Green strikes gold with new deal
Wednesday, July 25, 2001
Green Bay Press Gazette

By Christopher Walsh
For the Press-Gazette

As long as running back Ahman Green can remember, his father always told him, “Hard work pays off.”

Tuesday afternoon, it did in a big way as Green finalized a five-year contract with the Green Bay Packers.

Although terms of the deal could not be confirmed, indications were that the bonus is near million. If Green signed for an average of $4 million per year as expected, which would be on par with many other standout running backs, the deal would be worth about $25 million.

“I think the best is yet to come,” Packers Coach and General Manager Mike Sherman said. “He’s the type of man who will take the ball and run, so to speak, and prove that this is money well spent.”

As a restricted free agent, Green signed a one-year tender agreement in April for $1.115 million, but agent David Dunn and the Packers had already been discussing long-term options.

The new contract supersedes that deal, although Dunn and director of layer finance Andrew Brandt said Green will count only a little more against this year’s salary cap. Because any signing bonus must be prorated over the length of the contract, the bonus is therefore roughly $1 million per year.

After being acquired in the offseason from Seattle in 2000, Green became the first Packers player to lead the team in rushing and receiving since Barty Smith in 1977, and ranked fourth in the NFC in total yards with 1,734.

He ran for 769 yards during the final eight weeks, including a 153-yard performance against Indianapolis and 161 yards at Minnesota, to finish with 1,175 rushing yards — the fourth-best total in team history.

Green could have finished this season and become an unrestricted free agent, but he said he preferred playing in a small market that was devoted, much like with his college team, Nebraska.

“Honestly, I didn’t want to put myself on the market and have other teams come after me,” Green said. “Sure, the free-agent market is good because the players get that big money and salary they always dream of, but money compared to knowing where you’re playing and feeling comfortable with a bunch of guys you can do well with, I wouldn’t take money over that.”

Signing now might have worked to his advantage as Green may split time with Dorsey Levens, which would diminish his statistics.

The Packers were also eager to make the deal, perhaps in part because of Levens. The running back had 1,435 rushing yards to go with 53 receptions in 1997, but then held out of training camp because of a contract dispute. He has had injury problems since.

After missing most of last season with a knee injury, Levens renegotiated his contract to stay with the Packers. Under his old deal, he was to earn $6 million in 2001 and count $7.4 million against the team’s cap. Under the new contract, the Packers saved about $4.5 million. Green’s contract is also backended, and will eventually have to be renegotiated.

“Everything we do here is with the future in mind,” Sherman said. “There’s no question that when you have free agents out on the market it’s disruptive. A lot of players play better when the deal is done, rather than when it’s being negotiated.”

Besides the statistics, Sherman mentioned three other factors in the signing:

• Age — Green is only 24, so he’ll be in position for a new, perhaps even more lucrative contract before he reaches the age when most running backs start to slow down, 30 or 31.

• Durability — In four years as a pro, Green has missed only two games due to injury (hamstring). As an assistant in Seattle, it was Sherman who suggested Green be used in third-and-short situations. He converted 12-of-13 tries on third-and-1 for the Packers last season.

• Character — Married and with a child, Green spent part of this offseason studying geology at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. After leaving Nebraska a year early, he hopes to complete his bachelor’s degree in 2002.

“I think the goal of any team under the cap is to identify players who are ascending, who have bright futures and are a good bet,” Brandt said. “Any contract negotiation is a risk.”

But with Green, the Packers are banking they struck gold.

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