Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers says he doesn’t want to be part of a rebuild. The problem for the Packers is that the only way forward with Rodgers on the roster would likely look a lot like a rebuild.
The Packers simply can’t keep Rodgers while maintaining the talent that he wants around him to compete for Super Bowls. One of the downsides to being a good team is that you have to pay the players who got you there, and that’s a problem the Packers are facing in 2022 and beyond.
Retirement is, of course, another option for Rodgers, but if he doesn’t pack up and leave, the most common-sense path for Green Bay is to trade the MVP quarterback and rebuild with Jordan Love at quarterback and great defense as the focus.
Why trading Aaron Rodgers makes sense for the Green Bay Packers
Keep in mind, this is all dependent on Rodgers saying he wants to still play football. If he retires, all bets are off.
Whether he likes it or not, and whether or not head coach Matt LaFleur wants to admit it, a rebuild of sorts is coming sooner rather than later. It’s a necessary evil because of money, or lack thereof, and when you’re talking money in Green Bay, you’ve got to start with Rodgers and his good friend, Davante Adams.
Rodgers is set to count $46 million against Green Bay’s salary cap in 2022. Adams is going to be an unrestricted free agent and he wants to get paid. Sure, the Packers can utilize the franchise tag to keep him off the market and locked up for a season, but even that route will be expensive. It will cost Green Bay roughly $22 million to keep Adams with the franchise tag.
That’s almost $70 million spent between two players next season, and we haven’t even talked about what should end up being significant contracts for players like De’Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas, two important free agents on the defensive side of the ball. Green Bay also has to start looking ahead at contract extensions for Jaire Alexander and Elgton Jenkins, two integral pieces of the young core who will be free agents in 2023.
The Packers simply don’t have the cap room to keep everybody without sacrificing a few good players to the open market, so if Rodgers doesn’t want to be patient and stick around for that process, but he still wants to play football, then the Packers would be wise to grant him his wish.
The Packers will never get better value for their franchise quarterback than right now.
Rodgers is a three-time MVP, with another one potentially on the way. Elite quarterbacks don’t grow on trees and there are very few teams that wouldn’t fall over themselves for a chance to try to squeeze the last bits of high-level play out of Rodgers. There are also a handful of teams that believe that they are simply a quarterback away from opening up a Super Bowl window
The asking price is going to be steep, but that’s the beauty of it for Green Bay. If the Packers are truly heading into a rebuild, the more assets they have and the less money they owe…the better
A Rodgers trade would accomplish both of those objectives.
The Packers would be able to offload his contract to a team that needs a quarterback and has the cap room, and in return, they would undoubtedly ask for multiple high draft picks or even established players to make them whole. In the process, they’d save a ton of money. If Rodgers is traded or released before June 1st, the Packers will save $19,597,021 in cap room for 2022. If he’s released or traded post-June 1st, that number goes up to $27,270,589.
Draft assets or reputable players in return will help Green Bay accelerate a rebuild. The extra cap room will serve to help the Packers extend players like Jenkins or Alexander.
It’s a win-win.
The Packers should go all-in on building an elite defense
The NFL is no doubt a league run by quarterbacks, but the old adage still remains true.
Defense really does still win championships.
You need a quarterback to get you there, of course, but there’s something to be said for having an elite defense. Tom Brady is the greatest of all time, but would he have won a Super Bowl last season with the Buccaneers if they didn’t have such a great defensive unit? Even going back to his time in New England, the Patriots were always known to have some of the most formidable defenses in the league, and they undoubtedly bailed Brady out a time or two.
For an even more recent example, look at poor Josh Allen with the Buffalo Bills. He single-handedly did everything he could to beat Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in that classic payoff game. All he needed was his defense to be able to contain Mahomes for 13 seconds, and he’d still be playing. Unfortunately, his defense let him down.
Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. It’s old football wisdom but still rings true today.
The good news for the Packers is that they already have the base of what appears to be a potentially elite defense.
Kenny Clark is arguably the best defensive tackle in the league not named Aaron Donald. Rashan Gary has become a superstar pass rusher, so much so that double-digit sacks are easily the baseline for him moving forward.
Campbell had an All-Pro season at linebacker and looked to be a leader the Packers can rely on heading to the future. Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith are both signed until 2023. If the Packers can create more cap room by trading Rodgers, one or both of those players could potentially be extended.
Green Bay also has an extremely exciting secondary. Alexander is one of the top shutdown cornerbacks in the league, and the Packers drafted a potential star to run with him in Eric Stokes, who had a solid rookie season out of Georgia. Adrian Amos is one of the more consistent safeties in the NFL, and Darnell Savage can be a playmaker when he’s healthy and at the top of his game.
The Packers are arguably a few pieces and some depth away from having an elite defense. If they trade Rodgers and use the assets they get back to continue to build a strong unit, there really is no ceiling on how good Green Bay can be defensively.
Jordan Love can win with a strong run game and elite defense
It almost seems wrong to get this far into an article on trading Rodgers without mentioning Love, because he is projected to be a big part of Green Bay’s future for now.
Frankly, he hasn’t looked all that special in the limited amount of meaningful reps that he’s gotten to this point in his young career, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, we still haven’t seen enough from him to get an honest evaluation. It’s not fair to assume off a handful of mediocre snaps that he doesn’t have what it takes to be Rodgers’ air apparent. Green Bay also doesn’t need Love to be elite in order to win. Heck, the Packers don’t even really need him to be all that special.
They need him to be able to do his job. They need him to be someone who can take care of the football, feed the ball to Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon, and make the best of his options downfield utilizing tight ends and the occasional shot play to a wide receiver.
LaFleur doesn’t even run an offense that requires a star quarterback. It’s nice to have one, but it’s not necessarily.
He wants to run the football using motion and misdirection to open up gaps upfront. He wants to have a strong play-action passing game and he wants to use physicality at the line of scrimmage to eventually open up shots downfield.
What he has with Rodgers is unique and has worked, but let’s not pretend that this is actually LaFleur’s offense. It has pieces of what he wants to do, but what we’ve seen in Green Bay has been a mixture of LaFleur’s ideologies and Rodgers’ desire to ad-lib.
LaFleur doesn’t need a star quarterback in order to put up points. All he needs is someone who can make the right reads. The scheme is meant to get players open. The quarterback needs to follow the progressions and make the right decision, which Rodgers is famously not the best at. He too often likes to do his own thing.
Sean McVay took Jared Goff to a Super bowl using a similar offensive scheme. Even Garoppolo has made a Super Bowl thanks to his ability to do what Kyle Shanahan asks of him, and he may make another one this season.
Fans in Green Bay have gotten so used to having elite quarterbacks that they believe it’s what’s required in order to win, but what has that gotten them to this point? The Packers have only two Super Bowl rings between Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. That’s incredible and disappointing. Sure, having an elite quarterback keeps you in the hunt every year, but the Packers know better than just about any other franchise that great quarterback play does not necessarily equal Lombardi trophies.
So why not change things up?
The formula of an elite defense, strong running game, and competent yet not otherworldly quarterback has won plenty of Super Bowls in the past. There’s no reason why it can’t work for the Packers.