Call it ironic. Call it good business. However you want to spin it, the Green Bay Packers sent Aaron Rodgers a clear message by selecting Jordan Love with the 26th pick of the 2020 NFL draft. Eerily reminiscent to how Rodgers ended up replacing Packers legend Brett Favre, the Packers may have repeated the process by taking the talented but raw passer out of Utah State. For Rodgers, the selection surely qualified as a surprise given his dearth of weapons. To rub salt in the wound (and add intrigue to the storyline), the Packers not only drafted a first-round QB with Rodgers on the roster, but they actually traded up to select his potential successor.
But Packers fans shouldn’t be expecting to see another aging Hall of Fame quarterback transition just yet. Aaron Rodgers’ massive contract will ensure his starting spot…for now.
Packers shockingly traded up to select Jordan Love in 2020 NFL draft
Entering the 2020 NFL draft, it would have been logical for the Packers to give Aaron Rodgers another receiver or tight end. After all, Green Bay lost Jimmy Graham in free agency and have little proven depth at wideout beyond Davante Adams. Instead of giving their franchise QB a blue-chip weapon, the Packers traded up from 30 to 26 to select Utah State QB Jordan Love. To call the selection shocking would be like calling David Tyree’s catch lucky.
Not only did the Packers take a potential franchise quarterback, but they actually moved up to secure his services. The move makes little sense in the short-term, especially since Green Bay advanced to the NFC Championship last season. Even if Love had landed on a team desperate for a quarterback, he was far from a game-ready product.
A gifted athlete, the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder didn’t blow scouts or NFL draft evaluators away statistically. After a fantastic 2018 season in which he threw 32 touchdowns and just six interceptions, Love regressed mightily. He entered the 2020 NFL draft after throwing an eye-opening 17 interceptions. His poor play contributed to the Aggies regressing from an 11-2 squad in 2018 to a disappointing 7-6 team last fall. Still, his intriguing upside garnered comparisons to Patrick Mahomes. And ultimately, the Packers made the bold decision to move up a few spots to ensure they got their quarterback of the future.
Aaron Rodgers has major dead cap hits in 2020 and 2021
Even if the Packers are planning for life after Aaron Rodgers, that won’t be possible anytime soon. That has nothing to do with Jordan Love’s lack of NFL readiness. And it has nothing to do with Rodgers’ accomplishments or skill set. It all comes down to one factor: money.
When the Packers signed Rodgers to a record-setting $134 million contract before the 2018 season, the deal essentially sealed his spot on the team for at least the next four seasons. That’s what happens when your deal includes $78.7 million fully guaranteed at signing, including a stunning $57.5 million signing bonus.
More importantly than those figures, however, are Rodgers’ dead money hits in 2020 and 2021. See, if the Packers suddenly wanted to hand the reigns over to Love, that would be financially impossible. According to Over the Cap, Rodgers carries a 2020 dead-money hit of $51.148 million. To make matters worse, Green Bay would actually lose $29.5 million in cap space by cutting their franchise QB. Next year, Rodgers’ $31.5 dead-money hit also makes him impossible to unthrone. Green Bay would only save about $4.8 million in salary-cap space by moving on from their Super Bowl-winning signal-caller.
Can Jordan Love replace Aaron Rodgers in 2022?
If you’re a Packers fan, be prepared for at least two more years of Aaron Rodgers. While some still consider him to be a top-five NFL QB, he has shown signs of regression since a magical 2016 season in which he led the NFL with 40 passing touchdowns. Of course, that could be explained by the fact that Green Bay hasn’t drafted a single offensive skill player in the top-100 picks since 2015. Still, it’s alarming that Rodgers’ quarterback rating has dipped from 104.2 in 2016 to 95.4 last season.
Perhaps the Packers pulled a page out of the Patriots’ playbook when Bill Belichick drafted Jimmy Garoppolo to push an aging Tom Brady. Maybe Green Bay envisions Love doing the same thing Rodgers did to Favre. Whatever the rationale, we shouldn’t see the Packers’ top 2020 draft pick on the field until 2022 at the earliest due to the team’s financial commitment to Rodgers. But with Jordan Love in the fold, the clock is officially ticking on the Aaron Rodgers era in Green Bay.