After another conference championship loss, rumors are flying that Rodgers could be on the move, but how reasonable is that possibility for the Packers?
The Green Bay Packers had a plan when they drafted Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. Trading up on draft night – something the organization did very little of in previous years – to the 26th pick to acquire the 22-year-old was a clear indicator that they were securing Aaron Rodgers’ replacement. Meaning, the Packers were acknowledging that Rodgers’ time with the team was becoming limited.
What general manager Brian Gutenkunst seemingly did not anticipate was the season Aaron Rodgers would have following the acquisition.
In his 16th year as a pro, Rodgers had quite possibly his best season to date. His 48 touchdown passes were a career-high, compared to only five interceptions. His 70.7 completion percentage was easily the highest in the league, as was his 121.5 quarterback rating. Not to mention, Green Bay finished with a 13-3 record – enough to finish as the top seed in the NFC and to host all of their playoff games at Lambeau Field.
Despite Rodgers likely earning his third career MVP award, the season once again concluded in disappointment.
Another NFC Championship defeat will be on the resumé of Rodgers and the Packers; the fourth loss in that spot over the last seven years. The loss to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers might be the most painful because it will be defined through an inability to capitalize on both sides of the ball, questionable decision-making from the sidelines and inconsistent officiating.
The circumstances that the Packers have faced this year, both the positive and negative, make the Love decision in April even more questionable, as analysts are wondering if Rodgers will even return to the Packers this offseason due to the team’s future commitment at the quarterback position. These speculations became even more prevalent after Rodgers’ postgame comments.
“[There are] a lot of guys’ futures that are uncertain, myself included,” Rodgers told reporters. “Obviously there’s going to be an end to it at some point, whether we make it past this one or not. Just the uncertainties, [it] is tough, and the finality of it.”
Immediately following the press conference, teams who would be potential suitors for a trade began to be thrown out on social media. Yet, is it possible to assume that Rodgers can be traded within the next couple of months?
If former Packers quarterback Brett Favre proved anything from his story of retiring then heading to the Jets only to retire again and somehow find his way to the Vikings, it is hard to predict what insanity can be seen in the offseason. But, the simple fact exists that trading Aaron Rodgers makes no sense for Gutenkunst and the organization at the moment.
Looking at the cap situation for the Packers is a clear indicator of this. The NFL will step into a significant transition in terms of the salary cap this offseason due to the negative impact COVID-19 had on season protocol. The cap was set at $175 million in 2021, which is a steady decrease from the $198.2 million cap in 2020.
Currently, the Packers’ cap is set at $213.8 million according to Spotrac. Gutenkunst and company will have to cut their cap by nearly $40 million by the start of next season. This cut also means that all the looming free agents on their roster: running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, center Corey Linsley, cornerback Kevin King and others will likely not be extended, as the focus will be finding ways to decrease their cap rather than add to it.
Trading Rodgers will not help them achieve their financial goal this offseason. With the quarterback’s restructured deal in 2019, they are responsible for a roster bonus of $6.8 million heading into 2021. The Packers will be holding onto $31.56 million in dead cap under Rodgers’ contract next season, and trading him this offseason would only lead to an increased investment of roughly $4.8 million in the cap.
However, the following offseason seems to be a far better option for Green Bay in trading Rodgers. With a massive decrease in the dead cap number in 2022, the Packers would add $22.6 million to their cap room if they decided to depart from Rodgers that year. With this in mind and the simple fact that Love is not ready to be a professional starting quarterback, a trade in 2022 makes more sense than in 2021. In fact, it makes a trade this upcoming offseason impossible to justify.
Packers CEO Mark Murphy appears to think the same way. “We’re not idiots. Aaron Rodgers will be back, he is our leader,” Murphy said earlier today on “The 5th Quarter Show” on WNFL in Green Bay.
Nevertheless, none of this takes into account what Rodgers as an individual wants. Despite the quarterback’s previous quotes on loyalty to the franchise, his tone following Sunday’s loss is creating speculation on if that allegiance remains – especially when it seems that those sentiments were not shared by the organization following last year’s draft.
If Rodgers does indeed request a trade, the Packers will be stuck and a trade would then become inevitable. However, the team has options that can influence the upcoming three-time MVP to stay wearing green and gold next season and also ease their cap situation.
For one, the Packers could extend Rodgers’ favorite target. Receiver Davante Adams will be entering the final year of his contract in 2021. After the All-Pro season Adams had in 2020, extending Adams should be the first offseason priority for the Packers. Doing so will not only keep Adams in further club control, but it will also lead to a drop in the team’s salary cap as well.
This move could potentially entice Rodgers to reach further discussion with Green Bay to restructure his own deal, which would help the team’s cap issue. This restructuring will also reflect that the team is committed to him over, at least, the next few years. According to a report from NBC Sports’ Mike Florio, Rodgers does want a new contract. With how he played this past season, the Packers should meet this request with jubilation.
We cannot say for certain, though, that they will.
The uncertainty of Aaron Rodgers’ future ultimately lies within the hands of the organization. While figures such as Murphy and head coach Matt LaFleur have approached this discussion of a potential Rodgers departure with objection, the franchise’s actions seem to contradict such disapproval.
Green Bay is close – incredibly close. With the jump this offense took in LaFleur’s second year at the helm and the consistency from all facets of their unit, year three has the potential to be even more impressive despite some key losses in their roster. However, Rodgers needs to be there. The team cannot afford him being traded financially or personnel-wise at this moment.
Nevertheless, we cannot help but ask this: if not for drafting Jordan Love, would this recent discussion of trading Aaron Rodgers be in the works this offseason? Theoretically, the answer appears to be that it would not – giving the pick even worse ramifications than what was initially perceived.