Since the NFL draft, Aaron Rodgers has been hypothetically traded hundreds of times. In media dreamcasting, he has been dealt for a mountain of draft assets and a bushel of talented players, all to a litany of teams that need him and even a few that don’t. In a way his future destination has become the new mock draft. And the scenarios are getting cranked out despite Rodgers' total silence and zero indication that the Green Bay Packers are going to budge on Rodgers playing anywhere else next season.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of experienced opinions about Rodgers’ trade value across the NFL, coming from people who have worked extensively on their own large-scale trades. With that in mind, we asked six high-level front office executives to offer their analysis of Rodgers’ realistic trade value in the event that the quarterback and the Packers can’t hash out their differences.
Four of the executives are general managers. Two are former GMs who currently hold jobs in NFL front offices. All six reside in franchises that spent time working on some aspect of the quarterback market this offseason, either acquiring a rookie high in the draft, taking part in a veteran trade or having reached out to the Houston Texans regarding Deshaun Watson early in the offseason.
While their opinions on Rodgers had various points of overlap, three main points emerged in their analysis. Among them …
Rodgers’ market value is more modest than what some are speculating
Almost every trade scenario I’ve seen involving Rodgers from analysts includes three first-round draft picks and one or two high-caliber starters. All six of the executives found that to be rich, especially given that the acquiring team would be expected to do a new league-leading deal with the QB.
Now, I want to be clear here: That doesn’t mean the Packers can’t get that kind of package. But the consensus from the executives was that there might be only one team willing to make that kind of “all-in” commitment in a trade, and the picks would be assumed to be of late first-round value.
Interestingly, all six had a very similar template for where they thought an offer would start in terms of draft capital. And it was with two first-rounders, not three. One general manager called it “two ones [and] plus,” meaning two first-round picks and a “plus” package of either additional non-first-round selections or starting players (or a mix of both).
“I’ve heard that they wouldn’t consider anything less than three [firsts],” the GM said. “Not sure that’s realistic.”
A second executive added: “Maybe a team that [has a] window closing and tries to keep it open a few more years. I don’t see a building team being that interested.”
Surprisingly, all six agreed on the the first-round compensation would largely be in the area of two firsts — with an offer of three being the outlier.
“Three firsts is a lot to invest in a short-term fix and I know you guys point at [Tom] Brady’s age, but he’s a total break from history,” another general manager said. “[Rodgers] just had one of his best seasons, but I’m not putting three firsts and probably more into a [37-year-old] quarterback and expecting that he can do what Brady is doing. Watson, before everything that came out [in the civil litigation], he was going to be probably three firsts and some extra. But you’re considering that against him having a decade of his best football left. I don’t see Rodgers having the same value at his age as a mid-20s player who is already a top-five quarterback. Not for three or four years of returns.”
All of the executives agreed that it takes only one team to blow up a market. A Rodgers market could be, on average, five teams offering two first-round picks, plus additional pieces. But one team could completely spike the rest of the market with a third first-round pick.
Need for an extension weighs on compensation for Rodgers
Several of the executives agreed that an underappreciated part of the Rodgers trade speculation is the requirement of a contract that will likely pay the type of four-year deal loaded with guarantees that's becoming more of a standard for QBs. One general manager made a tremendous point.
“I don’t know that this is the case, but if he’s already been offered an extension that would make him the highest paid player in the NFL or even close to it, then [the Packers] have already set a floor for expectations before you’ve even gotten to talk to him about it,” the GM said. “I assume if they’ve talked about a contract, he’s the league MVP so whatever they’ve exchanged is going to put him at the top [of the NFL]. That’s just the way the top five or six quarterbacks work now. When you’re doing a new deal, you’re trying to reset the last one. So what I’m getting at, I don’t think you’d be acquiring a cheapish contract in terms of whatever his base is the rest of the way. That means you’re going into talks with the Packers already setting the bar and it’s probably at the top.”
Another general manager made a similar point and also lamented suggestions in the media that Rodgers could have the same transformative impact as Brady. His point was that not only was Brady signed in Tampa without giving up compensation, he took a low-market $25 million annual salary and helped recruit Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown on a sub-market deal.
“Brady brought a lot with him for the outlay,” he said. “Rodgers is just going to cost a lot. It’s not a good comparison.”
Trade market for Rodgers may be artificially limited by Rodgers himself, and that’s bad for bidding
Rodgers doesn’t have a no-trade clause in his contract, which robs him of some leverage with Green Bay. However, the breakup would be messy and that very likely eliminates all of the NFC from the picture, given that Green Bay isn’t going to want to deal with running into him in the playoffs over the next several years.
So that cuts the pool down to the AFC. Several executives pointed out that after taking off half of the league from the table, it then comes down to how much Rodgers wants to play for whatever AFC teams may be in the hunt.
One executive put it simply: “They can’t drive a bidding war if they’re only bargaining with one team. That’s just how it goes. You just have to hope that whoever you’re dealing with is willing to deal against themselves. And you’re not really put into a good place if the media is reporting a player prefers this team or that team or whatever. You never know how things like that play when you’re trying to put together a trade, but it can have an impact.
"… But then again, a couple years ago nobody would have ever thought [the Philadelphia Eagles] could get a first-round pick out of Sam Bradford, and it happened. If it’s the [Denver] Broncos going for Rodgers, [the Packers] just have to hope it’s like that, a situation where a front office and staff agrees that it just has to make it happen. But if you don’t have that, and if you’re dealing with someone who has some sand [in negotiations], it’s not going to be the mountain of picks and players that people seem to think. It’s going to be a tougher back and forth than you think.”
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