Aaron Rodgers and the Packers went three straight seasons with at least 13 wins and a playoff appearance from 2019-2021. With less than half of the 2022 campaign remaining, Green Bay isn’t even guaranteed to crack the postseason this time around. And Rodgers, 38, is enduring one of the roughest offensive performances of his career. It’s not inconceivable, after back-to-back offseasons in which the legendary quarterback entertained a split from the Pack, the possibility will arise 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 flirted with relocation before, and the Packers are financially strapped approaching the 2023 offseason, with glaring holes at key positions. Assuming the ship isn’t righted before the end of this season, an ensuing trade might benefit both parties: Rodgers could theoretically salvage whatever’s left of his career on a better contender, and Green Bay could stock up on draft picks for a true rebuild under general manager Brian Gutekunst.
Offloading his monster contract would bring challenges, but Rodgers doesn’t have a no-trade clause in his deal, meaning he can be shipped anywhere, and his bonuses are structured in such a way that he isn’t unmovable. He’s also relatively affordable for a potential acquiring team, at least in 2023, when he’s due to count $31.6M against the salary cap — No. 10 among all QBs.
With that in mind, here’s an early look at logical suitors for Rodgers, in the event he and Green Bay agree to part ways:
Note: Salary cap figures courtesy of Over the Cap.
Denver was reportedly high on Rodgers’ wish list had he not re-upped with the Packers ahead of 2022, and the Broncos reportedly made a strong run at A-Rod before selling the farm for Russell Wilson. The logistical hurdles would be immense, but how about swapping one aging star for another? Nathaniel Hackett could reunite with a QB proven to gel with him, and Wilson could get an Aaron Jones-led ground game, with a chance to actually further his legacy for a historic franchise.
Marcus Mariota barely registers as a short-term starter, let alone a long-term investment. But the Falcons are competitive in a wide-open division, with tons of 2023 cap room ($57M). They’ve proven under Arthur Smith, successor to current Packers coach Matt LaFleur in Tennessee, they can run the ball; all they need now is a difference-maker under center.
Always open for veteran QB business, they have the skill weapons and defense to stay in the playoff mix. What they don’t have, as usual, is a true franchise signal-caller, with Carson Wentz bound to be cut. The cap space is a concern, but if the respected Ron Rivera is still in charge, he could be a real draw for a longtime vet like Rodgers.
GM Jason Licht is gonna be itching for a quick fix if Tom Brady, 45, calls it quits for good or, perhaps more likely, tests free agency in search of a final fresh start. The question is, does he have enough cap manipulation up his sleeve to make it feasible? On paper, the sunny destination would be appealing for Rodgers, who could potentially help reshape the offensive philosophy and guide roster decisions, as Brady did. When healthy, they remain a contender in a wide-open division.
You can only win in spite of your young QB(s) for so long, right? Bill Belichick has the run game and defense to elevate uninspiring play under center, but in 2023, he’ll also have the cap space ($48.8M) to pursue a blockbuster upgrade on Mac Jones. What better way to finally recreate the Brady era than by going all in for the next-best thing? Rodgers could conceivably also put his own spin on the offense/staff, allowing Belichick to pour full attention into the “D.”
New York has the benefit of going into 2023 not only with a wealth of cap space ($46M) but with the knowledge that new coach Brian Daboll is capable of maximizing personnel. Rodgers is a noted fan of Josh Allen, whose rise came under Daboll’s direction in Buffalo, and would be going from one historic franchise to another. The Giants, meanwhile, have gotten decent growth from Daniel Jones in 2022, but would be a true contender with superior play-makers under center and out wide.
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Respected as he may be in the organization, Derek Carr is extremely expendable after 2022, and may well be ready for new scenery after what’s shaping up to be another lost season. Rodgers, meanwhile, has established chemistry with their top investment, Davante Adams, and would be moving closer to his West Coast home.
Ryan Tannehill does his job well for a team that never dies, but he owes more than even Rodgers in 2023, and another early playoff exit would seem to confirm his ceiling. A-Rod loves him some Mike Vrabel, who’s yet to feature a superstar at QB despite a proven track record of postseason contention. LaFleur sprouted from this organization. And Rodgers would surely benefit from an offense that leans heavily on the bruising legs of Derrick Henry, not to mention an annually open division.
Geno Smith is one of this year’s best stories, but at 32, approaching free agency, he’ll be a risky bet considering 2022 is his only productive season as a starter. Seattle wouldn’t necessarily want to dump one aging QB (Russell Wilson) just to add another a year later, but Pete Carroll, 71, is probably interested in contending sooner rather than later. He’s got other pieces — Kenneth Walker III, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett — to help. He’s got loads of cap space ($30.6M) to use, and even more draft picks from the Russ deal. And GM John Schneider has a big Packers connection; he was the top aide to Ted Thompson when Green Bay drafted Rodgers, and he was the director of football operations when A-Rod took over for Brett Favre and won his lone Super Bowl.
Second-year QB Zach Wilson is already on thin ice both on the field and in the locker room, proving to be the weakest link on an otherwise feisty playoff hopeful. They’re assembled at every spot other than under center, making a veteran upgrade especially tantalizing. Coach Robert Saleh is a respected voice who’s personally matched up well with A-Rod from his time with the 49ers. And offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, a Kyle Shanahan disciple, is the younger brother of Matt, Rodgers’ coach in Green Bay.
This might sound like a slight to Jimmy Garoppolo, who’s had a truly underrated performance replacing Trey Lance yet again. Jimmy G, in fact, may well be on his way to retaining QB1 duties in 2023. But he’ll be a free agent first, and with Lance still a total unknown, why wouldn’t Kyle Shanahan explore this pairing? He admittedly did it before, calling the Packers about Rodgers’ availability prior to 2021. San Francisco is built to contend, with weapons on both sides of the ball. And Rodgers would surely jump at the opportunity, growing up a 49ers fan in California and famously wishing San Francisco would have drafted him in 2005.