After missing the postseason for the first time in four years, the Green Bay Packers will now spend their offseason with one topic at the forefront of their internal conversations: the future of Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers inked a three-year, $150 million extension with the Packers last March, but reports have indicated Green Bay might be willing to move on. Should the Packers trade Rodgers and turn their offense over to 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love? Or should they stick the future Hall of Famer and gear up for another Super Bowl run?
Should the Green Bay Packers Move On From Aaron Rodgers?
When Rodgers signed that extension last offseason, it seemed as though the now-39-year-old was ready to wrap up his career as a Packer. And, seemingly, that’s what Green Bay’s front office wanted, too.
“We made a really big commitment to him last offseason,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said in January. “So I think as we did that, it wasn’t certainly for just this year.”
Instead, another NFL offseason is set to be dominated by Rodgers’ potential landing spot. Reporting on Rodgers and the Packers has been all over the place, with some sources indicating Green Bay’s management is “disgusted” with Rodgers and others indicating a return to the Packers isn’t out of the question — as long is Rodgers is “fully bought in.”
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There’s no question 2022 was a down season for Rodgers. He posted the fewest net yards per attempt and the lowest QBR of his career. After winning back-to-back MVP awards in 2020 and 2021, Rodgers finished just 20th in expected points added per dropback.
Still, it’s difficult to lay all the blame at Rodgers’ feet. The Packers lacked an established presence at receiver after trading Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders before the season. Rookie pass catcher Christian Watson came on down the stretch, but he didn’t manage more than three catches in a game until Week 10.
What Does Rodgers’ Contract Look Like?
Rodgers’ contract is one of the more complicated deals in the NFL. The crux of the agreement is a guaranteed $58.3 million option bonus that the Packers might exercise or decline between March 15 and the day before their first 2023 regular-season game.
The structure of Rodgers’ pact, which allows that $58.3 million to be prorated like a signing bonus, means that an acquiring team would absorb a relatively friendly deal. Any club that trades for Rodgers would take on cap charges of roughly $16 million in 2023 and $32.5 million in 2024.
Meanwhile, Green Bay would take on $40.3 million in dead money if they trade Rodgers before June 1. After June 1, the Packers could split up that dead money across both 2023 and 2024. Teams don’t usually want to wait until the summer to finalize their quarterback plans, but Rodgers’ unique contract and status within the NFL could make both Green Bay and interested teams amenable to a delayed trade.
As Pro Football Network’s Trey Wingo notes in the video above, things will get more complicated if Rodgers sticks in Green Bay.
“This year, [Rodgers’ contract] is manageable,” said Wingo. “But if he plays this year and doesn’t play next year, it’s a disaster. I think they need to find a way to absorb whatever is going to be the hit this year and get something for him.”
If Rodgers plays in 2023 and then retires next offseason, the Packers would be responsible for $68.205 million in dead money in 2024. Green Bay could work out a new deal that would enable them to partially push those charges in 2025, but there’d be no way to eventually escape paying the cost.
Rodgers’ deal doesn’t contain a no-trade clause. But because he could simply retire rather than accept a trade to a team he doesn’t prefer, Rodgers can essentially veto any potential deal.
Is Jordan Love Ready to Take Over?
The Packers aren’t likely to move on from Rodgers unless they feel certain Love is capable of becoming a starting NFL quarterback. The former No. 26 overall pick has made only one start and attempted just 83 passes over three seasons in Green Bay.
“I think if anything this year would have happened to Aaron, and Jordan would have had to play a significant amount of time, we felt really good about that,” Gutekunst said in January.
“But it’s like any quarterback in the National Football League when they haven’t done it. You go into that, and there’s some unknowns. They’ve got to handle a lot of different things, see a lot of different things before they can get to a point where they can win games in this league.
“… I definitely think (Love) is ready to play. I think he feels that way. I think he’s chomping at the bit. But at the same time, we’re going to do what’s best for the Green Bay Packers and what gives us the best chance to win moving forward.”
Love is entering the final season of his rookie contract, but the Packers can exercise his fifth-year option and lock him in through 2024. However, Gutekunst and Co. will have to decide on Love’s option — which would be fully guaranteed — by this May.
Additionally, the Packers are unlikely to boast much cap space to augment their roster around Love. Green Bay currently has just $6.5 million in breathing room. While they could theoretically restructure Kenny Clark or David Bakhtiari’s contract to open up more space, a pre-June 1 Rodgers trade would eat into that buffer, while a post-June 1 trade would occur too late for the savings to help the Packers sign free agents.
What Should the Packers Do?
Green Bay is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Rodgers’ history with the club and performance on the field is alluring, but retaining the veteran signal-caller comes with plenty of risk. Turning the page to Love could also be appealing, but he’s a virtual unknown at the NFL level.
If the Packers can get a first-round pick for Rodgers, it might be best to move on. There’s a chance Rodgers’ declining play continues into 2023, which would create drastic financial consequences for Green Bay moving forward.
Rolling with Love would almost assuredly entail the Packers’ exercising his fifth-year option for 2024, giving Green Bay two seasons to evaluate him as their long-term starter. If Love succeeds in 2023, the Packers can reset next season and add more talent around their new quarterback.
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There’s no easy answer here, and Gutenkunst and head coach Matt LaFleur’s legacies could be significantly altered depending on how they handle Rodgers’ final years. Suppose a team like the New York Jets, who are expected to target veteran quarterbacks aggressively, submits a Godfather offer for Rodgers. In that case, the Packers will probably have no choice but to accept it.