Rashan Gary's extension provides security for Packers' uncertain future
The Packers don't know what form their defense will take after 2023, but securing Rashan Gary on a long-term deal gives the unit a centerpiece and an identity.
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Though the Green Bay Packers' 2023 season seems effectively over, the organization took care of a major piece of its future. On Monday, the team signed star pass rusher Rashan Gary to a multiyear extension that will keep him in Green Bay for the foreseeable future.
"It's great to get that taken care of. Obviously, it's well deserved," Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said of Gary's new deal. "He's earned everything. Like I told the team, I'm a big believer in people that approach it the right way, that are talented, that come to work with the mindset and determination that he possesses. He's a tone setter. I'm really happy for him. I'm really happy for our organization. I think it's good to kind of put that to bed."
According to multiple accounts, Gary's extension ties him to the franchise through the 2027 season and carries a maximum value of $107 million with roughly $34.6 million guaranteed at signing. The Leap's Peter Bukowski reported Monday morning that the four-year agreement actually adds $96 million in new money, giving his deal an average annual value of $24 million. As such, Gary becomes the highest-paid defender in Packers history.
"How long have I been waiting for this day? Obviously, it's a blessing," Gary said of signing a long-term extension. "I want to thank my higher power. I want to thank all my loved ones. Everybody knows the role that they play in my life. I want to thank this organization, everybody that believed in me. I'm just trying to get to work. That's me. I'm just trying to get to work."
Securing Gary to an extension alleviates a major piece of business. As a 2019 first-round pick, Gary would have hit free agency this March without a new deal or the application of the franchise or transition tag. On the open market, Gary could and likely would have landed one of the largest contracts in NFL history. As it stands, he looks like a relative bargain, just cracking the top five in average salary among edge defenders and a far cry from Nick Bosa's $34 million per year.
Gary's deal also marks the third time during Brian Gutekunst's GM tenure that the Packers have inked a major contract during the season. All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari signed a multiyear extension in November 2020 after previously breaking off negotiations. Likewise, Pro Bowl offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins finalized his current deal shortly before Christmas last year.
While Green Bay's leadership regularly signaled an interest in extending Gary, the ACL tear he suffered last year complicated negotiations. Every recovery from knee reconstruction plays out differently. Bakhtiari, who tore his ACL shortly after signing his extension, suffered multiple setbacks and has played just 13 games in the three years since. Conversely, Jenkins missed just two games the season following his injury and has avoided any such issues.
"I knew from the moment (of Gary's ACL tear), he was extremely disappointed in that moment," LaFleur said. "It means a lot to him and he knows he can help our football team. But from that time on, when it went down the next day, I could see he's a determined young man. It's not a shock to me and everybody here that sees him on a daily basis that he was able to recover from that."
Less than a full year removed from knee reconstruction, Gary has re-established himself as a force. According to Pro Football Focus, the pass rusher has a team-high 28 pressures despite not cracking 70% of defensive snaps in any game this season. Among qualified front-seven defenders, Gary's 25.2% pass-rush win rate exceeds everyone except Cleveland Browns' All-Pro Myles Garrett (26.3%). Gary has tilted the balance of games, including his three-sack performance against the New Orleans Saints in Week 3.
Even without the injury context, Gary looks like a superstar.
Certainly, Gary's strong return from the ACL tear helped him earn the massive payday, but his true value has nothing to do with 2023 at all. With the Packers on a bullet train to an offseason of major changes, they couldn't afford not to secure their defensive centerpiece.