28

March

Packers Contracts, the Salary Cap, and More – Part 6: Aaron Rodgers and the Big Contract

packers_piggy_bankOne of the hardest things for the average fan to comprehend is how NFL contracts work and how they apply to a team’s salary cap. There are many complicated elements, rules, and exceptions that can be hard to sort out. In this series, my goal is to help you better understand how this whole system works, plus what it means to the Green Bay Packers’ current salary cap and contract concerns.

Before reading, make sure to check out the previous article(s) in the series:

Our sixth and final article focuses on Aaron Rodgers and the “big contract.” Ted Thompson has been preparing for this moment for a long time now, and we’re going to attempt to scratch through the surface of this major negotiation.

Across this series, we’ve talked about a lot of things concerning NFL player contracts and the salary cap. Now is when the rubber meets the road, though, and we try to put this knowledge to use. I’m also going to introduce a few new things that will keep it interesting, such as general cap economics and the concept of “option bonuses.” Fair warning: there is going to be a lot to digest here.

First and foremost, we have to understand why Aaron Rodgers needs a new deal – and soon. Here is how his current contract looks:

rodgers_contract

 

This is the extension he signed in 2008, which was the first year he started after Brett Favre left. It was a very smart move by Ted Thompson, not only because it locked up their new franchise quarterback, but also because it meant very little for the Packers in the way of financial demands. After 2009, Thompson could have cut Rodgers with no dead money to worry about.

At this point, going into the contract’s sixth year, the Green Bay Packers need to give Aaron Rodgers a new deal. He is clearly the franchise’s number one quarterback for as long as he can play; plus, he won them a Super Bowl title in 2010 and earned the title of NFL MVP in 2011.

19

October

Getting In Rhythm With The Packers Offense

In this week’s edition of “Tuesday’s with Aaron” with Jason Wilde (a must listen if you are a Packers fan), Aaron Rodgers tried to describe what is a “rhythm offense”:

“I don’t know… I think a rhythm offense is an offense that operates best in favorable down and distances and making consistent plays and not having negative yardage plays, whether its a negative run, sack, penalty…and making the plays that keep you on the field”

Rodgers is always insightful during his interviews so his response took me a little by surprise; I’m not entirely sure Aaron Rodgers knows what really is a rhythm offense because no one really knows what a rhythm offense is.  Teams either are in a rhythm or they aren’t; some teams (typically with great quarterbacks) tend to be in rhythm more often than teams that don’t have great quarterbacks, but conversely having a great quarterback doesn’t necessarily mean the offense will be in rhythm.  As far as I can tell, it just happens.

If you’ve watched any Packers games at all this year, it should be pretty apparent that the Packers weren’t in a rhythm in beginning of the season and maybe have “righted the ship” with a 6 touchdown demolition of the Houston Texans last week.  To me this seemed a little odd since the Packers managed to start off hot during the 2011 season, and that was without the benefit of having an offseason due to the CBA lockout; so if anything the 2012 Packers should have been even more ready than the 2011 Packers.

Perhaps even more interesting is that Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, two other great quarterbacks known for their use of up-tempo, no-huddle, “rhythm offenses” had very similar results as Aaron Rodgers in terms of struggling early in the season and playing much better down the stretch (if you can even be “down the stretch” in week 6).  Below is a table looking at the individual passing statistics of Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees during the 2012 season.  I’ve split the averages for games 1 to 3 and then games 4 to 6 (the Saints have only played 5 games since they had a bye last week):

 

Aaron Rodgers     COMP ATT % COMP YARDS TD INT QBR Y/A AY/A
1 SFO L 22-30 30.00 44.00 68.20% 303.00 2.00 1.00 93.30 6.89 6.77
3

October

Packing the Stats: Release Times of Brees, Rodgers

As expected, the showdown between the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers on Sunday was a high-flying affair between two Super Bowl MVPs. Both defenses had a difficult time stopping the pass prowess of Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, who put up a combined 765 yards and 7 touchdowns through the air.

A lot of Packers fans were extremely frustrated with the Packers’ secondary, which seemingly regressed in soft zone coverage after two games of playing a more aggressive man-to-man style. While this has been the scapegoat for fans, Tom Silverstein of JSOnline.com had this explanation:

The big reason was because the Saints used a lot of bunch formations. The Packers had some rules for how to play them when their splits are a certain way. When the splits were narrower than usual, they went to zone so they didn’t get picked. Wider, they went to man-to-man. The Saints are really good in dissecting defenses and making them react to the Saints. With the size of their receivers, you can’t let yourself get picked all day long or you wind up giving up even bigger plays. The problem was no pass rush.

