Aaron Rodgers will be the Green Bay Packers’ starting quarterback for the 2021 season, but that hasn’t stopped NFL insiders from trying to determine which teams might be in a position to trade for him in 2022.
NFL insider Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports identified as many as nine teams — including two in the NFC North rivals — who could have skin in the game next offseason if the Packers decide it is time to part ways with their three-time MVP quarterback. After all, the 2022 offseason has been widely considered the first real opportunity for the Packers to make the franchise shift to quarterback Jordan Love from a financial standpoint.
While some (i.e. the Chicago Bears) are laughable, here are the nine teams La Canfora believes could make a play for Rodgers in 2022:
“If you think teams aren’t already thinking about what it would cost to land Aaron Rodgers by early 2022, you would be fooling yourself. For starters, I could see Denver, New Orleans, Seattle (if it trades Russell Wilson), the Giants, New England (pending what it does in this draft), Miami, Washington, Chicago and Minnesota interested. The Packers would never draft him in the division, but you are kidding yourself if you don’t think Rodgers can control the process by having the ability to play the retirement card, and by requiring some reworking of his contract.”
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Breaking Down Rodgers’ Potential Landing Spots
Speculation about whether Rodgers will be forced to finish his career away from Green Bay will likely persist until he finally leaves — or retires, whichever comes first. That’s just what happens when a team moves up in the first round to select a new quarterback while having their current veteran under contract for another four seasons. But La Canfora’s list of potential landing spots for Rodgers does include a handful of reasonable suggestions.
The New England Patriots are becoming a popular option with their future at quarterback uncertain. Cam Newton is a fine solution for now, but he will be turning 32 next month and offers flimsy security for the Patriots on a one-year deal. One path could see Bill Belichick find a new quarterback in the 2021 NFL draft, but another could find him rolling the dice again on Newton for next season and targetting a bigger fish (Rodgers) in 2022.
The Broncos and Saints are also interesting options. The latter seems intent on replacing Drew Brees with either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill, but both are effectively on one-year deals and may not deliver the results they want in 2021. While the Saints would need to move around a substantial amount of cap space to trade for Rodgers, it isn’t impossible. The Broncos make for an easier fit; though, it depends on whether they take a quarterback with the No. 9 overall pick.
At this point, though, it is too difficult to accurately guess which teams on the list will need a new quarterback next season. All of them could be looking or none of them — well, except for the Bears, probably.
Would Rodgers Play the ‘Retirement Card?’
La Canfora also mentioned the idea of Rodgers playing the “retirement card” with the Packers, which essentially would involve him threatening to retire sooner than Green Bay wants him gone to force a trade into a better situation.
Former Heisman winner and retired NFL starter Carson Palmer tried that move before with the Cincinnati Bengals. After the Bengals went 4-12 during the 2010 regular season, Palmer requested a trade and, when it was turned down, decided to retire rather than return to force the Bengals to trade him elsewhere. While the Bengals initially refused to “reward him” for walking away “from his commitment” and drafted Andy Dalton to replace him, they caved before the trade deadline in 2011 and sent him to the then-Oakland Raiders in exchange for a first-round pick.
Technically, Rodgers could do the same thing coming into the 2021 season. The Packers have not yet touched his contract this offseason or given him anything beyond verbal assurances about his future, keeping them in a position to transition to Love sooner than Rodgers plans to finish his NFL career. Rodgers has in no way, shape or form suggested he would not play in 2021 to force the Packers into a trade, though.
Beyond that, the Packers are in a much better situation than the Bengals were with Palmer back in 2010. The Bengals had to adjust and spend a second-round pick on Dalton to compensate for Palmer’s decision, but the Packers have already had a year to assess and teach Love behind the scenes and may believe he — though, sooner than intended — is capable of making the leap to starting quarterback.
In other words, the “retirement card” might be in Rodgers’ current negotiating hand, but playing it would likely do more harm than good.