. Rookie B.J. Coleman was strictly a developmental draft pick, and in fact he spent 2012 on the practice squad.
Now, however, is a fair time to ask whether Coleman can provide true competition for Harrell in training camp. Remember, the last quarterback the Packers drafted in the seventh round was Matt Flynn -- who backed up Aaron Rodgers for four years and is now the Oakland Raiders' presumed starter.
Because he spent last year on the practice squad, Coleman is technically a first-year player and thus was eligible for last weekend's rookie minicamp. It provided his first stage to run the Packers' offense and demonstrate improvement. Wrote Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "[E]arly signs this year suggest he will provide genuine competition for Harrell."
Coach Mike McCarthy will have the final say, of course, and he told reporters that he saw enough from Campbell over the weekend.
"What I had to see from B.J. is him [having] looked like he'd been here for a year, be in charge of the drills and be productive," McCarthy said. "And that was evident in all three practices."
The Packers are tentatively planning to bring four quarterbacks to training camp, meaning that Coleman's repetitions will be limited. I don't think the Packers are eager or even looking to move on from Harrell. But it appears as though Coleman put himself at least into the backup conversation over the weekend.
Brees, who plays in one of the NFL’s smallest markets, came in at No. 6, just one spot behind Peyton Manning.
Although we in the NFC South often talk about being overshadowed by bigger markets, Brees is proof that’s not always the case. Brees has combined his on-field exploits and his effervescent personality to gain awareness.
Even those that don’t follow football closely know about how Brees helped the New Orleans area recover from Hurricane Katrina. Rodgers and James came in slightly behind Brees.
But the real shocker is that Tim Tebow, who currently doesn’t have a team, topped the list of America’s most influential athletes.
With the draft in the rearview mirror, what is each NFC South team's next order of business?
Atlanta Falcons: Their most important issue is off the field. Quarterback Matt Ryan is headed for the last year of his contract, and there’s no way the team wants him to get close to becoming a free agent. Ryan is the franchise in Atlanta and general manager Thomas Dimitroff knows he’ll have to pay accordingly. Recent deals for Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers have set the parameters for a Ryan deal. Dimitroff and Ryan aren’t the type to let this become a distraction, so I’d expect a deal to be reached sometime between now and the start of training camp.
Carolina Panthers: Amazingly, the Panthers didn’t address their secondary in the draft. They did address it in free agency, but only by adding some journeymen. The front seven of this defense has the potential to be as good as any in the league, but the secondary has some major holes. At cornerback, the Panthers have a bunch of players that are capable of being No. 2 or No. 3 guys. But they don’t have anything close to a true No. 1 cornerback. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to find a true No. 1 cornerback at this time of year and the Panthers have limited salary-cap room. But it wouldn’t hurt to bring in another corner or two to increase the competition and hope that prompts someone to elevate his game enough to become a No. 1 cornerback.
New Orleans Saints: Once the team begins its on-field portion of the offseason workouts, things are going to get very competitive. As the Saints switch to a 3-4 scheme, there are a lot of starting jobs open on the defense. There are particularly big questions at outside linebacker and in the secondary. Other than cornerback Keenan Lewis, the salary cap prohibited the Saints from making any big signings in free agency. Instead, they brought in some lower-level free agents and added some parts in the draft. The competition for starting jobs will start in the offseason program and intensify in training camp.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs will tell you they’re all right at tight end. They think Luke Stocker can do more than he has in the past and that Tom Crabtree can be more of a pass catcher than he was in his Green Bay days. They might be right. But I still think the Bucs need to add a pass-catching tight end with some experience. They’ve done just about everything else to make sure quarterback Josh Freeman is surrounded with all the talent he needs to succeed. But tight end is the one spot where the Bucs haven’t upgraded.
Whenever negotiations for a contract extension turn serious, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and his agent might want to send a thank-you note to cornerback Asante Samuel.
