Budget crunch: Rodgers' salary affects Packers' decisions

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By Tyler Dunne
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Tuesday, January 14, 2014

GREEN BAY--At some point, the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers will need to make difficult decisions at quarterback. The price keeps rising. And they’ve got two players on rookie deals.

Colin Kaepernick is on a four-year, $5.129 million rookie contract. Russell Wilson is on a a four-year, $2.198 million deal.

At some point, these rookie deals become long-term investments.

In Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers inked a $110 million extension last offseason. The quarterback might believe another title window is opening, but the teams with cheaper quarterbacks are at a distinct financial advantage. With several free agents on the docket—and a need for an outsider or two—general manager Ted Thompson won’t have the wiggle room of other teams who have benefitted from a reasonably priced quarterback.

Of course, any team would rather have a franchise QB than not. That’s why teams such as Dallas and Chicago hand out huge deals to the Tony Romos and Jay Cutlers. Teams would rather take this gamble than get lost in an annual search for an answer. But whatever happens these next five, six months, the Packers are going to be reliant on Rodgers above all.

At his season-ending press conference, Mike McCarthy indicated that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“Aaron Rodgers is the best player in the National Football League,” McCarthy said. “So to say you’re too reliant on him, it depends on what side of the fence you want to look at. Does he make a difference on a football team? Absolutely. I think that’s stating the obvious. He makes a difference, not only when we walks on the field on Sunday, but when he’s involved in the meetings as a starting quarterback, when he’s practicing, the energy, the ability, the experience, the attitude that he brings to practice field. Clearly he makes a difference when he plays.”

Green Bay’s 2010 Super Bowl team was full of underpaid starters chasing big contracts. Those players entered the negotiating room eventually and Thompson chose who to keep.

So as we’ve said here often, the NFL draft becomes even more important for draft-and-develop Green Bay. Thompson has to nail draft picks. And be it injury or inexperience, the Packers had minimal return from their last four first-round picks this season (Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod, Nick Perry, Datone Jones).

Which puts more stress on the quarterback position in a conference being won by defense this season.

Neither Kaepernick or Wilson threw for more than 200 yards last weekend. While Kaepernick was a difference-maker again, he has the support of a star-studded defense. Same story with Wilson.

However you slice it, the Packers will be relying heavily on Rodgers in 2013 and beyond. They don’t have the excess money available to go on a shopping spree in March.

Seattle and San Francisco might have the same problem down the road. For now, they’ll play in the NFC Championship.

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