Schneidman: Paying Jordan Love comes with risk, potential big reward for Packers


ORLANDO — The Packers are about to pay Jordan Love a whole lot of money.

Green Bay’s 25-year-old quarterback can’t ink his name to a contract extension until May 3 — the collective bargaining agreement doesn’t allow players to sign one until 12 months after their last — but it will happen. General manager Brian Gutekunst has hinted as much on multiple occasions this offseason.

Gutekunst said at the annual NFL league meeting in Orlando on Monday that the team has had preliminary discussions with Love’s representation about an extension.

“Certainly the sooner, the better, but at the same time, we want to make sure we do it the right way,” Gutekunst said. “We’ve started (discussing a deal), but it’s not something that’s going to go quickly. It’ll take some time.”

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Love signed a one-year extension last May that guaranteed him more money up front for 2023 while protecting the Packers on the back end. The team could ensure they didn’t have to guarantee his fifth-year option price of around $20 million for 2024 without knowing if he was any good over a long stretch of meaningful snaps. In his first season as the Packers’ full-time starting quarterback, Love led them to a surprise Divisional Round appearance and a near-upset of the 49ers. He cemented himself as one of the league’s best quarterbacks not only in 2023 but potentially beyond. The question becomes not whether Love will get paid, but how much.

Whether his new average annual salary is in the mid-to-high 40 millions or even as high as the 50 million range, it will be a boatload of money for a player who has realistically played only about half a season’s worth of games warranting that level of pay. Let’s say Love signs a deal worth $47.5 million per year. According to Over The Cap, that would put him fifth in the NFL in quarterback average annual salary behind the Bengals’ Joe Burrow ($55 million), the Chargers’ Justin Herbert ($52.5 million), the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson ($52 million) and the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts ($51 million). The quarterbacks below Love’s hypothetical number are the Cardinals’ Kyler Murray ($46.1 million), the Browns’ Deshaun Watson ($46 million) and the Falcons’ Kirk Cousins and Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes ($45 million).

It’s undoubtedly the right decision to back up the Brink’s truck for Love since franchise quarterbacks like the one he appears to be are difficult to come by. If the Packers don’t extend him before the season and he chooses to play on a contract year a la former Packers wide receiver Davante Adams, things get complicated with free agency and the franchise tag looming. However, it’s also a risk to extend Love at such magnitude given the sample size Green Bay has of who they hope is their quarterback for the next decade-plus. Love doesn’t seem to be a Daniel Jones-type, but look at what happened with Jones and the Giants in a similar situation that involved lackluster play and a significant injury after his payday.

The risk in giving Love such a big contract is that the coming years may not match how he played in the second half of last season. The reward, though? If he plays as well or even better, whatever salary Green Bay gives him will not only seem like a reasonable deal but a bargain if quarterback contracts continue to increase in the next couple of years. Making decisions like these is exactly why people like Gutekunst and Packers executive vice president and director of football operations Russ Ball get paid so much. It can be viewed as the downside of having Love sit for so long, that they only got one season of him starting before having to give him a massive extension, but Love learning from Aaron Rodgers for three years is why he played well enough to get paid handsomely in the first place.

“In every contract extension, draft pick, decision we make, there’s a ton of risk in all that,” Gutekunst said. “It’s just part of it. At the same time, I think the nice thing about having a guy in your building for the last four years is you absolutely know who he is. Again, there’s no guarantees (about) anything going forward, but we know how he’s going to respond and how he’s going to react and how he’s going to work instead of signing a player that has not been in your building and guaranteeing all that to him. Certainly having four years with him, I think, gives us a lot of comfort and what he’s all about and how his teammates look at him and the organization looks at him. Certainly, that gives me a lot more peace than in a different situation.”

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Two years ago at the NFL annual league meeting in West Palm Beach, Fla., Gutekunst discussed trading Adams to the Raiders for a first- and second-round pick a week and a half prior. Last year at this event in Phoenix, he defended himself against a Rodgers appearance on the Pat McAfee Show a couple of weeks before finalizing Rodgers’ trade to the Jets. This year, Jets general manager Joe Douglas was about to begin a scrum with Jets reporters several feet from where Gutekunst had just finished his with Packers writers.

Douglas stuck his head out from the half-circle of reporters surrounding him and yelled to Gutekunst, who has known Douglas for more than two decades.

“You wanna take this one?” the embattled Jets GM asked his counterpart.

Gutekunst smiled wide.

“You got it, buddy,” he said back.

Such is the stress-free life of a general manager when you don’t have to deal with a quarterback that didn’t like you and that quarterback’s potential vice-president candidacy campaign is someone else’s problem. All that Gutekunst has to worry about is how much money he’s going to give to his next quarterback, and that’s a good problem to have.

“The thing that’s always stood out to me about (Love) is he just doesn’t waver in his commitment, his work ethic, so I think there was a certain level of confidence, not just with Jordan, but with our entire football team as we went through the second half of the season that got them excited,” Gutekunst said. “But the work ethic, the way he goes about his business, that doesn’t seem to waver and that’s a good sign for the future.”

(Photo: Perry Knotts / Getty Images)





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