Regardless of what happens with Aaron Rodgers’ career as a New York Jet, he could still be in line to collect $75 million over the next two seasons.
Rodgers, the 39-year-old future hall-of-famer who joined the Jets in ballyhooed fashion during the offseason after a 17-year career with the Green Bay Packers, was taken off the field in his first game as a Jet on Monday night.
By Tuesday morning, it was confirmed that Rodgers had torn his Achilles tendon, based on an MRI, and would be out for the rest of the season, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and NFL.com.
In an Instagram post, Rodgers said Wednesday night that he was “heartbroken” about the situation.
“I’m completely heartbroken and moving through all of the emotions, but deeply touched and humbled by the support and love,” Rodgers wrote. “Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I begin the healing process today.”
A torn Achilles is indeed no small matter. The average length of recovery is in the 10- to 12-month range, the Pro Football Network site reported.
But others have noted that a torn Achilles might be a career-ender for Rodgers. A “severe injury … would raise questions about his future,” ABC News said.
News reports have indicated that Rodgers’ two-year $75 million contract with the Jets is “guaranteed.” That could mean the team owes him that money even if he never plays another game.
Still, the NFL states on its website that some contracts are not guaranteed in full. So, if Rodgers’ contract didn’t cover him for injury, the Jets could be off the hook if he doesn’t recover and return.
“Media outlets typically announce and talk about the ‘guaranteed money’ in a player’s contract. However, much of the money is only partially guaranteed,” the NFL has said.
But ESPN has reported that Rodgers’ $75 million contract is “fully guaranteed,” as have other outlets.
Another possibility: Either the Jets or Rodgers could have taken out an insurance policy to cover the $75 million contract. So either the team or Rodgers could recover any lost money in a worst-case scenario, should that materialize.
Darren Heitner, a sports attorney based in Florida, said it’s certainly possible that the Jets have insurance, especially given Rodgers’ age and the size of the contract. “It’s inherently a hedge on risk,” Heitner said.
But Heitner added it’s less likely that Rodgers had any need for insurance since the guarantee is effectively a form of insurance itself.
Heitner did note that there are potential loopholes even in a fully guaranteed contract. For example, if a player engages in a risky activity, such as skydiving, that results in an injury, that might null the guarantee.
Technically, Rodgers’ contract is worth $112.5 million over three years, with a possible extension for two additional years, according to the Pro Football Network site. The guaranteed portion — $75 million — covers the quarterback’s first two seasons as a Jet.
Rodgers took a pay cut to come to the Jets. If he had remained a Packer, he would have been in line to earn nearly $110 million through the remainder of his contract, before being traded by Green Bay in exchange for draft picks.
Fully guaranteed contracts are not necessarily the norm in the NFL precisely because players are prone to injury, Heitner noted. But given Rodgers’ stature and the fact many teams would have likely signed him if the Jets didn’t, that put him and his representatives in a better position to push for such a guarantee.
“The name of the game is leverage,” Heitner said.
The New York Jets didn’t respond immediately to a MarketWatch request for comment about Rodgers’ medical situation and contract terms. But the team did issue a statement on social media about Rodgers, saying, “Not the way any of us wanted it to go, but we know the commitment you’ve made to this team will continue to impact us moving forward. Get well soon, @AaronRodgers12.”