After throwing 48 touchdowns to just five interceptions in the 2020 season, Aaron Rodgers’ contract presents an interesting conundrum for the Green Bay Packers. Let’s take a look at Aaron Rodgers’ contract, the Packers’ salary cap situation, and the option the Packers have with Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers’ cap hit is set to jump in 2021
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers signed a four-year, $134 million contract extension in 2018. The deal had a $57.5 million signing bonus and $78.7 million fully guaranteed at signing. A further $19.5 million became guaranteed in 2019, totaling up to $98.2 million in guarantees.
The Packers and Rodgers restructured his deal in December of 2019. $14.26 million of his 2020 roster bonus was converted into a signing bonus in 2019. This move decreased Rodgers’ cap charge by $11.4 million in 2020.
Rodgers has three years remaining on his contract
Entering the 2021 offseason, Rodgers has three more years set to run on his contract. When he signed the four-year extension, there were still two years remaining on his old deal. Therefore, Rodgers is under contract with the Packers until 2024. However, 2020 was the final season with any guaranteed money remaining on Aaron Rodgers’ contract.
Due to the restructure reducing Rodgers’ 2020 cap hit to $21.64 million, Rodgers’ cap number takes a big jump in 2021. His cap number is set to increase from around $15.5 million to $37.1 million. Therefore, Rodgers is expected to account for over 20 percent of the Packers’ projected salary cap in 2021.
The Packers have some cap woes in 2021
As it stands, the Packers are set to be around $20 million over the projected salary cap in 2021. They do have several cut candidates this offseason, but they can also reduce their salary cap number by other means.
For example, they could extend Davante Adams, who will be in the last year of his deal in 2021. They can structure that extension so that the majority of Adams’ cap hit comes in 2022 and beyond, reducing his current $16.85 million cap number in 2021.
Another option for the Packers is to restructure some of their contracts. Potential restructures include the likes of Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Aaron Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers contract could easily be restructured
We have already seen that both Rodgers and the Packers are open to restructuring deals. Aaron Rodgers is currently projected to earn $14.7 million in base salary, $5.8 million in a roster bonus, and another $1.22 million in workout and other bonuses. That money accounts for $22.72 million of Rodgers’ $37.1 million cap number.
A restructure would allow the Packers to saves as much as $14.43 million, according to Over The Cap. However, with a cap number of $39.9 million in 2022 and $28.35 in 2023, the Packers may be hesitant to push more money deeper into the deal.
Any savings against the cap this year would be split evenly between the 2022 and 2023 salary caps. Therefore, if the Packers saved that $14.4 million, $7.3 million would be added to 2022 and 2023. That would boost Rodgers’ 2022 cap number to over $44 million, or around 20% of the projected cap. With uncertainty remaining about the future of the cap, that might not be a wise move for Green Bay.
Another reason the Packers may hesitate to push more money further back into Rodgers’ contract is that it would make it harder to move on from him down the line.
What options do the Packers have with Aaron Rodgers’ contract?
When Jordan Love was drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the writing looked to be on the wall for Aaron Rodgers and his future in Green Bay. However, Rodgers led the league in completion percentage, touchdown percentage, and interception percentage this season. Now the Packers have some tough choices to make regarding Aaron Rodgers and his contract.
How does cutting Rodgers impact the Packers’ salary cap in the coming years?
Regardless of how he performed in 2020, cutting Aaron Rodgers and his contract makes no sense for the Packers in 2021.
Although he has no remaining guaranteed salary, Rodgers has $14.35 million in prorated bonus numbers in 2021 and 2022, before a $2.85 million number in 2023. If the Packers were to cut Rodgers, all of that would accelerate onto the cap in 2021. That total would be $31.56 million, a saving of just $5.52 million on his standard cap number.
2022/2023 is when releasing Rodgers becomes more realistic
In 2022, that does change somewhat significantly. If the Packers were to cut Rodgers, they would be left with $17.2 million in dead money in 2022. That would be a saving of over $22.5 million on his current cap number in 2022. In 2023, the cost of cutting Rodgers is extremely little. With no guaranteed salary in 2023, Aaron Rodgers would leave just $2.85 million in dead money. The Packers would save $25.5 million against their cap.
If the Packers restructure Rodgers’ contract, these costs will increase. Any money they gave Rodgers now as a signing bonus would increase the dead money in future years.
However, cutting a player who threw 48 touchdowns in 2020 seems unlikely. If the Packers were to move on from Rodgers in 2021 or 2022, a trade is the more likely scenario.
How much would trading Aaron Rodgers and his contract cost the Packers?
As there is no guaranteed money remaining on his salary, there is no difference to the Packers in trading or cutting Rodgers. The numbers would remain exactly as above: $31.56 million in dead money in 2021, $17.2 in 2022, and $2.85 million in 2023.
The team trading for Rodgers would also inherit a nice contract. Once the prorated bonus money is removed from the salary cap, Rodgers is quite affordable. In 2021, Rodgers would earn just $22.72 million. In 2022 and 2023, that number would rise to just $25.5 million per year. With none of that money guaranteed, the team trading for Rodgers would assume nearly zero risk. They could cut Rodgers at any point, with no dead money remaining on the cap.
Therefore, if the Packers were looking to move on from Rodgers in the next few years, a trade makes sense. A contending team could get a talented veteran QB. Meanwhile, the Packers could still get some useful draft assets. All of this while taking on the same dead money as if they cut Rodgers.
It seems unlikely the Packers make this move in the coming offseason. However, if Love is the player they want to turn to in 2022 or 2023, prior to those seasons could both be reasonable for shopping Rodgers on the trade market.
How does a potential restructure affect trading Rodgers in the future?
In the event the Packers restructure Rodgers’ contract, the impact on the team trading for him would be limited. However, if the Packers push money from this year into the future using a guaranteed salary, that changes the equation. Any guaranteed salary moves with the player. Therefore, the Packers need to weigh the pros and cons of a restructure.
Guaranteed salary on the back end of his deal would make Rodgers a less attractive trade commodity. However, adding further prorated bonuses makes the deal less attractive for the Packers. They would be left holding more dead money, limiting the gains from trading Rodgers away.