Assessing Packers’ options with Aaron Rodgers’ contract

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Zach Kruse
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

It’s a beautiful mystery. That’s how quarterback Aaron Rodgers described his long-term future with the Green Bay Packers.

A big part of solving that mystery is understanding his contract, and what action or inaction on the contract would mean for now and the future. The Packers, as of Wednesday, March 24, still haven’t touched Rodgers’ deal, so the mystery lingers on.

We can’t solve the mystery now, but we can understand the situation. Here are the options:

Do nothing

(AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

The Packers have restructured the contracts of six different veteran players to both get under the salary cap and retain several players, including Aaron Jones, Robert Tonyan and Kevin King. But they haven't touched Rodgers' deal, despite the opportunity for massive cap savings, and they've already paid his roster bonus, eliminating an avenue for more savings. It's possible the Packers don't want to do anything to his deal. In this scenario, the Packers would leave Rodgers' contract alone, deciding instead to let the situation play out year-by-year as is, keeping options open while knowing Rodgers still has three years left on his deal. Not touching Rodgers' contract doesn't necessarily mean 2021 is his final season in Green Bay, but it would keep the door open to the Packers transitioning to Love in 2022, his third NFL season. The team must decide whether to exercise Love's fifth-year option after his third season, so it'd make sense to want to see him play before making that important decision. This option wouldn't provide any security for Rodgers, but it would keep all options open for the Packers in the future, an attractive scenario for a team with both a 37-year-old MVP and a talented first-round pick at quarterback. The Packers must chart both the future for Rodgers and the developmental path of Love. Doing nothing would provide the most time and the most accurate projection of the future of the two quarterbacks.

Simple restructure

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers already gave up an opportunity to do part of the simple restructure when they paid Rodgers his $6.8 million roster bonus last week. Now, only his $14.7 million base salary in 2021 is open for an easy money conversion. The team could convert part or most of his base salary into a signing bonus to create cap room this year. It would push money into the future, providing a stronger financial incentive for keeping Rodgers past 2021. This might be the middle ground the two sides settle on. The team gets a little help on the cap now, while the player gets some guaranteed money on the cap pushed into the future. Then again, it's not a perfect solution if the two sides want different things. Remember, the Packers already converted money in Rodgers' deal after the 2019 season. Doing it again this year might not be something the Packers want to do, and Rodgers likely prefers a stronger commitment. Keep in mind, Rodgers' cap hit is already at $39.85 million in 2022, and doing a simple restructure would push that number well over $40 million while creating a bigger dead cap hit if the team wants to move in 2022 or 2023.

Extension

(AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

This is almost certainly the preferred scenario for Rodgers. He has said over and over again that he wants to finish his career with the Packers. He lost most of his leverage over accomplishing that goal when the Packers took Love, but he can gain it all back if the team extends his deal and commits to him long term. Adding on years and guaranteed money to the contract would ensure Rodgers is the quarterback in Green Bay past 2021, while turning Love into a short-term backup and long-term asset (see: Jimmy Garoppolo in New England). This option is attractive because it would require a solid agreement from both the player and team. This option might also be why the team hasn't done anything yet; creating an extension that works for both sides would take time. Even though Rodgers turns 38 in December, the Packers can be confident he can play at a high level for several more years. Matt LaFleur's offense has protected him and made his life easier. He's coming off an MVP season. He didn't have a single injury in 2020. His physical skills looked as good as ever. Last year proved Rodgers can play a different type of game that will extend the prime window of his career. If Tom Brady can play until he's 43, Rodgers can play at a high level until he's at least 40. And he doesn't turn 40 until late into the 2023 season. An extension would be an admission of sorts from the Packers that they miscalculated Rodgers' career path and invested in a predecessor too early, but it's never wrong for a team to protect itself at the game's most important position. Also, a recalibration after an MVP season from a future Hall of Famer only makes sense.

1

1