Aaron Rodgers Contract: How the Packers Can Keep or Trade the $46M QB

The Green Bay Packers are currently deciding whether or not to trade their back-to-back NFL MVP franchise quarterback. There are a lot of considerations that go into this decision, not the least of which is the Aaron Rodgers contract.  

Right now, Rodgers’ $46.6 million cap hit next season is an albatross around the Packers’ neck. Here we’ll look at what happens if the team keeps Rodgers or trades him and, if the latter happens, which NFL teams can afford the potential franchise-changing signal-caller.

How the Packers can keep Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers reacts during the game against the San Francisco 49ers in NFC Divisional Playoff game at Lambeau Field on January 22, 2022. In the 2022 offseason, the Packers have to decide whether to keep or trade their QB and how to best deal with the Aaron Rodgers contract.
Aaron Rodgers | Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

The Green Bay Packers are publically saying that they want their QB back for next season and beyond. The problem is the Aaron Rodgers contract presents a bit of a problem from a salary cap perspective.

The Packers currently have the second-worst salary cap situation in the NFL. Right now, the team is a projected $48.4 million over the cap for next year. That number is basically the same as the MVP signal-callers $46.6M cap hit next season.

If Green Bay wants to keep Rodgers, they’ll need to extend the QB and renegotiate his contract to get that number way down.

Even if the organization does reduce the impact of Rodgers’ contract, GM Brian Gutekunst still has some tough decisions to make.

Superstar WR Davante Adams is an unrestricted free agent. The Packers could franchise tag him, but that will still cost $18M to $20M next season. To keep Adams and keep or sign other free agents, the team will have to cut or restructure the contracts of some big-name players.

By releasing or renegotiating with LBs Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, DT Kenny Clark, S Adrian Amos, and WR Randall Cobb, the team can save up to $47M. However, losing these players would seriously hurt the Packers on the field. So, some creative salary cap maneuvers are in order.

The salary cap bill will come due someday, no matter what Green Bay does. That said, Gutekunst can kick the problems down the road enough to keep a solid team around Rodgers for a few more seasons.

Why trading their franchise QB will save the Packers money

In addition to the fact that Brian Gutekunst may have promised Aaron Rodgers a trade last offseason, there’s another reason that cutting ties with the franchise QB makes sense for the franchise.

The Rodgers contract has a cap hit of $46.6M in 2022 but a dead cap number of just $26.8M. That means trading the MVP will save the team $20M next year. If the Packers trade Rodgers after June 1, 2022, they can spread that cap hit out over two years, so it would be $19.2M in 2022 and $7.6M in 2023.

Trading Rodgers would bring in the draft capital the team needs to rebuild around QB Jordan Love. It would also bring the team’s cap back under control. Cutting the vets mentioned above and letting their veteran QB move on would save the Packers a staggering $67 million. This would allow for a new era to comfortably begin at Lambeau Field.

Which NFL teams can afford the Aaron Rodgers contract? 

There are two general things to keep in mind about the Aaron Rodgers contract situation.

One is that this situation is unique. If the Green Bay Packers agree to trade their franchise QB, they’ll likely be willing to help Rodgers get where he wants to go. This could mean renegotiating his contract before shipping him out, if necessary.

Two is that in the NFL, never say never when it comes to the salary cap. For example, the New Orleans Saints have the worst cap situation in the league. They are currently around $76M over the cap. With some strategic cuts and a few renegotiations, could the Saints clear enough room to trade for Rodgers? Probably. However, it’s not that likely as it would significantly hurt the team’s ability to add talent in the next few seasons, which wouldn’t appeal to Rodgers.

Following those two notations, which clubs can comfortably (or with some relatively minor salary cap massaging) bring in the Super Bowl-winning QB?

The team acquiring the Rodgers contract would be on the hook for the total cash value next season, which is $27.5M.

Without lifting a finger, the Miami Dolphins could bring in Rodgers today with the franchise’s $63.8M in cap room. The Denver Broncos ($39.1M) and Pittsburgh Steelers ($32M) could do the same.

The Las Vegas Raiders ($20.4M under the cap) also have a relatively easy path to absorb the Aaron Rodgers contract as is.

When you get to a few of the more outlandish destinations for the 10-time Pro Bowler, the salary cap concerns become more pronounced. This makes these teams even further back in the Rodgers Sweepstakes. This includes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($6.8M under), San Francisco 49ers ($2.9M under), and Tennessee Titans ($6.6M over).

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac

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