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Where could Aaron Rodgers land if he splits with Packers? Ranking all 31 options

·13 min read
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In what has emerged as the NFL offseason's most riveting drama, another chapter played out last week as league MVP Aaron Rodgers opted to skip the Green Bay Packers' first organized team activities. Then he went on ESPN to celebrate SportsCenter anchor Kenny Mayne's final telecast, offering mostly cryptic remarks regarding his own job status a month since reports surfaced that Rodgers wanted to break from the Pack.

"Anything's on the table at this point," Rodgers said while vacationing from Hawaii.

He went on to add: "I love the coaching staff, love my teammates, love the fan base in Green Bay. Incredible, incredible 16 years. It's just kind of about a philosophy, and maybe forgetting it is about the people that make the thing go. It's about character, it's about culture, it's about doing things the right way.

"A lot of this was put into motion last year, and the wrench was just kind of thrown into it when I won MVP and played the way I played last year. So this is just kind of a spill out of all that, but it is about the people. That's the most important thing."

Aaron Rodgers' contract does not contain a no-trade clause.
Aaron Rodgers' contract does not contain a no-trade clause.

That was a reference to GM Brian Gutekunst's decision to move up in the first round of last year's draft to take QB Jordan Love, whom Rodgers said he loved even as Love twists on the periphery of this football farce which he helped trigger through no fault of his own. Rodgers didn't directly address whether he's miffed about an increasingly outdated contract devoid of further guaranteed money. (Rodgers collected a $6.8 million roster bonus in March and has a $14.7 million base salary for the 2021 season.)

Everything may be on the table, but one option becomes more realistic now that the calendar has reached June 1 – the point of the NFL timeline when teams can spread out unwieldy salary cap penalties to make heftier transactions more viable ... meaning the Packers can now much more feasibly trade Rodgers. Green Bay can save the roughly $16.1 million maximum they still owe him in 2021 while splitting his $38.4 million cap hit over the next two years.

It's also noteworthy that Rodgers' contract does not contain a no-trade clause, which gives him less leverage than Seattle's Russell Wilson, who has such a provision and could veto any prospective swap the Seahawks try to make. So if things really spiral, and Gutekunst decides to send Rodgers to the Texans ... welp.

However, Gutekunst and Packers CEO Mark Murphy have publicly expressed the organization remains "committed to Aaron in 2021 and beyond," while coach Matt LaFleur said in May, "We want (Rodgers) back in the worst way. I know he knows that and, you know, we’ll continue to work at it each and every day."

But if those sentiments are unrequited and Rodgers decides not to report, Green Bay can either move forward as he withholds his services and fine him ... or consider trade options while assessing Love's readiness to play given he was inactive for every game during his rookie year.

With those variables in mind, here's a viability ranking of Rodgers' chances of landing with the league's other 31 teams if he does indeed land on the trade block:

No chance

31. Kansas City Chiefs: Pfft.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Unless Derek Jeter has a mansion full of untraceable billions worth of cheddar cheese on the Fox River that we're unaware of, pretty sure Tom Brady is living in his Bay of preference amid a very satisfied, intact Super Bowl outfit. Moving on ...

29. Chicago Bears: The Packers aren't sending one of the greatest players in their gilded history to a divisional blood rival, making the Bears' inability to absorb Rodgers' contract irrelevant.

28. Minnesota Vikings: The Packers aren't sending one of the greatest players in their gilded history to a divisional blood rival – don't forget the circuitous path Brett Favre had to take to Minneapolis.

27. Detroit Lions: And no, the Packers aren't sending one of the greatest players in their gilded history to the NFC North's redheaded stepchildren – even if the Lions have four first-rounders to offer in trade over the next two drafts and Gutekunst might enjoy marooning AR12 in Motown.

26. New Orleans Saints: Per overthecap.com, no team in the league presently has less cap space, the Saints with roughly $60,000. And hard to figure why the Pack would empower a perennial NFC competitor trying to recover now that its 15-year ride with retired QB Drew Brees is over.

25. Atlanta Falcons: They're already in a cap bind so serious, they may have to unload star WR Julio Jones – to say nothing of the ramifications of a divorce from QB Matt Ryan necessitated by a shotgun marriage to Rodgers. The numbers simply don't work.

24. Los Angeles Rams: Per reports, they inquired about Rodgers earlier this year – and were rebuffed – before trading for Matthew Stafford. As much as Rodgers might like to be in LA, little chance of walking all of this back – especially since the Rams don't own any first-round picks before 2024.

