What Aaron Rodgers' record-breaking extension with the Green Bay Packers means

Jay Asser 29/08/2018
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Aaron Rodgers is once again the richest quarterback in the game.

Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers agreed on Wednesday to a record-breaking four-year, $134 million extension, which could be worth up to $180m and features $103m in guaranteed money, according to reports.

Aside from setting a record in terms of the total value of the contract, guaranteed money and annual salary ($33.5m), the deal is also set to keep Rodgers in Green Bay through the 2023 season, when he’ll turn 40.

The last time Rodgers was the highest-paid quarterback was in 2015, when he was still on his five-year, $100m extension. Since then, several quarterbacks have surpassed him, with Matt Ryan the latest to set a new benchmark with his five-year, $150m extension with the Atlanta Falcons back in May.

It’s appropriate that Rodgers, who is widely considered the best quarterback in the league, is once again at the top of the hierarchy. It’s unclear how long his run will last though.

Usually, when NFL stars ink record deals, it paves the way for another player to top the mark down the road. But when it’s players who are considered the best at their position signing those deals, they become harder to beat.

In terms of ability, no quarterback in the league has a leg to stand on when it comes to arguing they deserve more money than Rodgers. Age is the only factor working in favour of other quarterbacks, who can point to more years of service in contract negotiations. Still, it could be some time before anyone jumps Rodgers, especially with $3.5 million separating him and Ryan, allowing players to continue one-upping each other without dethroning the Packers star.

For Green Bay, the contract gives the franchise peace of mind as they know they have their leader locked in for several seasons to come. But it also comes with some risk due to Rodgers’ injury history and his age by the time the deal ends.

Rodgers has suffered two major injuries in his career, with the first coming in 2013 when he fractured his collarbone and missed seven games, and the other coming last year when he similarly broke his collarbone and sat out nine contests.

The risk with his injury history isn’t about how his previous ailments will affect him going forward, but rather how his playing style will age.

Both of those injuries came when Rodgers was roaming outside the pocket, trying to make a play. Part of what makes Rodgers so dangerous is his mobility and ability to strike from anywhere on the field. That also puts him in the way of danger at times, which he’s so far mostly avoided, but could catch up on him as he ages.

Rodgers hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down in his mid 30s, but quarterbacks have been known to fall off a cliff without notice.

In all likelihood, Rodgers should follow in the path of Tom Brady and Drew Brees as a quarterback who remains sharp in his old age.

His monster deal won’t make it any easier for the Packers to put the best pieces around him, but that’s a more than reasonable price to pay for a player who makes them Super Bowl contenders year in and year out.

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Odell Beckham is worth every bit of his record-breaking deal for the New York Giants

Jay Asser 28/08/2018
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One of the NFL’s most entertaining players is now also one of its highest paid.

Odell Beckham Jr and the New York Giants agreed to a reported five-year, $95 million deal – including $65m guaranteed – on Monday that makes the star wide receiver the top-earning player at his position.

Any way you slice it, Beckham’s contract puts him above every other receiver in the league, with his total value and guaranteed money eclipsing the mark set by Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout Mike Evans ($82.5m and $55m), and his annual salary topping the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown ($17m).

Brown and Atlanta Falcons playmaker Julio Jones are, statistically speaking, the only two receivers in Beckham’s class, with the former having recorded at least 101 receptions, 1,284 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in five straight seasons, while the latter is the only player in NFL history with more receiving yards per game than Beckham’s 94.1 (95.3).

Beckham, meanwhile, had at least 90 catches, 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of his first three seasons. Last year, he played in only four games due to an ankle fracture and finished with 25 catches, 302 yards and three scores. But if you extrapolate those numbers over a 16-game season, Beckham was on pace for 100 receptions, 1,208 yards and 12 touchdowns.

No player in league history has ever reached 200 receptions and 3,000 yards quicker than Beckham, who needed 30 games to hit those benchmarks. He also became the fastest player to reach 100 career receptions, achieving the feat in the first 14 games of his rookie year.

