Aaron Rodgers and the Packers went on three straight seasons with at least 13 wins and one playoff appearance from 2019 to 2021. With less than half of the 2022 season remaining, Green Bay isn’t even guaranteed to make it through the postseason this time around. And Rodgers, 38, is putting up with one of the toughest offensive performances of his career. It’s not inconceivable, after back-to-back offseasons where the legendary quarterback separated himself from the pack, the possibility will present itself again.
Rodgers just signed a three-year, $150 million contract extension in March. He’s probably more likely to retire or return to Green Bay in 2023. But he’s already flirted with the move and the financially strapped Packers head into the 2023 offseason, with glaring holes in key positions. Assuming the ship isn’t righted before the end of this season, an ensuing trade could benefit both sides: Rodgers could theoretically salvage the remainder of his career on a better contender, and Green Bay could stockpile draft picks for a true reconstruction under general manager Brian Gutekunst.
Dumping his monster contract would come with challenges, but Rodgers doesn’t have a no-trade clause in his deal, meaning he can be shipped anywhere, and his bonuses are structured so he’s not adamant. It’s also relatively affordable for a potential team buyer, at least in 2023, when he’ll be counting $31.6 million against the No. 10 salary cap among all QBs.
With that in mind, here’s a first look at the logical suitors for Rodgers, should he and Green Bay agree to part ways:
Note: Salary cap data courtesy of Over the Cap.
Denver was reportedly high on Rodgers’ wish list if he didn’t return to the Packers before 2022, and the Broncos reportedly made a good run at A-Rod before selling the farm for Russell Wilson. The logistical hurdles would be immense, but how about trading one aging star for another? Nathaniel Hackett could be reunited with a QB who’s proven to gel with him, and Wilson could get a ground game led by Aaron Jones, with a chance to actually further his legacy to a historic franchise.
Marcus Mariota barely registers as a short-term holder, let alone a long-term investment. But the Falcons are competitive in a wide-open division, with tons of cap room for 2023 ($57 million). They proved under Arthur Smith, successor to current Packers head coach Matt LaFleur at Tennessee, that they could handle the ball; all they need now is a difference maker under the center.
Always open to the veteran QB business, they have the guns and defense to stay in the playoff mix. What they don’t have, as usual, is true franchise signal, with Carson Wentz set to be axed. Limit space is a concern, but if the respected Ron Rivera is still in charge, he could be a real attraction for a longtime veteran like Rodgers.
GM Jason Licht will be itching for a quick fix if Tom Brady, 45, decides to quit for good or, perhaps more likely, tests his free will in search of a final fresh start. The question is, does he have enough hood manipulation up his sleeve to make it viable? On paper, the sunny destination would be appealing to Rodgers, who could potentially help reshape offensive philosophy and drive roster decisions, as Brady did. When healthy, they remain a contender in a wide open split.
You can only win despite your young QBs for so long, right? Bill Belichick has the running game and defense to elevate the uninspiring play in center, but in 2023, he’ll also have the max space ($48.8 million) to pursue a blockbuster upgrade on Mac Jones. What better way to finally recreate the Brady era than by betting everything on the next best thing? Rodgers could conceivably also add his own offense/staff, allowing Belichick to pay full attention to the “D.”
New York has the advantage going into 2023 not only with a huge cap range ($46 million), but with the knowledge that new head coach Brian Daboll is able to max out on staff. Rodgers is a noted fan of Josh Allen, whose rise came under the direction of Daboll in Buffalo, and he would jump from one historic franchise to another. The Giants, meanwhile, got decent growth from Daniel Jones in 2022, but would be a real contender with superior playmakers in center and outfield.
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However respected in the organization, Derek Carr is extremely expendable after 2022 and could be ready for new scenarios after what is shaping up to be another lost season. Rodgers, meanwhile, established the chemistry with their main investment, Davante Adams, and would move closer to his West Coast home.
Ryan Tannehill does his job well for a team that never dies, but he’s owed more than even Rodgers in 2023, and another early playoff exit would appear to confirm his cap. A-Rod loves him Mike Vrabel, who has yet to introduce a superstar to the QB despite a proven track record of postseason contention. LaFleur was born out of this organization. And Rodgers would certainly benefit from an offense that leans heavily on the bruised legs of Derrick Henry, not to mention an open split every year.
Geno Smith is one of this year’s best stories, but at 32, approaching free agency will be a risky bet considering 2022 is his only productive season as a starter. Seattle wouldn’t necessarily want to offload an aging QB (Russell Wilson) only to add another one a year later, but Pete Carroll, 71, is probably interested in contending as soon as possible. He has other pieces—Kenneth Walker III, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett—to help. He has plenty of roof space ($30.6 million) to use and even more draft picks since the Russ deal. And GM John Schneider has a great connection to the Packers; he was Ted Thompson’s top aide when Green Bay drafted Rodgers, and was the director of football operations when A-Rod took over from Brett Favre and won his only Super Bowl.
Second-year quarterback Zach Wilson is already on thin ice both on the court and in the locker room, proving to be the weakest link in an otherwise feisty playoff hopeful. They’re assembled at every point other than below center, making a veteran upgrade especially enticing. Coach Robert Saleh is a respected voice who has personally matched well with A-Rod since his days with the 49ers. And offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, a disciple of Kyle Shanahan, is the younger brother of Matt, Rodgers’ coach at Green Bay.
This might seem like an affront to Jimmy Garoppolo, who had a truly underrated performance once again filling in for Trey Lance. Indeed, Jimmy G may be well on his way to retaining QB1 duties in 2023. But he’ll be a free agent first, and with Lance still totally unknown, why shouldn’t Kyle Shanahan explore this pairing? He certainly has done it before, calling the Packers on Rodgers’ availability before 2021. San Francisco is built to compete, with guns on both sides of the ball. And Rodgers would surely jump at the chance, growing up a 49ers fan in California and famously wishing San Francisco would draft him in 2005.