23. San Francisco 49ers: Coach Kyle Shanahan also admitting doing his due diligence on Rodgers ... and was told to pivot to the draft, where he settled on QB Trey Lance after surrendering a trio of first-round selections for this year's No. 3 pick. That seems to leave the Niners in the same bucket as the Rams, their course charted and no Round 1 choice in the next two drafts.

22. Indianapolis Colts: Indy GM Chris Ballard would surely love to upgrade from newly acquired QB Carson Wentz to Rodgers. But he probably couldn't convince Gutekunst to take over Wentz's four-year, $128 million extension, one the Colts couldn't afford to just dump in addition to whatever else Ballard would have to part with.

21. Tennessee Titans: While the Packers could do worse than obtaining a bundle of draft picks plus QB Ryan Tannehill, they'd actually be challenged to take on his unwieldy contract – which pays him $24.5 million in 2021.

20. Dallas Cowboys: OK, since you're wondering, moving on from QB Dak Prescott – which would be inevitable if you obtained Rodgers – would drop nearly $53 million in dead money onto Dallas' 2022 cap, and that's just the primary hurdle. Onward ...

19. Buffalo Bills: If they're willing to move on from 2020 MVP runner-up Josh Allen and significantly alter a roster that just reached the AFC championship game in order to afford Rodgers ... yeah, then sure.

18. Jacksonville Jaguars: Rodgers is an all-time great, but Urban Meyer didn't agree to reshape the NFL franchise of his choosing to not coach No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence and the other roster-building assets the Jags offer.

Long shots

17. Seattle Seahawks: Wilson also seems to be part of an unwinding football marriage, though he's probably destined for at least one more year in the Emerald City. But even if the Seahawks could put together the framework of a Wilson-for-Rodgers scenario – and the cap ramifications alone aren't insignificant – Wilson has the power to put the kibosh on it. And though Wilson played at the University of Wisconsin in 2011, Green Bay doesn't seem all that conducive to his entrepreneurial aspirations or his wife's musical career.

16. Carolina Panthers: An offense built around Rodgers, RB Christian McCaffrey and WR DJ Moore sounds awfully scary. But hard to see Carolina as an ideal partner for Green Bay given the Panthers have already surrendered second- and fourth-round picks in 2022 for new QB Sam Darnold.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: They're already overleveraged on QB Ben Roethlisberger as he heads into the final season of his contract and don't have the offensive line to sufficiently protect a 37-year-old who wouldn't likely settle for Big Ben's recent dink-and-dunk approach. But for the dreamers, Pittsburgh does have a ton of cap space in 2022 to pay OLB T.J. Watt, Rodgers and the necessary free agents to support them given the draft bounty that would be sacrificed.

14. Cincinnati Bengals: When you can cite the last time the Bengals participated in a blockbuster deal, let us know. But a Rodgers-for-Joe Burrow baseline doesn't seem ridiculous if Cincinnati was willing to add the sweetener to make it palatable to the Pack. But, again, not how the Bengals roll.

13. New England Patriots: They've got the cap wherewithal to pay Rodgers, offer a destination that allows Green Bay to move him out of the NFC and could send back QBs Cam Newton, Mac Jones and/or whatever draft pick compensation Gutekunst demands ... though the Pats don't have the additional early picks he'd surely be seeking.

12. Baltimore Ravens: It's a bit provocative to consider. An AFC power under QB Lamar Jackson, the Ravens still haven't committed to the 2019 league MVP with a long-term contract. Both Baltimore and Green Bay would have to revamp their offensive philosophies to do a deal built around Rodgers-for-Jackson ... and the Ravens would also need to free up cap room and likely surrender a significant draft pick. Still, compelling thought exercise for both clubs.

11. Houston Texans: This certainly wouldn't be where Rodgers would want to wind up ... though acquiring him in a deal for embattled QB Deshaun Watson would solve a lot of Houston's public relations problems, if not the club's messy salary cap. As for the Pack, if Gutekunst is forced to offload his best player, taking on the Watson issue would add another layer to a franchise already in turmoil – though one that might be OK from a football perspective with a passer of his caliber.

Worth considering

10. Arizona Cardinals: If you're Cards GM Steve Keim, never one to shy away from a major transaction, wouldn't you trade QB Kyler Murray (and whatever else is necessary) to get Rodgers? If you're Gutekunst, and it's obvious Rodgers is never coming back, wouldn't you consider such a flip?

