The Green Bay Packers took the NFL by surprise during the 2020 offseason when they traded up to draft first-round quarterback Jordan Love despite having Aaron Rodgers still under contract for another four years, seemingly putting into motion a slow-moving transition away from their longtime franchise quarterback.
Unless, that is, the Packers take Rodgers’ third NFL MVP season as a sign the 37-year-old quarterback is far from done and re-commit to him for the long-term future.
ESPN recently predicted the Packers to “extend Aaron Rodgers and prioritize his short-term title window” in a list of daring moves for each of the NFL’s 32 teams. While any further commitment from Green Bay to Rodgers would raise bigger questions about Love’s future, a new contract would likely clear the way for the three-time MVP to remain a Packer for life.
“However, the Packers don’t have to move on. They could accept those 2020 draft picks as a sunk cost — or better yet, push a narrative that the team wanted to invest in a premium backup behind their aging quarterback like the Saints did for Drew Brees in recent seasons — and then extend Rodgers and do everything they can to help him win another Super Bowl. Because, unsurprisingly, Rodgers excelled with 8.1 average yards on his play-action attempts in 2020. He has the intelligence and arm talent to succeed with scheme the way he always has in a less creative offense. And he gives the Packers their best chance to win for the next several years.
“As such, they should not hesitate to make win-now moves like re-signing (running back Aaron) Jones or, if Dillon makes that unnecessary, finally adding a second talented receiver to take some of the weight off of Davante Adams’ shoulders.”
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Options for Rodgers’ Contract Situation
The conversations about Rodgers’ future won’t stop until the Packers have made some sort of tangible next move with their quarterback position, and the diminished 2021 NFL salary cap presents them with the opportunity to address it in some capacity before next season. But what decisions could they make and what would it mean for the three-time MVP?
Here are three plausible ways the Packers could handle Rodgers’ contract this offseason:
Option 1: Restructure Rodgers’ contract for immediate 2021 cap relief. The 37-year-old quarterback is due a $14.7 million base salary and $6.8 million roster bonus in 2021, but the Packers can convert some or all of his salary into a signing bonus and spread out the cost over his remaining three seasons. While the maneuver would create valuable cap space for the current year, it would also give Rodgers more guaranteed money for the future and make it more challenging for the Packers to pull off a quarterback transition in the next few years.
Option 2: Extend Rodgers and add at least one year to his current deal. While Packers could take the less committal route and restructure Rodgers’ contract, they could also formally renew their faith in him for the long-term future and sign him to a new contract as ESPN recommended. Love didn’t play a snap of his rookie season, so it is impossible to accurately say how his development is coming, but it is hard to imagine him giving the Packers a greater chance to win a Super Bowl than Rodgers over the next several seasons. The Packers could also still create cap relief with a new contract for Rodgers, especially if it ties him to the team for more seasons than his current deal. The trouble then becomes what to do about Love, who has three more seasons left (and a fifth-year option) on his rookie contract and is financially difficult to move.
Option 3: Do nothing and leave Rodgers’ future uncertain. There are plenty who feel the Packers would be crazy not to find some contractual way to recommit to Rodgers after the way he played in 2020, but those same people probably still feel a certain type of way about the decision to draft Love in the first place. The Packers appeared to set a plan into motion last April when they moved up for a first-round quarterback prospect, and there is still nothing more than words to suggest anything has changed with that plan. Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur have both verbally committed to Rodgers in front of reporters, but the behind-the-scenes discussions are no doubt more complicated. If the Packers make no adjustments to Rodgers’ deal and create the necessary 2021 cap space without him, things could get interesting over the next few years.