Aaron Rodgers vs. Rams

For those who appreciate numbers about as much as a two-by-four to the jimmy, I would recommend moving along. Nothing to see here. For those of you who think you can take the pain, I have an invitation into Russ Ball’s world and the mind-numbing mayhem of  the NFL salary cap.

This time of year is Russ Ball’s time. Ball is Ted Thompson’s cap addict and chief negotiator of player contracts. If reports are to be believed, then Mr. Ball is currently working on likely the biggest contract in NFL history AND the biggest defensive contract in NFL history, simultaneously.

Many Green Bay Packers fans may wonder how a team with around $20 million in cap space can afford to sign two of the most lucrative contracts in NFL history at the same time. Others are concerned about the Packers ability to pay anyone else once they have gotten Rodgers and Matthews to sign on the dotted line.

Well, beyond merely telling you how this can be done, I have actually done it. I have constructed contracts for both players that keep the Packers under the salary cap for 2013, mitigate the percentage of cap used in the foreseeable future, AND present very lucrative and attractive offers that neither player is likely to pass on.

Aaron Rodgers: 6 years, $138 million, $70 million guaranteed

AARON RODGERS Year Salary Signing Bonus Other Bonus Cap Hit
2013 $2,000,000 $6,000,000 0 $8,000,000
2014 $6,000,000 $6,000,000 $4,500,000 $16,500,000
2015 $12,000,000 $6,000,000 $4,500,000 $22,500,000
2016 $12,000,000 $6,000,000 $4,500,000 $22,500,000
2017 $18,000,000 $6,000,000 $4,500,000 $28,500,000
2018 $20,500,000 $19,500,000 $40,000,000
6 $138,000,000.00
Signing Bonus $30 million $23,000,000.00
2014 Roster Bonus $20 million
Guaranteed Salaries 2013-2015
2018 Roster Bonus $15 million
Pro Bowl or Playoffs Bonus $2.5 million

Clay Matthews: 6 years, $97 million, $50 million guaranteed

CLAY MATTHEWS 2013 $1,000,000 $4,000,000 $10,000,000 $15,000,000
2014 $2,000,000 $4,000,000 $4,000,000 $10,000,000
2015 $6,000,000 $4,000,000 $4,000,000 $14,000,000
2016 $10,000,000 $4,000,000 $4,000,000 $18,000,000
2017 $12,000,000 $4,000,000 $4,000,000 $20,000,000
2018 $16,000,000 $4,000,000 $20,000,000
Signing Bonus $20 million 6 $97,000,000.00
2013 Roster Bonus $10 million
2014 Roster Bonus $15 million
Guaranteed Salaries 2013-2014
Guaranteed Salaries 2015 – $2 million
12 Games Active Bonus $1 million 2014-2018

This contract would have a very manageable cap hit in the first two years, before going up in 2015, the same year that the new TV contract is expected to raise the salary cap significantly. The cap hits would remain manageable until 2017, at which point, much of the bonuses would be exhausted, opening the door for a Brady-like renegotiation.Aaron Rodgers’ contract would pay him $30 million the day he signs, $58 million the first two years, and the full $70 million guaranteed within the first three years of the contract. Meanwhile, it would actually lower his cap hit for 2013 by nearly $2 million, creating even more room for Matthews.

The contract for Matthews would give him $30 million the day he signed it, $48 million in the first two years, and $50 million guaranteed within the first three years. It would be front-loaded to take advantage of the $15 million available in cap space in 2013, which should still leave the Packers over $10 million in space to sign their draft class, Sam Shields and Evan Dietrich-Smith.

After the bigger hit in 2013, his cap hit would actually go down for the next two years, which would help accommodate Rodgers’ cap hit going up. I have also included a $1 million bonus for every season Matthews plays at least 12 games, which would potentially save the Packers money if his injuries ever sideline him extensively. While this contract can easily be renegotiated starting in 2016, its cap hit never rises above $20 million, making it possible that it could be served out.

Combined Hit % of CAP
$23,000,000 18.55%
$26,500,000 22.00%
$36,500,000 26.07%
$40,500,000 27.93%
$48,500,000 32.33%
$60,000,000 38.71%

Listed above are the combined cap hits of both contracts starting in 2013 and the percentage of the projected salary cap they would occupy. As you can see, after these contracts were signed, Rodgers and Matthews would take up about one-fifth of the overall cap in the first two years and one-fourth in the second two years before finally going above 30 percent in 2017. However, as already seen, both contracts could be renegotiated by 2017 to make sure that never happens.

So, fear not, Packers fans. If I can construct a couple extremely generous contracts that would not take up more than 28 percent of the salary cap for the next four years, then one would think Russ Ball can do even better. Of course, the players will have something to say about that.