Now that we're past that, it's time to start thinking about paying someone else.
Hard to believe, based on these stats since he became starter:
Those are the numbers of a highly productive quarterback. I knew they were good before I started the chart—but they turned out to be even better.
He's kept the interceptions incredibly low, considering the issues the team has had on offensive line at times during his tenure as starter. His yards per attempt (the Y/A column) has gone up each year, and he's missed very little time.
In fact, he's only missed one game for a concussion and one game last year, when they'd wrapped up the top spot in the NFC.
I've pointed out how tough the guy is before, but there are the numbers right there to see. He doesn't get hurt—which allows you to take the risk of rolling into the season with Graham Harrell as your backup and not overpaying Matt Flynn to stay or another vet to stop by for a year.
What do you know—Aaron Rodgers actually saves the Packers money!
The above chart doesn't even bring into the discussion the yards he can add on the ground. He's rushed for 1,124 yards on the ground and 16 touchdowns. We often overlook what he can do with his feet—that ability is why when I talked about Cam Newton during the 2011 NFL draft, I started to compare him more to Rodgers than Michael Vick, because he could throw the ball well and run it.
Rodgers is just getting started here, folks. He's just hitting his stride.
And that means he is only going to cost Ted Thompson and company more by the time he reaches the end of his contract.
If Drew Brees is now worth a five-year, $100 million deal, what is Rodgers worth in 2012?
Now, there are hurdles to talking early contract. As Wilde points out, there are key players whose contracts will be up first. Clay Matthews, BJ Raji and Greg Jennings come up after the 2012 (Jennings) and 2013 seasons (Raji/Matthews), and none of them will be cheap.
I could see maybe Raji or Matthews departing (maybe), but not both. Jennings could be another case, if Jordy Nelson shows he can put two great seasons together in a row and Randall Cobb steps up.
However, the truth is that Jennings is terribly talented, and it's likely the team will try hard to retain him.
Those hurdles are not small, but this is what the Packers and Ted Thompson do—juggle the numbers and roster spots to make things happen.
Plus, Aaron Rodgers isn't some unreasonable, money-hungry guy looking for a huge payday. He's content now and will likely be willing to work something out that is not murderous to the overall cap situation or his supporting cast.
Rodgers isn't stupid—he knows he's got to have good players on both sides of the ball if he is to get another Super Bowl ring.
If the Packers are proactive, he might even be more open to a manageable deal.
Once it's out of the way, the Packers can focus on other players.
There are plenty of very good players on the Packers, but only one Aaron Rodgers. They're going to have to pay him down the road, because he is virtually irreplaceable and becoming even more so every year.
Doing it now makes sense—he will only cost them more money when his contract is up.