Why the next few months will provide clarity on Aaron Rodgers’ future past 2021

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Zach Kruse
·3 min read
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Aaron Rodgers will be the Green Bay Packers quarterback in 2021. The fact was never in serious doubt, but coach Matt LaFleur and general manager Brian Gutekunst both confirmed, rather emphatically, that Rodgers – the presumptive MVP – will be back in Green Bay next season, and possibly beyond.

How the Packers handle the next few months will tell us much more about Rodgers’ future in Green Bay past 2021.

Gutekunst, cap manager Russ Ball and the rest of the Packers leadership have a rather important decision to make: Should they re-work Rodgers’ contract, providing a significant portion of much-needed cap space during this unique offseason, or should they leave the deal as is, keeping their options open at quarterback after 2021?

Rodgers is under contract for the next three seasons, through the 2023 season, but a convergence of unique circumstances – his MVP season, the salary cap challenges ahead, and the structure of his current deal – could create the ideal situation for re-doing it early.

According to Ken Ingalls, a CPA who tracks the salary cap, if Rodgers’ deal is restructured, the Packers can save somewhere between $13-16 million on this year’s cap. These savings could be vital to the Packers keeping their roster mostly intact entering next season. Even Gutekunst admitted that several veteran players will need altered contracts over the next few months to make it all work this year. If the Packers want to put action behind words and truly commit to Rodgers long-term while providing the money to remain a Super Bowl contender in 2021, re-working his deal before the start of the new league year in March is a no brainer.

But savings now must be paid later. Restructuring the quarterback’s deal would spread out cap commitments from 2021 over the next several years, providing immediate cap relief but also committing more guaranteed money to Rodgers in the future, complicating the process financially if the Packers want to transition to the Love era in 2022.

If Rodgers’ deal isn’t re-worked, and the Packers find other strategies to manage the cap while keeping his deal as is, the writing might be on the wall for his eventual exit from Green Bay.

In 2022, Rodgers’ deal includes no roster bonus, and the Packers can save almost $23 million on the cap by trading him. Making the move would create over $17 million in dead cap, but this is a realistic “out” for the Packers if they want to transition to Love, a talented first-round pick who would have sat and developed behind Rodgers for two years. The Packers value developing quarterbacks regardless of the circumstance, but they also think highly of Love. No team trades up in the first round to get a quarterback without thinking that quarterback will eventually play.

Committing new guaranteed money to Rodgers in future years all but eliminates the possibility of transitioning to Love in 2022. The financials with the cap just won’t work.

Of course, the Packers could leave Rodgers’ contract alone now and still commit to him later. But now really is the best time to re-work the deal if the Packers are truly confident he’s going to be the quarterback for several more seasons, as both LaFleur and Gutekunst mentioned casually during Monday’s season-ending press conference.

Words are just words, but the Packers sound like they want Rodgers in Green Bay long term, with Love as a developmental backup plan. Actions will tell us more. The Packers can either commit to Rodgers financially now, coming off a likely MVP season and during an offseason in which the Packers desperately need the cap savings, or they can leave it alone, keeping the team’s option to transition to Love in 2022 alive and well.

What the Packers do with Rodgers’ contract over the next few months will provide direction on whether Love is being fast-tracked to Jimmy Garoppolo status or if the Packers want Love to be a legitimate starting option in 2022.

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