Appearing on “First Take’’ on Thursday, Samuel, who won two Super Bowl championships with Tom Brady in New England, said Ryan compares favorably to Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
“I think he’s on that level already,’’ Samuel said. “Most definitely. He’s been a productive quarterback since he’s been in the league. He’s led his team to the playoffs (four times). This was the first year we got over the hump and got one playoff victory. Four minutes away from the Super Bowl, so I think he’s right up there. He’s just got to get more experience and more time in and you’ll see more championships.’’
Actually, the Falcons haven’t won any championships (other than NFC South crowns) with Ryan. But I get Samuel’s point that championships will come in time. The Falcons obviously were on the cusp of last season’s Super Bowl and I think their offseason moves have been solid.
So what’s it going to take for the Falcons to take the next step?
“I think it’s just leadership,’’ Saumel said. “We’re more of a young team. More people have to learn how to win and what it takes to win. That’s where the leadership comes [in]. More leaders. It’s never enough.’’
It’s going to be an expensive proposition for the Falcons. But it shouldn’t be all that complicated. The Falcons want Ryan for the long term and he wants to stay in Atlanta. Thanks to Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco, the parameters are in place for a potential Ryan deal.
My guess is the Falcons and Ryan will reach an agreement sometime between now and the start of training camp. Of the NFC South players heading into the final year of their contracts, Ryan is the biggest name.
But I just scanned through the contract situations of all four NFC South rosters and I’m seeing at least one player from every team that could be in line for an extension. Let’s take a look:
Atlanta Falcons. Ryan obviously is the priority. But there’s one other player to keep an eye on in Atlanta. Defensive tackle Corey Peters is heading into the final year of his contract. Peters has become a solid starter and he’s helped by the fact that fellow defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux and Peria Jerry also are headed into the final season of their contracts. Babineaux is aging and I don’t see the Falcons extending him. Jerry’s career has been thrown off track by injuries, so I don’t see him as a candidate for an extension. It would be nice to have a little bit of long-term stability at defensive tackle. The Falcons likely will free up some cap room when they extend Ryan and that could allow them to give Peters a new deal.
Carolina Panthers. They’ve spent this offseason trimming salary-cap space, but it might be time to think about spending a little money. Defensive end Greg Hardy is heading into the final season of his contract. Hardy reached double-digit sacks last season and he and Charles Johnson give the Panthers one of the league’s top defensive end tandems. The Panthers might be wise to extend Hardy soon. If he turns in another big season, his price tag is only going to go up.
New Orleans Saints. They’ve worked their way through a difficult salary-cap situation this offseason, but it might be time to take care of the most underpaid guy on the team. Tight end Jimmy Graham is heading into the last year of his contract. In becoming one of the league’s best tight ends, Graham clearly has outperformed his rookie contract. Graham hasn’t complained about his relatively low salary, but it might be wise to make a pre-emptive strike and make him happy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wide receiver Mike Williams is headed into the final season of his contract and there have been indications the Bucs want to extend him soon. That would be a smart move. The Bucs have enough cap room to give Williams a front-loaded contract. He and Vincent Jackson form a very good combination at receiver. If the Bucs wait too long and Williams puts up another big season, he could get huge money on the free-agent market.
This inquiry came during our SportsNation chat Tuesday as well as via the mailbag. Many of you want to know how Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will receive $40 million in cash this season, and a total of $62.5 million over the next three years, and still count only $12 million against the 2013 salary cap.
It's actually pretty simple. Here's how it works out:
Most of Rodgers' $40 million in 2013 compensation comes in the form of a $35 million signing bonus. Although he will receive the cash this year, NFL accounting rules allow the salary-cap hit to be pro-rated over five years. So that means $7 million of it will count against the 2013 cap.
Rodgers has a $4.5 million base salary and a $500,000 workout bonus, all of which counts against 2013 by NFL rules. When you add the pro-rated portion of the signing bonus to the base salary and workout bonus, you get $12 million.
Next up: How a bill becomes a law.
