Packers' Rashan Gary eyes big contract after impressive return from ACL

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Rashan Gary won’t get Nick Bosa money, but the longer the Green Bay Packers wait to extend their outside linebacker’s contract, the closer it will get to the record-breaking $170 million deal the San Francisco 49ers dished out to the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

The Packers opted to wait until they could see Gary back in game action after the linebacker tore his left ACL in November. His return was limited to all of 12 snaps in Sunday’s season-opening 38-20 victory at the Chicago Bears, but what a dozen it was.

“I don’t know what the rest of the gurus out there had him for, but I think we had him for seven pressures on the quarterback,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “So, I’d say that was pretty effective.”

The “gurus” -- ESPN Stats & Information and NFL Next Gen Stats among them -- were slightly less generous with their analysis. Both had Gary with three pressures on seven pass rush attempts. Still, a remarkable pressure percentage of 42.9%. For context, ESPN Stats & Info had Bosa’s 2022 rate at 12.9% and NFL Next Gen had Bosa at 17.7%.

Safe to say, Gary’s agent, Ian Clarke will be using the Packers’ numbers against them in negotiations.

Without much prodding, defensive coordinator Joe Barry more or less admitted their grades were generous. It’s why the NFL, for example, doesn’t recognize team-charted tackles as an official stat.

“If we can give a guy an in-house statistic, we’re gonna give it to him," Barry said. "But we define a pressure [as] any time you’re able to affect the quarterback in a positive way [for the defense]. So, if you can affect that guy with your pass rush, that goes down as a pressure.”

Sidestepping that rabbit hole, no one will argue that it was a successful return for the 12th overall pick in the 2019 draft, who had six sacks after six games and 31 pressures (per ESPN Stats & Info, that is) in nine total games before his injury last season.

The injury delayed any chance of a contract extension, so Gary is playing on the fifth-year option of (worth $10.892 million) of his rookie deal.

Gary told ESPN this week that he’s open to either an extension now or waiting until after the season. He claimed that he wasn’t familiar with the terms of Bosa’s deal, which was done last week. The double-take he did when told that it averaged $34 million a year and included a $50 million signing bonus made him believable.

He called Bosa “blessed” to receive that type of deal but wouldn’t say how close to those numbers he wants the Packers to get.

“I’ve just been going through my rehab process and just trying to get back and focus on me,” said Gary, who likely will see his snaps go up Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons (1 p.m. ET, Fox) but will still be on a limited play count.

That’s Gary, soft-spoken and unassuming through and through.

But that’s just the public Gary.

Fellow outside linebacker Justin Hollins was surprised to hear Gary described as reserved.

“He’s loud as hell," Hollins said. “He’s a very vocal guy around us and within the team. He’s one of our leaders, he’s one of our vocal leaders as well. I hear him talk quite a bit.”

His coaches and teammates have also seen him cry.

“You know when R.G. wasn’t practicing [at the start of training camp],” cornerback Rasul Douglas said, “they told R.G. that he could finally do individual drills, but he couldn’t practice, and he started crying.

“That’s just how much invested he is to football and what it means to him. When you’ve got guys like that, you always want to be a part of that with them.”

Gary confirmed Douglas’ story.

“When you work so hard to achieve goals and check off things on your list, and you’re able to, you should be emotional,” Gary said. “Just being back out here with the guys, and being back a part of this team out there on the field and being able to contribute, is all I wanted to do. So, you get a little bit emotional.”

Barry told another story of Gary’s tears. It was in 2021, when Gary suffered an elbow injury against the Seahawks. After the game, Barry found him in the training room.

“And he was crying and apologizing to me that he got hurt,” Barry said. "He’s one of those guys that he’s just so emotional and he gives it everything he has.”

This week, Gary wasn’t interested in reviewing his stats, regardless of who the source was (he also had a sack taken away because of a penalty away from the ball).

He looked at his 12 snaps differently.

“I felt I could’ve seen a lot of things just a little quicker,” Gary said. “But for my first game back in live action, what I needed to feel, what I needed to see, I felt like I did.”

He also wasn’t interested in any Bosa comparisons.

Hollins, however, was willing to say how far off Gary is from being at Bosa’s level.

“Man, to me, not too far at all,” Hollins said. “But that’s not up to me to decide. That’s up to the coaches and all the other people that do all that evaluating. To me, he’s one of the best.”