GREEN BAY, Wis. — Jordy Nelson believes his new contract with the Green Bay Packers will pay him more than what he’s worth. Then again, the modest star wide receiver believes every NFL player is paid more than what they’re worth.
For Nelson, "worth" is not a word he’s comfortable with. He prefers to use the term "value," and with Nelson’s four-year, $39 million extension ($14.2 million guaranteed) that was signed Saturday, he’s now valued as the eighth highest-paid receiver in the league.
"You want to be respected in this league," Nelson said. "A lot of things get done the wrong way because people think we’re greedy (and think) we should be playing this game for $100,000 or whatever. But it’s your value and it’s based off of; it’s like any other business. You’re going to be paid what your value is to this team and in your business.
"You can say everything you want in the media about ‘He’s a great guy, a great player,’ but until they show you in the money; it’s a different business, it’s a lot of money. But you have to throw the money out (and) be placed in the rank of wherever they think you are."
The average of Nelson’s new deal has him slotted to make more than every NFL wide receiver except Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Percy Harvin, Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, Vincent Jackson and Brandon Marshall. That lines up close to Nelson’s 2013 season production when he set career-highs with 1,314 receiving yards (ranked 10th in the league) and 85 catches (ranked 14th in the NFL). In 2011, Nelson finished third in the league with 15 touchdown receptions.
Under the terms of Nelson’s previous contract that he signed early in the 2011 season (which was set to expire at the end of 2014 after paying him about $3.5 million this year), he was ranked 34th in average annual salary amongst receivers.
"Now he can buy all the land in Kansas," quarterback Aaron Rodgers joked, referencing Nelson’s home state. Nelson still travels back to Kansas every offseason to work on his family’s farm.
Nelson’s rookie season in 2008 was Rodgers’ first as Green Bay’s starting quarterback. While some second-round-pick wide receivers showed up and immediately impressed Rodgers, it took Nelson a bit longer to become the player he is now.
"I think if you look at him in Year 1, you didn’t see maybe the way that Randall (Cobb) jumped out or Greg (Jennings) or even Davante (Adams) with a real confidence about him," Rodgers said. "Jordy was a confident guy, but he was trying to feel his way around.
"As guys got injured over the years, he continued to get opportunities and make the most of it. A big game for him was the Super Bowl. . . . He comes out the next season (in 2011) and has an incredible year, and he’s been our best receiver since then."
Being the Packers’ best receiver in Rodgers’ mind during a span of three seasons in a group that also had Jennings, Cobb, Driver and James Jones is a telling sign of Nelson’s talent. General manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy obviously agree with Rodgers’ assessment, as the team let Jennings and Jones walk in free agency in consecutive offseasons. Plus, while Nelson and Cobb were both scheduled to be free agents after the 2014 season, Green Bay prioritized Nelson first.
"Jordy Nelson is an outstanding football player and a great ambassador for the Green Bay Packers," McCarthy said. "It’s something that everybody’s excited about and glad to see Jordy will be here for some time. Jordy’s so consistent and he shows up each and every day, performs at a very high level consistently. He’s the ultimate pro."
Nelson was the last one in the locker room Saturday morning as he awaited the final paperwork to reach him. After signing it, Nelson made his way from Lambeau Field across the street to Ray Nitschke Field and was at practice just in time.
"I broke the news to the wideouts and quarterbacks," Nelson said. "Just wanted them to be the first one to know so they didn’t have to find out when they came back in here."
Several hugs and high-fives were exchanged between Nelson and teammates just as reports began to circulate.
"It’s fun to see guys like that who are incredible teammates, phenomenal players and good guys get rewarded," Rodgers said. "That’s what we’ve done around here. Guys who’ve gotten second and third contracts are the guys who for the most part have been raised up in the system, done things the right way, the Packer way, and gotten rewarded for it. So it’s fun to see Jordy re-sign for four more."
With Nelson’s new deal lasting through the 2018 season, he’ll have spent more than a decade in Green Bay if he’s around for the entirety of it. Rodgers’ $110 million contract that he signed last offseason takes him through the 2019 season, so he hopes Nelson can "do one more (season)" after the new extension concludes.
"If I can hit 11 years, I’ll be happy, then we’ll see where that goes," Nelson said. "Obviously, you can’t ever predict when you’ll be done, but if you would ask me when I first got in here if I would have made it 11 years — which I’m not even close; I’ve only been through six — we’ll see. There will be a lot to weigh at that point in time if it happens."
If Nelson does make it that far, one final season in 2019 might be the perfect ending for he and Rodgers.