Providing some statistics to back up this claim is ProFootballFocus.com, who mentioned the following in their Re-Focused Game Review: “After being pressured on 53 drop-backs through three games, Brees faced pressure on just six of 56 drop-backs (10.7%) against the Packers.”

Now, I consider the Saints offensive line to be one of the better units in the NFL. Both guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks represented the NFC in the 2012 Pro Bowl, and tackle Jermon Bushrod was a reserve player. When stating this recently on a comment thread, another poster brought up the quick releases of Drew Brees.

With that as the impetus for my research, I took to NFL Rewind with my stopwatch to time the releases of both Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. While there is some human error in the process, I did time each throw at least twice. (The span of time recorded is from snap to release.)

Here is the raw data, split by drive:

BREES RODGERS
2.7 COMP
1.4 COMP
2.2 COMP
1.9 COMP
2.6 INC
1.7 COMP
2.4 INC
4.9 SCRAM TD COMP
1.2 COMP
1

October

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 28, Saints 27

Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy

Rodgers and the offense got back on track while McCarthy’s red flag nearly cost the team a win

Not even Jeff Triplette could deny the Green Bay Packers this time.

The Packers hung on for a wild 28-27 victory over the New Orleans Saints in a game where offenses ruled the day as both defenses gave up a combined for 895 yards and quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees both had stellar days and were able to move the chains almost at will.

The Packers go to 2-2 with the victory after their heartbreaking “loss” to the Seattle Seahawks last Monday evening and will move into second place in the NFC North behind the surprising 3-1 Minnesota Vikings should the Chicago Bears lose to the Dallas Cowboys tonight.  The Saints fall to 0-4 as the team struggles to get going without head coach Sean Payton, who was suspended for the entire season for his part in the Saints’ bounty program.

The Packers offense finally appeared to find its rhythm against the hapless Saints defense that ranked dead last in the NFL entering the game, allowing an average of 477 yards per game. Rodgers picked apart the Saints secondary and Cedric Benson had another solid outing.

So who stood out and who stood down?

Game Balls

QB Aaron Rodgers

All eyes were on the reigning MVP this week after last week’s debacle in Seattle and Rodgers’ strong comments during his weekly radio show on ESPN 540. Many were expecting Rodgers to come back with a vengeance and he didn’t disappoint.

Aside from one interception, Rodgers was surgical against the Saints defense, going 31-41 for 319 yards and throwing four touchdown passes. His offensive line kept him upright and his knack for extending plays was once again on full display.  He finally looked the part of NFL MVP, though again it was against the worst defense in the NFL.

WR James Jones

What kind of bizarre NFL season is this when Jones makes the clutch catch of the game?

Aside from making an incredible catch with a defender literally on top off him late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory, Jones had his best game of the season.  He caught two touchdown passes and finished with five catches for 65 yards.

30

September

New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers: Key Matchups

Clay Matthews vs Saints

Clay Matthews helps take down Saints QB Drew Brees

One of the better games in week 4 is tomorrow’s game featuring the New Orleans Saints, who are still looking for their first win, and the Green Bay Packers, who look to get back on track at Lambeau Field.  The game is FOX’s nationally televised game and will kick off at 3:25pm CDT.  Let’s take a look at some of the key matchups in this contest.

On paper, this one looks to be a shootout between 2  teams that feature very good QB’s.  Drew Brees threw 46 TD passes last season and had nearly 5,500 yards passing.  Those gaudy numbers will be tough to duplicate this season, but he’s still Drew Brees.  So far, he has 7 TD passes to 5 INT’s in the Saints 3 losses.  It’s hard to digest the Saints being winless at this point but don’t be fooled.  This team can still light it up and likely will before long.

Aaron Rodgers also had an incredible 2011 season with 45 TD’s in just 15 games and over 4,600 total yards passing.  This year, Rodgers has just 3 TD’s to 2 INT’s through 3 games.  He has faced San Francisco’s, Chicago’s and Seattle’s defenses who are both solid against the pass.  In overall defense, San Fran is ranked 11th, Chicago is ranked 6th and Seattle is 4th, just behind the Packers.  By contrast, Brees has faced Washington, Carolina and Kansas City.  KC leads those 3 in defensive ranking but is 16th.

Here are what I see as the key matchups to keep an eye on tomorrow:

Aaron Rodgers vs. the Saints defense

As Aaron Rodgers goes, so do the Packers.  Despite the team’s “resurgence” in the run game, the Packer offense starts and finishes on the arm of Rodgers.  His stats indicate that he has struggled of late and they surely are down, but the Packers have been in every game they have played.  Some, ok mostly everyone would argue that they should be 2-1.  He has played well enough to win.

