Aaron Rodgers, Packers at crossroads as trade remains possible
An offseason trade of Aaron Rodgers remains an option for the Green Bay Packers for a variety of reasons, league sources told ESPN.
A scenario that once seemed unthinkable, a Rodgers trade could be driven by financial reasons, the state of the Packers franchise and ultimately the feelings of both the team and the star quarterback.
League sources are convinced the franchise prefers to move on from Rodgers, just as it once did with Brett Favre. Those sources also believe that Rodgers is well aware of the Packers’ feelings on the situation.
Rodgers said during an interview this past week with “The Pat McAfee Show” that he is “open to all honest and direct conversations” with the Packers and that a trade “wouldn’t offend me, and it wouldn’t make me feel like a victim.”
Rodgers also noted in the interview that a possible trade, at this point, is “conjecture” until he decides what he wants to do “moving forward for myself.”
But regardless of Rodgers’ decision, changes are coming to Green Bay — it’s just a matter of how extensive they will be. Rodgers himself quipped during the interview: “Is it a reload or a rebuild?”
The Packers currently are projected to be more than $16 million over next season’s salary cap and have a list of impending free agents that includes some of Rodgers’ closest friends on the team — Randall Cobb, Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Allen Lazard and Mason Crosby.
Aaron Jones also is slated to have a cap number of $20 million, and the Packers could save $10.4 million against the cap if they were to cut or trade the star running back. Green Bay also could save $16 million if it designated Jones as a post-June 1 cut.
So this is a Packers franchise at a crossroads — no more so than at quarterback, where Rodgers is due $59.5 million in guaranteed money this year and another $49.25 million in 2024.
The Packers used a very complex contract structure with Rodgers when the sides agreed on an extension last offseason. Of the guaranteed money owed to Rodgers in 2023, $58.3 million of it is structured as an option bonus. The window to exercise that option is from the first day of the new league year (March 15) until a day before Green Bay’s regular-season opener in September.
By including that option bonus in Rodgers’ contract, both sides have more than enough time to find a trade partner instead of having a hard offseason deadline. Once the option is exercised, Rodgers’ cap number for 2023 would be $31,623,570.
While Rodgers is due close to $110 million in guaranteed money over the next two years — money he is not expected to walk away from — the Packers also have to decide on quarterback Jordan Love‘s fifth-year option that would be worth roughly $20 million fully guaranteed by May 1.
Love flashed in mop-up action in a game against Philadelphia this past season, completing six of nine passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.
“They drafted my replacement, and if I didn’t win two COVID MVPs, this conversation probably would’ve happened earlier,” Rodgers said during the interview on Tuesday. “But in a year where I’m not going to win MVP, it allows for all the different conjectures of if Jordan is ready and if it’s time to move on.”
Rodgers, 39, ultimately has a major voice in where he wants to be in 2023 — whether that’s Green Bay, another NFL city or retirement. At no time during his comments to “The Pat McAfee Show” or to reporters at the end of the season did Rodgers declare with a blanket statement that he would be back in Green Bay. In fact, his words and actions have demonstrated otherwise.
Rodgers, who has spent his entire 18-year career with the Packers, was said to be emotional on the field during pregame warmups before Green Bay’s season-ending loss at Lambeau Field to the Detroit Lions.
After the game, Rodgers declined Lions rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams‘ request for his No. 12 jersey, saying “I’m gonna hold on to this one,” before walking off the field, looking up at the Lambeau crowd and entering the tunnel with his arm wrapped around Cobb’s shoulder.
Rodgers tops a list of quarterbacks facing major offseason questions that includes Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo.
If this situation feels familiar for Green Bay, it should. Favre was 38 years old at the time Green Bay traded him to the New York Jets and was 39 while playing his first season away from the Packers.
There would be substantial interest in Rodgers’ services across the league, but it is now up to the four-time MVP and the Packers to figure out whether a trade is the path they will travel this offseason — with signs pointing to the fact that they will.