On Thursday, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers expressed disappointment that his contract extension wasn’t finalized before training camp opened. But he made it clear that he didn’t consider holding out, explaining that he doesn’t “operate that way.”
If Rodgers, who currently is making an average of $22 million per year, ever chooses to “operate that way,” he’d quickly get the $30-million-or-more-per-year contract he deserves.
Sure, the easiest and cleanest leverage for a player is to choose to hold out. Get-off-my-lawn rants from Bill Polian types regarding the sanctity of a “contract” notwithstanding, the broader contract governing the management-labor relationship gives the player the right to withhold services by staying away from training camp.
But the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which makes it easy (though not cheap, given the $40,000 in daily fines) to not show up, makes it harder to apply pressure in other ways. For example, a player showing up and then abruptly leaving almost never happens in a contract dispute, because the team can squeeze him into coming back with a so-called “five-day letter.” If he doesn’t show up within five days (duh) after getting the five-day letter, the team can put him on the reserve/left squad list, shutting him down for the year and bumping his remaining contract to the next year.
Rodgers would be one of the few players who could pull off a walkout, however, because the Packers wouldn’t be dumb enough to shut him down for the full season and hand the baton to someone like DeShone Kizer or Brett Hundley. While the ultimate boss move from Rodgers would invite plenty of scrutiny and criticism, Rodgers has made it clear that: (1) getting a new deal is “important to me”; and (2) he’s trying to focus exclusively on getting ready for the season. So if he gets to the point where the looming contract becomes too much of a distraction, he simply needs to leave camp, check into a local hotel, and wait for the money to flow in his direction.
The problem in the ongoing negotiations, as a source with knowledge of the situation explained it to PFT, is that the Packers are approaching the talks in a bland and traditional way, while Rodgers’ representatives are trying to be more creative. And that disconnect is what’s keeping the deal from getting done.
Short of packing up and leaving the Packers (until the contract is finished), Rodgers has other options. He can be more aggressive and candid in his comments to the media. He can turn the team against the front office with comments made privately to other players. He can be difficult in a passive-aggressive way with the coaching staff.
He also can (and possibly will) dismiss these various possibilities as “crap,” and that’s fine. He’s trying to strike a delicate balance on this one, hoping to get the financial package he deserves without becoming what fans will dub the latest greedy, selfish, ungrateful athlete who isn’t happy with the millions he has.
Here’s the problem: The current strategy isn’t working. To get the deal done, Rodgers needs to do something more. And there’s a full range of options, up to an including telling the Cheeseheads “smell ya later” and waiting maybe one or two days for the cash to fall from the sky.