9. Los Angeles Chargers: It would take a player of Rodgers' stature for a team to ponder parting with a quarterback (Justin Herbert) fresh off an offensive rookie of the year campaign. And maybe, on some level, the Bolts might be intrigued as they continue to seek a foothold in their new market, one that would allow Rodgers to tape "Jeopardy!" episodes with minimal scheduling disruptions while professionally convenient to his fiancée, actress Shailene Woodley. Still, much easier to build an imposing roster around a QB on a rookie deal than one with the level of compensation Rodgers commands.

8. Miami Dolphins: What do they have? A young quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, who could compete with Love for starting duties and an extra first-round pick in 2023 to build out a tantalizing package. What Miami doesn't currently have is cap space.

7. Washington Football Team: They can afford Rodgers, who would reasonably be expected to take the reigning NFC East champions to another level. An elite defense and improving offensive cast could make this a desirable landing spot for Rodgers ... though it's worth wondering if Gutekunst would make DE Chase Young a prerequisite to any deal given the WFT doesn't have a surplus of draft currency.

6. New York Giants: Rodgers would immediately make them division favorites, possibly Super Bowl contenders. The G-Men also have a slew of extra draft picks in 2022, including multiple in Rounds 1, 3 and 4. But they also (currently) lack salary cap room to bring Rodgers aboard ... and seem intent on hoping Daniel Jones blossoms in Year 3. "Daniel Jones is our quarterback," coach Joe Judge said last week, parroting GM Dave Gettleman's public narrative.

5. Philadelphia Eagles: A scenario that loosely mirrors the Giants, Philly might even wind up with three 2022 first-rounders if Wentz remains upright for Indianapolis. But the Eagles effectively have no cap room right now.

4. New York Jets: It has to at least be tempting to Jets brass despite the coaching overhaul and state of the franchise's ongoing rebuild. New York has the cap room to take on Rodgers' base salary for 2021 and could offer some combination of No. 2 draft pick Zach Wilson along with multiple first- and second-rounders in 2022. For Rodgers, New York would be an ideal media market to cultivate his off-field and post-NFL interests. And he'd have no trouble picking up an offense run by new coordinator Mike LaFleur, brother of the Packers coach. Still, given how heavily invested GM Joe Douglas and new coach Robert Saleh seem in Wilson, hard to see the Jets doing a full 180 from their long-term course projection.

Just maybe?

3. Las Vegas Raiders: Nevada has no state income tax and would get Rodgers much closer to his West Coast roots. And Raiders QB Derek Carr's contract shouldn't be much of an impediment from a trade or release perspective given his departure would free up about $20 million this year with minor cap damage. The question simply becomes: How much would Vegas surrender in exchange for a character late owner Al Davis would have loved to see in Silver and Black for a variety of reasons?

2. Cleveland Browns: Can you imagine if this emergent powerhouse could swap out QB Baker Mayfield – efficient as he's been two of his three NFL seasons, including 2020's long-awaited playoff campaign – for a three-time MVP? Having Mayfield and Love on his roster would give Gutekunst two opportunities to reset the position in Green Bay, in addition to whatever king's ransom he'd request from Browns GM Andrew Berry, who has the cap space to pay Rodgers.

Could Packers QB Aaron Rodgers wind up being a teammate of Broncos OLB Von Miller?
Could Packers QB Aaron Rodgers wind up being a teammate of Broncos OLB Von Miller?

1. Denver Broncos: They're perceived as the front-runners to land Rodgers and among his preferred destinations, according to reports. The Broncos can offer QBs Drew Lock and/or Teddy Bridgewater as stopgap options if Love isn't ready. And Denver is another destination unlikely to directly affect the Packers' Super Bowl aspirations and has the cap space to compensate the nine-time Pro Bowler. From Rodgers' perspective, he'd take over what's pretty much a turnkey offense loaded with talent across the board, while playing for a coach (Vic Fangio) whose defensive schemes caused him plenty of headaches over the years when Fangio was in Chicago. After that, it's just a matter of new GM George Paton, who used to work in Minnesota, paying Gutekunst's toll. But why not, given the Broncos haven't successfully developed a quarterback since John Elway?


Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Aaron Rodgers trade possibilities: How Packers QB fits on all 31 teams