The chart provides the details in cap terms. Rodgers and Matthews will account for 15.2 percent of this year's $123 million cap allotment. It's difficult to project future percentages without knowing the team-by-team cap number for those years, but it's worth noting that the highest combined year for the pair is in 2017 at $35.85 million.
Relatively speaking, that's a reasonable sum for two elite players. For context, consider that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is scheduled to count $31.5 million against the 2017 cap on his own.
Matt Ryan. With Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers signing a huge contract extension, Ryan and his agent have stepped out of the on-deck circle and are walking toward the plate. Ryan’s going to get money similar to what Rodgers and Joe Flacco got. I wouldn’t look for a drawn-out negotiating period. The market value has been set and the Falcons and Ryan know they want to be together for the long haul.
Lamar Holmes. The fact the Falcons didn’t draft a single offensive lineman is a good indication of how they feel about Holmes, a third-round pick last year. It now is looking like Holmes is the heir apparent to right tackle Tyson Clabo, who was released.
Eric Washington. He’s the defensive line coach for the Carolina Panthers and already was a rising star after Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy each produced double-digit sacks last year. Now, Washington will get a chance to really bolster his reputation (and perhaps eventually become a defensive coordinator after the Panthers used their top two picks on defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. On paper at least, Washington has enough talent to whip up one of the league’s best defensive lines.
Ronde Barber. The Buccaneers say they still want the veteran defensive back to return for another year. But in what capacity? He’s not going to start at free safety because the Bucs signed Dashon Goldson. A return to cornerback is possible, but Barber likely would be behind Darrelle Revis, Eric Wright and rookie Johnthan Banks. Backup safeties and fourth cornerbacks almost always have to play special teams. Do you honestly see Barber doing that at this point in his career? If he wants to keep playing, there might be a place or two where he can still be a starter and that could mean he won’t play his entire career with the Bucs.
Charles Brown and Jason Smith. The New Orleans Saints used a third-round draft pick on offensive tackle Terron Armstead. That means they aren’t sold on Brown or Smith as their left tackle. Armstead won’t be handed the job, but he’ll compete with Brown and Smith in training camp.
John Abraham. There has been a lot of talk from Atlanta fans about the Falcons perhaps re-signing the veteran defensive end. I’ve said all along that’s a long shot. After the draft, I think it’s an even longer shot. The Falcons drafted defensive ends Malliciah Goodman (fourth round) and Stansly Maponga (fifth round). They also have a couple of other young defensive ends on the roster in Jonathan Massaquoi and Cliff Matthews. It doesn’t look like there’s room on the roster to bring back an aging player who already was released.
The Packers had a key advantage over other teams who have negotiated mega-million dollar quarterback contracts recently. Rodgers had two years remaining on his previous deal, a structure that allowed the Packers to spread out a record-setting five-year extension over a longer period. That helped lessen the Packers' annual salary-cap hit, as well as their cash outlay, over the full seven years they now have Rodgers under contract for.
An elite quarterback's contract has the potential to cripple an NFL team. Rodgers' most certainly does not.
As the chart at the bottom shows, Rodgers' cap number won't exceed $20 million until 2017 and won't elevate beyond $21.1 million at any point. Compare that structure to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, whose new deal will count $25.3 million in 2015. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's deal will count $28.55 million against the cap by 2016, and the New Orleans Saints are looking at a cap hit of $26.4 million for Drew Brees by '16.
Of this there can be no doubt: The Packers and Rodgers agreed on a deal that won't be as onerous as those for Flacco, Brees and even Romo. Rodgers, in fact, seems likely to play the next seven years without a significant renegotiation, giving the Packers a long-range planning advantage.
With that said, it's difficult for me to classify the deal as an obvious hometown discount when it set a number of NFL records, including the payout over the first three years ($65.2 million). Rodgers will also tie an NFL record for single-year payout by receiving $40 million in cash during the 2013 league year. (As we discussed earlier, Rodgers really had no incentive to take a true hometown discount because there is no reason to expect it would change how the Packers do business with other players.)
