- Front Porch
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — This ought to give Aaron Rodgers better memories of the NFL draft.
The Green Bay Packers signed their franchise quarterback Friday to a five-year contract extension through the 2019 season, eight years after they stopped his slide down the draft board and took him with the 24th pick in the first round.
The deal, according to a person with knowledge of the contract who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team has not released the details, is worth as much as $110 million, with $40 million guaranteed. The $22 million annual average of the extension is the highest salary in NFL history, slightly trumping the $120.6 million that the Baltimore Ravens gave quarterback Joe Flacco last month over six years.
“I’m excited to know my future is here and I’ll be here for a lot longer,” Rodgers said inside the locker room at Lambeau Field.
Locking up Rodgers was a priority for the Packers, who also reached a long-term extension with linebacker Clay Matthews this month worth as much as $66 million over five years. The Packers are 53-27 in five years with Rodgers as the starter, and he led them to the Super Bowl title following the 2010 season.
“An exciting day for our football program,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Aaron is an excellent illustration of a Green Bay Packer. It is truly a blessing to witness his continued accomplishments, both on and off the field.”
Rodgers has thrown for 21,661 yards and 171 touchdowns, and he has had a quarterback rating of 101.2 or better in all but one season as a starter. His quarterback rating of 122.5 in 2011 is an NFL record.
The finalization of the extension, which was worked on for the last few months, came on the same late-April weekend on which Rodgers was snubbed by almost every other team in the NFL draft. A standout at Cal, Rodgers was expected to be taken early in the first round in 2005. But he soon found himself alone in the green room.
Rodgers acknowledged that prove-the-doubters-wrong attitude he’s used to his benefit throughout his career since that day he was ignored by so many in the draft.
“I have a good memory, and I’m driven to be the best,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, there’s a couple less critics out there now, but I still put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve the goals I set for myself here and enjoy trying to meet the challenge that those goals bring and also opposing teams bring.”
Draft day wasn’t the only rough spot for Rodgers in his career.
He arrived in Green Bay as the backup to Brett Favre, who wasn’t thrilled the team had found his heir apparent. Favre kept fans and the franchise on their toes every offseason from then on, flirting with the idea of retiring but always coming back. When the tension finally snapped in 2008 — Favre retired, changed his mind and asked for his job back — Rodgers found himself in the middle of the most-bitter divorce in Wisconsin history.
Favre was traded to the New York Jets during training camp, but many fans remained loyal to him. They took their anger at the organization out on Rodgers, even booing him at the team’s “Family Night” scrimmage. Rodgers kept his composure, never firing back at fans or even publicly criticizing Favre.
Rodgers played well in his first year as a starter. Despite a 6-10 record, he showed flashes of why general manager Ted Thompson had such faith in him, and fans began to come around. Any lingering animosity disappeared after he led the Packers to the playoffs following the 2009 season, and he’s now one of the most beloved figures in Wisconsin sports history. The Wisconsin Legislature designated Dec. 12, 2012, as “Aaron Rodgers Day,” and students and workers throughout the state were encouraged to celebrate by wearing his jersey.
When he was shown on the scoreboard at the Milwaukee Bucks’ playoff game against the Miami Heat on Thursday, he got one of the biggest cheers of the night.
Rodgers holds four of Green Bay’s top five single-season marks for passer rating (2009-12) and two of the top three for passing TDs (2011-12). He also has three of the top four records for completion percentage (2010-12) and two of the top three for passing yards (2009, 2011).
Rodgers will be 36 when the deal ends. He said he thinks he has at least eight years left in his legs and his body, when asked if wondered if this would be his last contract.
“A lot of times you don’t see a deal all the way through if you’re playing well. It’s just the nature of some of these contracts. That’s a long way off. In order to even get to that conversation, it’s going to take many years in a row at a consistently high level of play for me, which I expect to do,” Rodgers said. “And I’m going to get myself in the best shape mentally and physically to do that, and hopefully we can have that conversation in seven years where I can still play and maybe we can keep this thing going.”
AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner in New York and AP National Writer Nancy Armour from Milwaukee contributed to this report.
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