$.01-- Aaron Rodgers got paid. Green Bay’s franchise quarterback and perennial NFL MVP candidate inked a contract extension. Though calling this “just an extension” is akin to calling Mozart “some guy who wrote some songs.”
Rodgers' deal is a massive, record-breaking contract. The broader details:
Four years, $134M on top the remaining year on his five-year, $110M deal he signed in 2013
$57.5M signing bonus
$102.5M total guaranteed
The $102.5M in guarantees makes him the first NFL player to top the $100M mark in that field. Matt Ryan got $100M, Matthew Stafford $92M in their most recent extensions. The $33.5M average annual salary tops Ryan by over 10 percent. Kirk Cousins is getting a higher percentage of his three-year monster deal with Minnesota guaranteed, but Cousins will earn just $84M total.
Rodgers deserves the deal, no question. No player in the last decade has been more integral to his team’s success than ARod. Not Tom Brady, not Drew Brees, not anyone.
This carries Rodgers to 2024, when he’ll be 40 years old. The bountiful guarantees, with the signing bonus spread out over the first four years for cap purposes, makes moving Rodgers or altering the deal extraordinarily difficult. Not that the Packers would want to…
$.02-- Odell Beckham Jr. also got paid. The Giants star wideout agreed to a new deal which pays him a record guaranteed amount for a wide receiver.
Beckham signed a five-year, $90M contract with the Giants, one which includes a $20M signing bonus, with $65M total guaranteed. The guaranteed figure is the largest for any wideout in NFL history, though the total figure remains well behind Calvin Johnson’s ridiculous seven-year/$113.5M deal back in 2012, which had $60M guaranteed.
It’s a big gamble for the Giants with OBJ coming off an injury in 2017 which limited him to just 4 games. It’s also a necessary one. Beckham is the face of the franchise and the reason for hope beyond the Eli Manning era. He loves the attention and embraces the spotlight, an important attribute in the peculiarly harsh New York media market.
The Beckham from the first three years of his career is absolutely worthy of being the highest-paid wideout. His freak catch radius, impeccable hands, acceleration and swagger are All-Pro fuel, to the tune of 96 catches, 1350 yards and 13 TDs a year on average. He’s still just 25 and looked fully recovered when I saw him in Detroit during the Giants’ joint practice sessions with the Lions. Beckham and rookie RB Saquon Barkley could be the new Antonio Brown/Le'Veon Bell, and this deal ensures they get five full seasons to play together.
$.03-- Khalil Mack has not gotten paid by the Oakland Raiders, and it doesn’t seem like the two sides will make a new deal happen anytime soon. The All-Pro sack artist is holding out, with no movement reported from either side despite intense scrutiny. There are so many Mack trade rumors his odds of returning to Oakland are actually lower now than playing in Green Bay.
The bottom line: new Raiders coach and de facto majordomo Jon Gruden doesn’t appear to have any desire to pay Mack. The 27-year-old versatile EDGE (he wins both as a stand-up OLB and a hand-in-dirt DE) has 36 sacks in the last three years and trails only Von Miller in QB pressures created in that time.
Miller signed for $114.5M over six years, something Gruden and the relocating Raiders clearly don’t want to pony up for Mack -- handily the team’s best player. There is no end in near sight for this holdout. Mack is currently due just under $14M in 2018 on the club option on his initial rookie deal he signed as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
It’s a curious line in very loose sand for Gruden to draw in his much-hyped return to the sidelines. Is he cocksure enough in his own coaching prowess that he believes he can prevail without the services of the team’s most talented player? Is Gruden sending a message that nobody is bigger than the club? Is he that sold on the combination of Bruce Irvin, 3rd-round rookie Arden Key and young Shilique Calhoun compensating for not having Mack and using any trade return from a potential deal to improve the team elsewhere?
Nobody but Gruden really knows what he’s thinking here. With so many people (myself admittedly included here) openly skeptical of Gruden’s ability and initial strategy with his team after being away from the sidelines for over a decade, it’s either going to be a tremendous validation for the popular figure or more toxic gas for the wrong kind of black hole in Oakland.
$.04-- Dez Bryant wants to get paid, but the ex-Cowboys wide receiver has yet to find any NFL team willing to give him what he feels is fair market value.
Bryant got dumped by the Cowboys back in April. Dallas owner Jerry Jones didn’t even entertain the idea of offering Bryant a pay cut from the remaining two seasons on his five-year/$70M deal he signed in 2015. After meeting with the Ravens shortly after his unceremonious release, Bryant decided to wait and see who else might want to pay him.
A recent and high-profile visit with the Cleveland Browns failed to get Bryant what he wants. His delay in accepting the visit -- Dez did not initially return Browns GM John Dorsey’s phone calls -- didn’t help. A day after Bryant made his visit, Josh Gordon returned to Cleveland. Later comments by Dorsey indicate the Browns appear to want Bryant more than he wants to take a small offer to play for them.
Therein lies the problem with Dez. He still thinks he’s the 2012-14 version of himself. That Bryant was arguably the NFL’s most dangerous wideout. He averaged 90 catches, 1300 yards and 14 TDs for the Cowboys in that span.
Alas, age and injuries have not been kind to Dez. Knee and foot problems have robbed him of his trademark explosiveness out of cuts and hurt his leaping ability to win contested throws. Physically he just cannot perform at the level of his peak anymore. There’s no shame in that...as long as Bryant realizes it.
Every indication is Bryant has yet to have this epiphany, unfortunately. Until he does, the offer will never be enough to lure him from the free agent pile.
$.05-- It didn’t get the attention it deserves, but quietly the Cincinnati Bengals locked up to key pieces to their underrated defensive front.
Geno Atkins, one of the game’s best defensive tackles every year, made history with his extension. His four-year/$65.3M deal is the biggest ever for a non-QB who is at least 30 years old. Atkins, who is 30, is consistently a disruptive force on the defensive interior. If not for Aaron Donald, Atkins would get more acclaim as the best undersized tackle in the league. The 5-time Pro Bowler has 29 sacks in the last three seasons and annually finishes in the top-5 of Pro Football Focus grading at his position.
The Bengals, not an organization noted for prodigious spending, also inked an extension with defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Their top rush end, Dunlap also has 29 sacks in the last three years. He signed for $45M over three years. The 29-year-old career Bengal has missed just one game in five seasons and has the 3rd-most fumbles forced since 2012. Dunlap also swatted an incredible 15 passes in 2016.
It’s an impressive commitment to keeping the aging defensive standouts together and happy. Again, this is not something the Bengals are known for and could be a very good sign for the future in Cincinnati...presuming they’re not paying for past production over future impact. I don’t believe they are, certainly not in Donald’s case.
What the Bengals did impacts the other major contract holdout this summer, the battle between DT Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams. Donald is arguably the best defensive player in the league and he’s just entering his prime years at 27. What Atkins is getting in four years isn’t enough for the Rams to pay Donald in three, if leaked sources about the timbre of the negotiations are to be believed. The salary floor and guaranteed figure just went up on the Rams, who are a viable NFC title contender with him but likely not even the favorite to win the NFC West without their progenitor in the middle of the defense.