After seeing a handful of star quarterbacks move franchises over the last two offseasons, there’s a chance we’re going to see another Hall of Famer moved in the coming months. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will again be in the spotlight as he decides his future. The 39-year-old could retire, return to the Packers, or potentially force a trade if the team wants to rebuild.
With Rodgers admitting on the Pat McAfee Show he’s not ready to make any career decisions (he thinks he could play at a high level in Green Bay or elsewhere), we’re diving into where else he could find success. Even as Rodgers finally showed signs of decline in 2022, he’s still an above-average quarterback who could help a good roster elevate into the playoffs.
The financials of any potential trade are important because Rodgers is owed so much. The Packers would incur a $40.3 million dead cap if he’s traded before June 1, but that number would be spread over 2023 and 2024 if he was moved after. His new team would be faced with just a $15.8 cap hit but would likely need to deal with a $58.3 million option bonus that would affect his dead cap number in subsequent years.
But the point is that Rodgers is certainly tradeable if the Packers wish to begin the Jordan Love era in 2023 and Rodgers wants to continue playing. We’ve identified four franchises that have the blend of cap flexibility, an attractive roster to lure Rodgers, and enough reason to make a short-term deal with the star. Let’s dive into each option.
Where Could Aaron Rodgers Land in 2023?
One thing to keep in mind with each of these landing spots is that Rodgers was clear on the Pat McAfee Show in saying, “there’s no point in coming back” but to compete for a Super Bowl. While teams like the Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, and Atlanta Falcons have a need for the position, the addition of Rodgers likely does little to improve their overall chance to win it all. These five teams at least could call Rodgers and sell him on the opportunity to win with their franchise.
New York Jets
This is the most obvious landing spot for Rodgers because the Jets have a list of talented positional groups outside of an answer at quarterback. Head coach Robert Saleh built a top-four defense in 2022 despite an absolutely black hole at QB for much of last season. This offense boasts one of the best young cores in the league thanks to wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore and running back Breece Hall.
The trio of Zach Wilson, Mike White, and Joe Flacco each completed under 59% of their attempts, an embarrassingly bad statistic that played a part in the firing of offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. Adding Rodgers into a competent scheme and behind a moderately improved and healthier offensive line would give this Jets offense a major boost. Even a diminished Rodgers should complete at least 64% of his passes while surrounded by the Jets’ cast of playmakers.
The AFC, in general, and AFC East, in particular, are particularly competitive, but it’s hard to envision the Jets missing out on the playoffs. They can easily open a significant chunk of cap space to accommodate Rodgers and reinforce the roster around him. It’d be a short-term, all-in move, but one that would give the franchise a real chance to compete in the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Las Vegas Raiders
The first year of the Josh McDaniels experience was a disaster. Las Vegas lost in some of the most shocking ways we’ve seen in recent years, including a handful of badly-blown leads and suffering a loss to Jeff Saturday. However, with nine one-score losses in 2022, it’s feasible to expect some positive regression in 2023 before roster improvements are even made.
Quarterback Derek Carr will surely be dealt elsewhere as McDaniels searches for an upgrade. Before McDaniels reaches out to Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, or any other veteran this side of Lamar Jackson, Rodgers should be given priority. The opportunity to reunite Rodgers with Davante Adams would be too good to not make the call.
We saw McDaniels thrive with Tom Brady throughout their time together in New England because the Raiders’ head coach did a masterful job creating levels within his passing attack for Brady to utilize. Rodgers can execute a similar attack, especially if the Raiders retain running back Josh Jacobs to take pressure off him.
Carr wasn’t able to be as efficient as expected despite expectations he would reach a new peak in his career with Adams and McDaniels, but I suspect that had more to do with the Raiders’ offensive line and Carr’s own flaws than anything else.
The Raiders can create a sizable amount of cap space to continue retooling their roster with Rodgers, including allocating assets to their woeful defense. Moving their first-round pick to acquire the future Hall of Famer would sting but would also allow this team to compete in a deep AFC West in 2023.
San Francisco 49ers
Could Rodgers go to the franchise that passed on him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft? The 49ers could right the wrong they made long ago by acquiring Rodgers, but it’s not a simple decision. San Francisco has arguably the best roster in the NFL but is making a Super Bowl run with seventh-round rookie Brock Purdy and has Trey Lance coming back next season, so why would they need Rodgers?
There are still unknowns about both Lance’s ability to play in the NFL and whether Purdy is more than just a game manager. Purdy has played well, especially since expectations around the third-stringer were nil, but it’s also plausible the rest of the league adjusts next season and he suffers major regression. It’s hard for us to know as outsiders about his feelings on Purdy’s long-term prospects, but no one could blame head coach Kyle Shanahan for locking in one year with Rodgers to push for a Super Bowl.
The 49ers boast an elite offensive line, a playmaking trio of Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk, and the NFL’s top defense. It’s likely that if they don’t win the Super Bowl this year, the quarterback position will be a considerable reason why.
San Francisco can open a good amount of cap space with reasonable restructures and extensions for Nick Bosa and McCaffrey. I actually think this is the smartest play for both the 49ers and Rodgers, as they both could use each other to get the very best out of their own prospects.
New England Patriots
With Patriots head coach Bill Belichick only 18 wins behind Don Shula’s all-time mark and struggling to build a playoff-worthy roster, could he get desperate enough to chase down a future Hall of Fame quarterback? The Patriots haven’t been able to get consistent production from 2021 first-round pick Mac Jones, and Brady’s departure continues to loom over the franchise. Belichick could be bold and look to prove he can win without Brady.
Acquiring Rodgers wouldn’t solve everything wrong in New England, of course. Their decision to look for an actual offensive coordinator will help what was an underwhelming, rudderless offense in 2022. They also need to flesh out an uninspiring receiver room filled with role players.
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However, a solid offensive scheme and the addition of Rodgers would be enough to help one of the league’s top defenses push this roster into the postseason. Rodgers would’ve gotten more out of this receiving corps than Jones did. It’d be reasonable to expect the Patriots to jump from an eight-win team to 10 or more in 2023.
New England can be flush with cap space if they wish to be, making acquiring and revamping around Rodgers relatively easy. The questions are whether the egos of Rodgers and Belichick can exist and whether New England is in an attractive enough situation for the quarterback to consider heading to Foxborough.