The Green Bay Packers have taken a giant step back this season, regressing far enough that changes to the team’s blueprint must be considered.
Any significant roster reorganization likely starts with Aaron Rodgers. The quarterback has struggled in 2022 to produce to the level of his contract, which was extended this offseason for three years at more than $150 million guaranteed.
There has been speculation Rodgers might simply retire at year’s end after he mentioned the option prior to the start of each of the past two seasons. But a decision to walk away from the richest annual contract in NFL history feels like a stretch, especially after comments the QB made during his Tuesday appearance on The Pat McAfee Show.
“I always believe in myself first and bet on myself first to go out there and impact the game,” Rodgers said. “I still know I have that in me — still the reigning, defending two-time MVP.”
His attitude, along with the money he stands to make and Green Bay’s stumble out of the gate to 3-6, beg the question of whether the organization would consider trading the pillar of its franchise over the last 15 years.
The short answer should be yes, if the Packers can find the right price from the right partner. There are a few candidates across the NFL that fit the bill, perhaps none better than the Indianapolis Colts.
Rodgers’ Value Highest to QB-Needy Team Like Colts
Trade proposal: Colts receive QB Aaron Rodgers; Packers receive 2023 first-round selection, 2023 third-round selection (from Commanders).
A first and a third in exchange for a four-time MVP and Super Bowl champion quarterback may sound a little low from the Packers’ perspective and a little high from the Colts’ point of view, which makes it a likely landing spot for a compromise.
Indianapolis owns its first-round pick next year, as well as a third-rounder from the Washington Commanders acquired via a trade that sent quarterback Carson Wentz to the NFC East. Both selections figure to be in the top half of their respective rounds, and perhaps considerably higher than that.
The Colts are 3-5-1 after turning to Sam Ehlinger under center, who threw for just 103 yards and an interception in a 3-point performance against the New England Patriots last Sunday. The Commanders are 4-5 and sitting in fourth-place in a highly competitive division.
Last offseason, trade discussions involving Rodgers would have begun at a couple of first-rounders and then some, likely getting pricier from there. But the Packers’ woeful start and 17.1 points per game average have devalued the quarterback. Turning 39 years old in December, Rodgers’ age and the $100 million guaranteed that remains on his contract also cut into his trade value.
But the Colts are desperate for a quarterback — running out Phillip Rivers, Wentz and Matt Ryan to start the last three seasons. Ehlinger clearly isn’t the answer, and Indy is in the middle of a transition after firing head coach Frank Reich and replacing him with former center Jeff Saturday, who played alongside Rodgers in 2012.
Saturday has no professional or collegiate coaching experience, but will nevertheless inherit a talented roster that was a win away from the playoffs just one year ago. Colts owner Jim Irsay has proven himself willing to take chances, and Rodgers is a far surer bet than most he’s made over the past few years.
Rodgers Still Quality QB, Offers Colts Hope at Super Bowl Window
Trading Rodgers probably wouldn’t make sense if the correct roster had been built around him in Green Bay, though it clearly wasn’t this year.
The team dealt arguably the league’s best wide receiver in Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders and let Marquez Valdes-Scantling join the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency. General manager Brian Gutekunst wagered he could replace those two playmakers adequately enough with rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs — a bet he lost.
The Colts have a more formidable complement of pass catchers than do the Packers, led by an elite talent in Michael Pittman Jr. Fourth-year wideout Parris Campbell has produced a nearly identical season to Doubs, while Colts rookie Alec Pierce has proven far superior to Watson during their debut campaigns. Indy is also home to Jonathan Taylor, a top three running back in the NFL when healthy.
Rodgers has been subpar by his standards in 2022, but still owns a 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and is on pace to throw for upwards of 4,000 yards and 30 TD passes. Some of his downturn this year can be attributed to a lack of speed and experience on the outside, as well as a lack of chemistry with young players meant to replace veteran talent.
It shouldn’t prove too difficult for the Packers to sell the Colts on the idea that they don’t even want to move Rodgers, but are willing to do so in order to transition to a quick rebuild around backup quarterback Jordan Love. In the right light, Rodgers looks like a bargain at the cost of first- and third-round selections, particularly to a team that should be able to make a strong playoff run through a weak division by adding a legitimate force under center.
Green Bay can use the draft capital they receive in return to make a play for a top prospect in a QB-heavy 2023 draft class that includes Bryce Young of Alabama, C.J. Stroud of Ohio State and Will Levis of Kentucky.