Packers should sign Jordan Love to an extension sooner rather than later

A year ago, the Green Bay Packers were in limbo. There was an extended will-they-or-won’t-they saga around the potential trade of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had been under center in the green and gold since 2008. 

His successor had been waiting in the wings for three seasons, like Rodgers himself did, and ultimately Green Bay decided it was time. They traded Rodgers to the New York Jets and named Jordan Love their new starter. 

Packers brass spent the next few months trying to temper expectations on Love. They signed him to a modest two-year extension that would cover his fourth and fifth pro seasons. It was a way of hedging their bets and allowed Love to bet on himself. Sure, he was a first-round pick. Sure, he spent three years learning from one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. Sure, he was set up well (on paper) in his first year as starter. 

But there’s a difference between knowing the scheme and executing it. But none of that mattered.

Love ended up being the prince who was promised. He steadily improved as the season wore on, even with a pass-catching group comprised entirely of first and second-year players. Even with offensive-line shuffling. Even with a defense that underperformed once again. Love progressed through it all. 

So much so, that by the time his first season as starter was over he had not only lived up to Rodgers’ first year as starter — Love surpassed it. He threw for 4,159 yards and 32 touchdowns against 11 interceptions and led the team to a playoff run. The youngest team in the league advanced to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs when few expected them to reach the playoffs.

“For as good as he played, there’s so much more in front of him,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said at the NFL Combine on Tuesday to reporters. “The amount that is on that guy’s plate from pre-snap to post-snap and everything that goes into it, the amount of information he has to process in such a limited amount of time, all the leadership stuff, the intangible stuff — makes it an exceptionally hard position to play.”

Love is due for a sizable payday now. Green Bay would be wise to get it done sooner rather than later.

The Packers have a history of getting creative with quarterback contracts. There’s precedent for this exact scenario too, thanks to Rodgers and the way that he became the starter. Rodgers’ second contract with the team was for six years and $63.52 million with $20 million guaranteed. A $10.5 million average contract value per year seems modest, even for 2009. But there was also a $35 million signing bonus attached to that, which brought Rodgers’ cap hit up to around $17 million per year. Again, peanuts. We need to adjust for a lot of quarterback-contract inflation to make any sort of prediction about Love’s pending deal. 

Has Jordan Love earned a massive contract?

Has Jordan Love earned a massive contract?

But what I think we can learn from this is that we should pump the brakes on an exorbitant annual contract value. Love is just 25 years old and you can bet this will be a long-term deal. 

The last franchise quarterback to sign an extension was Joe Burrow with the Cincinnati Bengals. He signed a five-year deal worth $275 million. That puts him at an average of $55 million per year. Use that as the ceiling.

Love had a phenomenal season, but this deal is still built on a small sample size. While it’s true a quarterback’s worth is dictated by the contract that preceded his, I think given the situation, Love can expect a bit less — likely a deal in the $40-$50 million range per year. Don’t forget there’s added stability that comes with a long-term contract.

But because of that discount, Love likely won’t sign a 10-year Mahomes-ian deal. Maybe he wants to bet on himself again and make sure he can reset his contract in the next five years. Maybe the two sides meet in the middle on the timeline. 

The Packers learned a lot about the price that comes with a QB on a huge cap hit, so there’s a strong possibility Love gets a lot of his contract in the form of a signing bonus in an effort to limit his early cap impact. Green Bay restructured the deal of edge rusher Rashan Gary this week and cleared more cap space. They also have the youngest team in the league, which means relatively modest contracts — especially on the offensive side of the ball. Green Bay now has over $10 million in available cap space and will likely need to create more.

They have a big decision on left tackle David Bakhtiari. He has the team’s biggest 2024 cap hit at a whopping $40 million, with a dead cap hit of $19 million if Green Bay moves on. Extending his deal or moving on from him should provide the Packers with some much-needed cap relief and the ability to extend Love this offseason.

Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.

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