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Alexander’s Contract Raises Bar But Only Minimally

While Jaire Alexander inched to the top of the pecking order at cornerback, that position has been blown away by the new receiver contracts.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Checking in at an average of $21 million per season, Jaire Alexander’s contract extension with the Green Bay Packers is the priciest for a cornerback in NFL history.

Perhaps he should have gotten more.

That’s the argument made by Joe Banner, a co-founder of The 33rd Team and former president of the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns.

“Historically, receivers’ and cornerbacks’ salaries aligned with one another,” Banner wrote. “Looking at the franchise tag values (i.e., the average of the top 5 cap hits at that position over the previous 5 years) of the two positions over the years, they were nearly equal from 2012-2016. In 2017, however, receivers saw a dramatic pay increase. From 2016 to 2017, the wide receiver franchise tag figure increased by more than $1 million. On the other hand, the figure for cornerbacks increased by less than $250,000. Since then, the $1 million gap has stayed fairly consistent.”

The gap figures to widen considerably when next year’s franchise tenders are computed. Alexander’s contract is atop the cornerback pecking order but it lags well behind the receivers, whose market exploded this offseason.

There are 10 receivers making at least $20 million per season, including five with an average of at least $24 million. The Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill ($30 million) and the Raiders’ Davante Adams ($28 million) signed massive contracts with their new teams after being traded to set the pace. Meanwhile, only three cornerbacks are making $20 million per season (Alexander, Cleveland’s Denzel Ward and the Rams’ Jalen Ramsey).

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Someone has to guard those receivers, but they’ve been left in the dust contract-wise.

“Having a true lockdown No. 1 cornerback is one of the greatest tools that a defense can have,” Banner wrote. “By acquiring a cornerback like Jaire Alexander, Denzel Ward or Jalen Ramsey, you can completely take away one side of the field or one of the offense’s top receiving targets. Any NFL defensive coordinator would love to have one of these top cornerbacks on their team. Four of the top five defenses last year against the pass had Pro-Bowl caliber cornerbacks in Tre’Davious White, J.C. Jackson, Stephon Gilmore, and Denzel Ward.”

Regardless, the extension was a win-win.

For the Packers, they locked up a premier player. A first-round pick in 2018, Alexander according to Sports Info Solutions gave up completion rates of 48.5 percent in 2019, 42.3 percent in 2020 and 46.7 percent during his injury-shortened 2021. For sake of comparison, Ward allowed 44.3 percent in 2019, 49.3 percent in 2020 and 57.8 percent in 2021 and Ramsey allowed 62.1 percent in 2019, 46.7 percent in 2020 and 50.0 percent in 2021.

For Alexander, he got the security of a long-term contract, which will allow him to focus on football, and the prestige of being the top-paid cornerback in the NFL. He just didn’t reset the market in the same way that Adams and Hill did this offseason.

“Sometimes all it takes is one guy to step up and take a hard stand to ensure that the next crop of talent at that position is compensated appropriately,” Banner wrote. “Alexander could have been that guy but chose to take a deal commensurate with the current market for corners.”

Nonetheless, it was a great deal for Alexander – who at age 25 will either get paid almost $100 million by the Packers in total or will be cut loose and in position to grab one more big payday before he’s too far past his prime.