A Few Details and Thoughts on the Aaron Rodgers Contract/Trade Discussions

After listening to some radio discussions this afternoon and seeing some things on Twitter I wanted to clear up a few things and offer a few opinions regarding Rodgers’ contract as the Jets and Packers haggle over compensation and what is fair value for acquiring Rodgers.

It is true that the Packers have time that they can wait on making a decision. There are no payments due besides a small workout bonus in the offseason which would only be earned if Rodgers shows up to a grand total of three workouts for the team. If he does not attend then there are no transactions for the year.

There are some benefits to waiting if you are Green Bay and I’ve discussed those in the past. From a salary cap standpoint the Packers can split his dead money up as $15,833,770 this year and $24,480,000 in 2024. So rather than losing salary cap space in 2023 they would actually gain some room.

Delaying a trade would also give the Packers time to save face with their fanbase when it comes to draft compensation. While there are a number of reasons why Rodgers is not going to bring a Russell Wilson like haul, it would probably be a bad look for Green Bay to trade away their star player in March and receive nothing more than a 2nd or 3rd this season and maybe a conditional pick next year. They can completely avoid the discussion of a pick this year by waiting and then get the Jets to focus on next year, which may be the best for both sides as the Jets should feel that next years 1st round pick will be much less valuable then next year’s number 1 pick. Since Rodgers would probably not be much of an offseason attendee anyway it is not a big deal for the Jets to wait other than having the final clarity and ability to parade him around for a week before he heads back home until mandatory OTAs.

At some point the timing moves away from the Packers favor and into the Jets favor. While his bonus is called an option, there is nothing optional about the bonus. The salary is guaranteed whether or not the bonus is exercised. So if the Packers fail to exercise the option, Rodgers salary will spike through the roof and quite frankly the Packers would not have the cap room to handle that, so they would have no choice but to pick it up.

While in theory the Packers could hope to get another team involved during this waiting period this option bonus and contract structure is really prohibitive to a third team being involved. Rodgers contract has $108.8 million to be paid out in 2023 and 2024, with $59.515 million coming this year. That is an average salary of $54.4 million per year, about $5 million a year more than the next closest player. There is no long term commitment that comes with Rodgers and 1 year for nearly $60 million would be nearly double the largest one year player contract in NFL history.

The $58.3 million option bonus would rank 4th in NFL history when compared to signing bonuses for quarterbacks, behind only Dak Prescott ($66 million), Russell Wilson ($65 million from Seattle) and Matt Stafford ($60 million). Each of those came with four year commitments. Per a source with knowledge of the contract the payment of the bonus is also heavily in Rodgers favor with nearly half being actually paid within 10 days of the option being picked up and the balance paid by the end of September. While I dont know the other payment schedules often it paid partially as a lump sum and often the rest over the course of the season. So you are rapidly cutting a series of checks to bring Rodgers on board.

So most likely this will simply come down to a staring contest between the Packers and Jets with Rodgers potentially throwing more blame at the Packers front office every step of the way and putting pressure on them to make the deal. There are some creative things that could be done regarding future trade compensation tied to Rodgers status in 2024 and performance in 2023. In theory, the Jets could take on another contract from the Packers which they already restructured and maybe that would be enough to essentially buy the 13th pick this year and a pick that would land anywhere between the 2nd and 4th round next year. The Jets could look to trade down from 13 and get a late 1st that they would find more acceptable to trade this year.

But waiting just for the sake of waiting isn’t really going to help the Packers unless they feel the Jets ownership, who is probably the main driver of the trade, at some point will just step in and say to give them whatever they want.