The best way to view those aspects of the deal is as a tradeoff for agreeing to spread the payout of a five-year extension over seven years. In the end, the Packers have Rodgers signed to a seven-year deal worth a total of $130.75 million.
The annual average of those figures, $18.7 million, is less than what Flacco, Brees and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning receive. That, along with the manageable cap structure, are the biggest wins for the Packers. In return, Rodgers is getting a record-setting amount of cash now and over the next three years rather than await a backloaded payout that might never come. A win-win all around, if you ask me.
But in the second round? After a trade that dropped the Packers another six spots to the penultimate choice of the round?
Can't say I ever considered it.
I guess that's why the professionals handle such things.
The Packers scooped up Lacy with the No. 61 overall selection of the draft, a high-value pick if you thought Lacy was a first-round talent and an economical one if you merely agreed the Packers needed a better plan in the backfield moving forward. At 231 pounds, Lacy is the kind of inside power runner the Packers haven't had in the Mike McCarthy-Aaron Rodgers era. Lacy, in fact, is the Packers' highest-drafted running back since Darrell Thompson was the No. 19 overall pick in 1990.
The Packers ranked No. 26 last season in average yards after contact per rush (1.5 yards), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Newcomer DuJuan Harris created some excitement at the end of last season with his frenetic style, but it should tell you something about a team's commitment to building a position that a player was able to walk off the street in midseason, join the practice squad, be promoted to the active roster in Week 13 and earn a starting job by Week 14.
The Packers could add a new layer to their offense if they use Lacy the way Alabama did. Almost two-thirds of his rushing attempts went between the tackles, and he averaged 7.6 yards per carry on those plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
There are those who might attribute an inordinate amount of Lacy's success to Alabama's dominant offensive line, one that included a pair of 2013 first-round draft picks, guard Chance Warmack and tackle D.J. Fluker. Indeed, Lacy averaged 4.2 yards before contact last season and made it at least five yards past the line of scrimmage before being touched on nearly 36 percent of his rushes.
But as the chart shows, Lacy was more productive on those inside runs than former Alabama tailback Trent Richardson was in the same situation during the 2011 season. Richardson, of course, went No. 3 overall to the Cleveland Browns in the 2012 draft.
"You watch the film and he rarely goes down with one guy trying to tackle him," Packers director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst told Green Bay reporters. "More guys have to tackle him. He kind of has to be gang-tackled. That’s intriguing as well."
Alabama's offensive line might have had something to do with Lacy falling to the bottom of the second round. The more likely reason, however, was an offseason hamstring injury that limited him during pre-draft workouts. He reportedly wasn't in top shape for his makeshift Pro Day earlier this month, and his 40-yard times of 4.59 and 4.62 that day excited no one.
Gutekunst expressed no concern over Lacy's physical condition, however, calling the Pro Day workout "part of the process." Lacy said: "I wasn't 100 percent but I decided to try it anyway."
Lacy has plenty of time to recover before the start of training camp in July. When he does, the Packers will have what Gutekunst called "a little bit different [player] than we've had maybe in the past."
I don't anticipate the Packers offense changing much with Lacy joining Harris, James Starks, Alex Green and John Kuhn in the backfield. This offense and scheme will always revolve around Rodgers and the passing game. (As it should, by the way.)
What his arrival should do, however, is make the Packers more versatile and ultimately better. They now have their best option in years for times that call for tough yards or running out the clock or simply wearing down a defense. He won't be as exciting as a half-dozen other skill players on the Packers' roster, but every flash needs a grind and every slash needs a pound. Or something like that.
On April 23, 2005, Rodgers spent an uncomfortable afternoon in the green room at the NFL draft, famously waiting out 23 selections before the Green Bay Packers took him at No. 24 overall.
Almost exactly eight years later -- on April 26, 2013 -- Rodgers signed a deal that in financial terms confirmed he is the best player in the NFL. You would be na´ve to think Rodgers isn't keenly aware of that serendipity. I have no idea if it was his idea to announce the deal on the second day of the 2013 NFL draft, but if it was, I for one wouldn't be surprised.