The reigning league MVP will face the league’s 32nd (last) ranked defense tomorrow.  Now, keep in mind that the NFL’s defensive ranking is solely based on total yards surrendered.  There is much more to a defense’s makeup than yards.  Last year, the Packers were last in total defense but were also one of the top defense’s in terms of taking the ball away.  The Saints will likely do what they can to get after the ball and mask some of the issues they have stopping teams from moving the ball.

29

September

Week 4: Around the NFC North

Christian Ponder

QB Christian Ponder has led the surprising Vikings to a 2-1 record

It’s hard to believe we’re already talking about week 4 and the NFL season will be a quarter done after this coming Monday Night game.  It’s a busy week in the NFC North with some very good matchups to look forward to.

For the Green Bay Packers, week 4 is a very welcome sight.  Need I even explain the who, what, when, where and why?  They are eager to get that putrid taste out of their mouths after a very controversial loss on the final play in Monday Night’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.  They return home and host the 0-3 New Orleans Saints led by QB Drew Brees.

The Minnesota Vikings ride high into Detroit to face the Lions after having knocked off the previously undefeated and heavily favored San Francisco 49ers in Minnesota this past weekend.  It is the first divisional game for both the Vikes and Lions this season.  The Lions come into this game licking the wounds of a brutal overtime loss at Tennessee after scoring twice in the final :18 seconds to force the OT.

The Bears cap off the week with a Monday Night matchup in Dallas against the Cowboys.  Both teams are coming off wins and strong performances in week 3.  The winner of this one makes a strong statement as to their standing as a contender in the NFC.

And lastly, it must be mentioned that everyone is relieved (well at least everyone not in Seattle) and very happy to welcome back the union referees who agreed, this week, to a new CBA with the league.  They officiated the Thursday night matchup between the Ravens and Browns and will be on hand for the full slate of NFL games this weekend.

Minnesota Vikings (2-1) at Detroit Lions (1-2)

The Vikings have thrown a few surprises at us all so far in this young season.  Adrian Peterson did in fact return in time for the season opener and he is already having a productive season.  He has 230 yards on 58 carries and 2 TD’s.  Riding that production, the Vikes find themselves in first place in the NFC North for the first time since the end of the 2009 season.  They stunned the San Francisco 49ers this past weekend and handed them their first loss of the year.  The Vikes will be a team to watch having found some early success after entering the season as heavy favorites to finish last in the division.

28

September

2012 NFL Regular Season Week 4: Packers vs Saints Preview

Aaron Rodgers

Will Aaron Rodgers finally get it going against the Saints?

As tough as it is, we need to move on and get back to legitimate football.

After the Green Bay Packers “loss” to fall to 1-2 against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night, the Packers somehow must regroup and play the New Orleans Saints Sunday at Lambeau Field.  The Saints enter the game a somewhat surprising 0-3 on the season.   With the loss of head coach Sean Payton for the entire season thanks to the Bountygate scandal, the Saints seem to be a team without a direction.

The Packers “lost” to the Seahawks 14-12 on perhaps the most controversial call in NFL history. With the regular referees back on the field, the officiating hopefully won’t be something the Packers need to keep an eye on.  The Packers defense kept the team in the game after the offense once again sputtered, mainly in the first half when Aaron Rodgers was sacked eight times.

The Saints enter the game after losing on a last minute kick at home to the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24.   They currently have the worst defense in the league, giving up a whopping 477 yards per game and 216 on the ground.  On top of that, quarterback Drew Brees seems to be struggling without Payton calling the plays.  Brees has thrown seven touchdowns in three games but also has five interceptions.

Both teams had incredibly potent offenses in 2011 but seem to be lacking the same explosiveness in 2012.  Is this the game both offenses break out of their shells?

Scouting the Saints

This was expected by many to be a marquee game this week but thanks to the Packers’ offensive issues and the Saints struggles overall, this matchup seems to be more of an enigma than expected.

Don’t let the stats fool you, however. Brees is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league and has a strong group of wide receivers.  Devery Henderson and Marques Colston are a lethal tandem that will present the young but talented Packers secondary.

Pierre Thomas is a decent running back for the Saints but the even bigger threat in the backfield is Darren Sproles. If Brees for some reason can’t connect with his wide receivers, he has another potent weapon in the screen game with the speedy Sproles.  He’s been known to break a short dump-off into a big gain including taking the ball all the way to the end zone.