Found April 26, 2013 on Fox Sports Wisconsin:
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GREEN BAY, Wis. Aaron Rodgers is the highest-paid player in NFL history. Terms of the long-anticipated contract extension the quarterback signed with the Green Bay Packers on Friday are five years and 110 million, according to multiple reports, making it the highest average annual salary ever paid to a player. ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting the extension will tack on to the end of Rodgers' current deal and tie him to the Packers through 2019, when he's 36 years old. Rodgers had two years remaining on a contract he signed in 2008. The terms of that deal had the 29-year-old set to make 9.75 million for the 2013 season and 10.5 million in 2014. In comparison to what other elite NFL quarterbacks are earning, that salary left Rodgers significantly underpaid. When Rodgers signed that previous contract, he had started only seven games after taking over the job from Brett Favre. Since then, Rodgers has led Green Bay to a Super Bowl victory at the end of the 2010 season and won the NFL MVP award in 2011. The Packers could have waited at least one more year to re-sign Rodgers, but the team decided to take care of its star player early as it did when it extended the contract of linebacker Clay Matthews for five years and more than 66 million last week. That strategy is contrary to what has happened with other quarterbacks in recent years. Joe Flacco (in 2013), Drew Brees (in 2012) and Peyton Manning (in 2011 while with the Indianapolis Colts) all got paid huge sums of money, but all three either had expiring contracts or were about to hit free agency when the new deal was reached. When Flacco re-signed with Baltimore in early March for six years and 120.6 million, he had all the leverage. The Ravens had just won the Super Bowl, and Flacco was about to become an unrestricted free agent. For a short while, Flacco was the NFL's highest-paid player. Not anymore. Prior to re-signing Rodgers, Green Bay was nearly 20 million under the salary cap for the 2013 season. Though general manager Ted Thompson is typically hesitant to sign high-priced free agents regardless of the circumstances, the Packers needed as much money available as possible to make this record-breaking deal team-friendly. "Aaron is a true professional and a special player," Thompson said. "He works hard, is humble, and is focused on his actions, on and off the field. He is an excellent teammate and pushes himself and others to be the very best. We are happy to reach an agreement to extend his career with the Packers." Rodgers, the 24th overall pick in the 2005 draft, was Thompson's first selection after being hired by Green Bay three months earlier. Rodgers began his NFL career by sitting on the bench for three consecutive seasons while Favre started every game. In 2008, Rodgers finally got his chance to take over. With some Packers fans still clamoring for Favre, Rodgers' first year as the Packers' starter didn't go very well. Green Bay finished 6-10 and was nowhere close to making the playoffs. A year later, Rodgers improved in every statistical category as the Packers went 11-5 before losing in the wild-card round of the postseason. Green Bay was on the verge of missing the playoffs in 2010 but snuck in as the NFC's sixth seed. Three road wins later and the Packers led by their emerging star at quarterback were in the Super Bowl where they went on to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rodgers was named the Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player for his three-touchdown, zero-interception performance in that game. In 2011, Green Bay was on the verge of an undefeated season, starting the year 13-0. The Packers ended the regular season at 15-1 but were upset at home in the divisional round of the playoffs by the eventual-champion New York Giants. Rodgers was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player that year with 45 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. His passer rating of 122.5 was the highest mark in league history. Last season, opposing defenses had adjusted to Green Bay's passing game, often keeping two safeties deep in coverage to try to prevent Rodgers from beating them. It worked to some extent, but the Packers won the NFC North with an 11-5 record. Rodgers' statistics weren't as remarkable, but he still had 39 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions. He was also sacked 51 times, the most of any quarterback in the NFL. Rodgers is in the prime of his career. If he continues to play at his current level for the duration of his new contract, Green Bay could have gotten a bargain despite giving Rodgers the richest deal ever. Though this contract doesn't guarantee that Rodgers will spend his entire career with the Packers, Green Bay can now continue to build around one of the league's best quarterbacks for many years to come. Follow Paul Imig on Twitter.
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