Like most stars, Rodgers got to this point because he is athletic, a hard worker, a willing learner and an able leader. And make no mistake, plenty of prominent athletes are motivated by outside slights, real or imagined. But I have never run across a player who works so hard to locate, generate and churn through snubs than Rodgers.
There is no doubt he has had his share, from a lack of Division I college scholarship offers to his draft-day tumble to fans' initial lukewarm reaction to his ascension to the starting job in 2008. Yet Rodgers is quite adept, as we've learned over the years, in finding even the most minute slight.
Don't believe me? Consider what happened Friday afternoon, a few minutes before he gave a news conference to local reporters.
It appears that coach Mike McCarthy told him it had been eight years and two days since his brutal stint in the draft green room. Rodgers knew better.
"I said, 'Actually it was [eight years and] three days,'" Rodgers said. "I have a good memory. I'm driven to be the best. Obviously there is a couple less critics out there but I still put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve the goals I set for myself every year and enjoy trying to meet the challenge that those goals bring and opposing teams bring."
Yes, Rodgers hasn't forgotten that day. Thursday night, he found himself tweeting support to West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, who spent the entire first round in the green room. He said Friday that "there is light at the end of that tunnel."
Rodgers has long since stepped into that light, but my guess is he's keeping one foot in the dark, just for comfort's sake. It's worked so far.
Rodgers' $22 million per-year average tops Flacco's $20.1 million average ($120.6 million over six years). Flacco accurately predicted how long his run as the highest-paid player would last.
"I’m sure in a couple of months from now, someone is going to sign a deal, and you guys are going to be talking to them about how they are the highest paid guy in NFL history," Flacco said after signing his contract on March 4. "That’s just the name of the game. I know that this isn’t going to hold up for that long, but that’s not a priority of mine to be the highest-paid guy. The priority of mine was to get that respect that I felt, that I feel now from this organization.”
I wonder if Rodgers is going to celebrate in style like Flacco did.
Big thanks to the Organization, our coaching staff, my teammates, and packer nation for the last 8 years!Excited about 7 more!#extension— Aaron Rodgers (@AaronRodgers12) April 26, 2013
@aaronrodgers12 hey man can I come on your 150 ft yacht sometime?— TJ Lang (@TJLang70) April 26, 2013
Congratulations 2 my man @aaronrodgers12. Frankly, he deserves more, but thank you 4 saving some 4 the rest. Every dinner on u sir! Let's Go— Jermichael Finley (@JermichaelF88) April 26, 2013
Pretty good money for a guy who didn't have a scholarship offer out of HS #TheDisrespectfulOne— Gerald Alexander (@GAlexander21) April 26, 2013
Every room is now a green room for Aaron Rodgers.— Scott Hanson (@ScottHanson) April 26, 2013
Aaron Rodgers is getting 40 million THIS season. The #Astros ENTIRE payroll is 27 million. Both have same shot at winning World Series— Robert Flores (@RoFloESPN) April 26, 2013
Here is a quick update on the financial details of Aaron Rodgers' new contract with the Green Bay Packers, according to ESPN reporters and other media outlets:
- The Packers added five years and a total of $110 million to Rodgers' current deal, which was due to expire after the 2014 season. That means Rodgers is signed for the next seven seasons, at a total of $130.75 million.
- The deal expires after the 2019 season, when Rodgers will be 36 years old. He has spoken in the past of this contract being his final deal before retirement. (No, there is no truth to the rumor that the Minnesota Vikings will try to sign Rodgers for 2020.)
- As part of the arrangement, Rodgers will receive $40 million guaranteed in 2013 and a total of $62.5 million over the next three seasons.
- Rodgers' salary cap never exceeds $21 million during any season, according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network.
- The $22 million average of Rodgers' new money, as well as the $62.5 million figure over three years, makes this deal officially the richest in NFL history. Both figures surpass those of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who has a $21.6 million average and will receive $62 million over three years.
More in a bit before we turn our attention to the draft.