Packers fans, take a breath of relief. Jaire Alexander isn’t going anywhere. Earlier this week, the Green Bay Packers and their star cornerback agreed to a four-year, $84 million extension making him the highest-paid defensive back based on per year average. Green Bay has historically been known to push all of their money towards their home-grown players, Alexander is no exception to that rule. The question now becomes: Which Packers stars will be next in line for big extensions?
The next largest deal on the Packers’ agenda likely will be Rashan Gary. The 2019 first-round selection was slated to enter into the final year of his contract until the Packers exercised his fifth-year option for the 2023 season with a cap hit between $10.9 million and $11.7 million.
On the defensive side of the ball, locking up franchise pass rushers seems to be the common trend in the modern NFL. Look at the Pittsburgh Steelers making T.J. Watt the NFL’s highest-paid edge rusher at $28.02 million per year or the Las Vegas Raiders making Maxx Crosby the fifth highest-paid edge rusher at $23.5 million per year. Most recently, look at the new contracts given to the Bills’ Von Miller and the Titans’ Harold Landry.
As for the Packers, they have the opportunity to secure a long-term deal with two franchise stars on the edge. Green Bay already locked up Preston Smith through the 2026 season, and now they can turn their attention toward doing the same thing with Gary.
Gary exploded onto the scene during the 2021 season after the injury to Za’Darius Smith opened the door to a larger snap count. Gary ended the regular season recording 9.5 sacks, 47 pressures, and 28 quarterback hits.
Another player with a deal expected to be in the works in Green Bay is Elgton Jenkins. Jenkins, who was also a member of the 2019 draft class for the Packers, is set to enter the season on the final year of his contract. Jenkins is currently recovering from a torn ACL suffered during Week 11’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Despite the injury, Jenkins has proven himself to be a valuable member of the Packers’ most important position group, making him worthy of a new extension.
Jenkins has always been a jack-of-all-trades for the Packers, playing at a Pro Bowl-caliber level at all five positions on the offensive line. While the majority of his snaps have come at guard, his long-term calling in Green Bay appears to be at tackle. A fact that, while looking at a potential extension on the way, begins to complicate things.
Given his ability to play both guard and tackle at a ridiculously high level, a contract extension for Jenkins could be a difficult one to negotiate. For example, the highest-paid tackle in the league is 49er’s Trent Williams at $23 million per year while the highest-paid guard in the league is Jaguars’ Brandon Scherff at $16.5 million per year. The expectation is that Jenkins will return to the lineup as the Packers starting right tackle. However, will the Packers be willing to pay both of their tackles top-of-the-shelf long-term contracts?
It’s rare for the Packers to negotiate new extensions with players during the season, therefore one would think that an extension for Jenkins is starting to get ironed out as we speak. Similar to Kenny Clark’s deal in 2020, expect the Packers to strike a deal with Jenkins in early August before the start of the season. This deal, however, will be the one worth keeping an eye on. Especially the price tag.
While the first two names on the list are the next likely candidates to land the massive extension in Green Bay, Allen Lazard is the guy who should get a new deal done first.
As it stands on paper, Lazard is expected to enter the season as the Packers’ number one wide receiver. It’s a tough ask to make out of the 26-year-old. It’s an even tougher ask considering the Packers are currently only scheduled to pay Lazard $3,986,000 on a restricted free-agent tender. A second-round tender he has yet to sign, and it’s uncertain whether the Packers will offer him a larger deal or not.
The $3,986,000 would certainly be a massive pay raise for Lazard, but with his high expectations in the Packers’ offense this season, Green Bay should be willing to dish out a few more dollars. And a new deal for Lazard is certainly warranted.
Last season, Lazard posted career highs in every receiving category playing alongside Davante Adams. With Adams now out of the picture to go along with his refined connection with Aaron Rodgers, Lazard has the potential to record yet another career year while being the top option in the passing game. That alone should call for an even higher pay raise.——————
Kole Noble is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in North Carolina and is a huge NFL Draft nut. You can follow him on twitter at @SlawSportsShow.