At 25, Beckham is considerably younger than both Jones (29) and Brown (30), which means he has several more prime years to continue his assault on opposing defences and the record books.

His value to the Giants – since entering the league and going forward – can’t be overstated.

Since 2014, New York have averaged 22.7 points when Beckham has been on the field, compared to 16.9 without him.

The pressure he puts on secondaries is difficult to fully quantify because the attention he commands opens up the field for the Giants’ other skill players.

Whether he’s facing zone or man defence, Beckham has elite athleticism to create separation and the speed to turn ordinary catches into long touchdowns.

And as the world learned when he made that jaw-dropping one-handed catch against the Dallas Cowboys in his rookie season, Beckham has the kind of flair and big-play ability that is rare.

With Beckham, there’s almost nothing he can’t do as a player. The one flaw in his game of late has been dropped passes. He had nine drops in 2016, including the postseason, which was third-most in the NFL, and led the league with five drops at the time of his season-ending injury last year, according to ESPN.

But even those were arguably more mental than physical, and part of the demons Beckham has had to confront over the past three years when he’s dealt with controversy on and off the field.

Whether it’s been attacking kicking nets, throwing punches at defenders, or being the subject of social media chatter for the wrong reasons, Beckham has had an eventful career that has had few dull moments so far.

Heading into the new season, his presence will once again be crucial to the Giants’ success, especially with the team coming off their worst 16-game record in franchise history at 3-13.

New York used their second overall pick to select running back Saquon Barkley in the draft, while the rest of the offence features third-year receiver Sterling Shepard and second-year tight end Evan Engram.

And no one is more affected by Beckham more than Eli Manning, who is getting another shot as the starting quarterback this season after the Giants opted to pass on drafting his replacement.

Since 2014, Manning has a passer rating of 113.4 when targeting Beckham and a rating of 87.9 when throwing to all other receivers, according to Pro Football Focus.

For the Giants to turn around their fortunes in 2018, Beckham will be every bit as important as any other player on the roster, and as important as any non-quarterback in the league – something that is now reflected in his new contract.

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Peyton Barber and other undervalued players to target in fantasy NFL drafts

Jay Asser 27/08/2018
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Fantasy football leagues aren’t always won by the players you take at the top of the draft. Often, players selected in the mid to late rounds, and even those that go undrafted, can swing leagues by outperforming their draft-day value. Here are five such candidates, along with their average draft position (ADP) in standard scoring compiled by FantasyPros.

Peyton Barber

ADP: 113 overall, RB43

Three-down running backs are scarce as it is, so finding one at Barber’s ADP is like striking gold. Rookie Ronald Jones will be a threat as the season goes on, but for now, Barber is entrenched as the lead back for Tampa Bay and someone who can get you off to a fast start in your leagues.

Patrick Mahomes
ADP: 115 overall, QB16

He has a ton a talent and is in a great situation. What’s not to love? Kansas City coach Andy Reid has a knack for molding QBs and Mahomes has plenty of weapons to work with, as well as a shaky defence that could result in negative game scripts, forcing Mahomes to throw often.

Kenny Stills
ADP: 120 overall, WR47

Jarvis Landry is now in Cleveland, leaving behind a ton of targets for Dolphins receivers. Stills may not have the highest ceiling, but he has the chance to lead his team in targets, receptions, yardage and receiving touchdowns. Yet he’s being drafted as nothing more than a bench option.

George Kittle
ADP: 134 overall, TE13

The 49ers offence has a chance to take a major leap in Kyle Shanahan’s second year and Kittle stands to benefit. Last season, he had 11 catches for 194 yards in his final three games and had 16 red-zone targets. He’s already proven that whenever he’s on the field, he produces.

Chris Godwin
ADP: 192 overall, WR68

Reports out of Tampa Bay’s training camp are raving about the second-year wideout, who is on his way to claiming the WR2 spot on the roster full-time. Plus, he’s already looked the part in preseason. At his current ADP, Godwin is a no-risk, high-reward dart throw.

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