Back in mid-January, as the Packers cleaned out their lockers after their season ended following the Divisional Round playoff loss to the Cardinals, the mood was somber and players were terse. Many didn’t want to discuss much of anything, especially those dozen or so free agents whose professional futures were up in the air.
But one who was forthright about his sincere desire to return to Green Bay was Mason Crosby, the veteran who’d been with the team since 2007, tied for the second-longest tenure among all players, behind Aaron Rodgers. With his usual earnestness, Crosby spoke openly and optimistically about staying with the franchise he’d been a member of for nine seasons, the one that had stuck by him through a dreadful slump and helped him become one of the NFL’s best kickers.
"I always talk about 2012 was a tough year, but I'm thankful for it every day because it really taught me a lot, on and off the field," Crosby said. "I think these last three years have really shown that and shown my resiliency and shown the way that I want to go about kicking and doing my job every time I get the chance.
"This has become home for me and my family and this is the team I want to play for, and I hope we can get something done so I can continue on and continue to be part of this organization. I hope I can be back here with my teammates next year."
On Tuesday, Crosby got his wish, receiving a new contract from the Packers that recognizes him as one of the team’s most valuable players and among the best kickers in the league.
According to agent Mike McCartney, who tweeted the news, Crosby agreed to a four-year deal with Green Bay. Multiple outlets confirmed the reports, including the contract’s $16.1 million worth and $5 million signing bonus.
Crosby became the Packers’ all-time leading scorer last year, passing Ryan Longwell in the Week 2 win over Seattle and eventually finishing the season with 1,145 points. He was one of four kickers that didn’t miss an extra point in 2015, the first year the PAT line was moved back. He made all four of his field goal attempts in the playoffs, setting the NFL record for consecutive postseason field goals without a miss (20). And he made a highlight-reel defensive play on Vikings returner Cordarrelle Patterson in kick coverage.
Not bad for a guy who, a few years ago, was fighting someone named Giorgio Tavecchio for his job.
According to reports, the contract’s annual salary is $4 million (the Packers have not yet made an announcement), which would make Crosby the second-highest paid kicker in the league, behind New England’s Stephen Gostkowski ($4.3 million). That doesn’t include Justin Tucker, to whom Baltimore gave the franchise tag for $4.572 million.
There was some speculation that Green Bay might slap Crosby with the tag, but Ted Thompson has only franchised two players in his 11 years as general manager, the last in 2010.
Crosby, who looks older than his 31 years, was a sixth-round draft pick in 2007. After Rodgers, who was drafted in 2005, he and unrestricted free agent John Kuhn have been with the Packers the longest.
In 2010, Crosby signed a five-year, 14.75 million extension, but in 2012, he made only 63.6 percent of his field goals, resulting in his contract being renegotiated. Thanks to a bounce-back career season in 2013, though, making 33 of 37 attempts, he earned the full $2.55 million back from the original deal.
Locking up their trusty kicker continues a trend for Thompson and the Packers, who typically like to sign their own preferred free agents before they reach the open market. Back in December, Green Bay inked defensive lineman Mike Daniels to a four-year, $41 million extension, and last month the team re-signed defensive lineman Letroy Guion to a three-year, $11.05 million deal.
The Packers have several other high-profile players whose futures must be considered. On defense, those unrestricted free agents include cornerback Casey Hayward, defensive tackle B.J. Raji and outside linebackers Nick Perry and Mike Neal. On offense, they include running back James Starks, fullback John Kuhn and wide receiver James Jones, among others.
The league salary cap has been set at $155.27 million for next year and the free agency period begins on March 15.
Mason Crosby will be back "home."
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.