Mike Florio had an interesting thought today at PFT in which he speculated that Aaron Rodgers could decide to use the Covid protocols to opt out of his contract for the year and avoid the potential hold out fight that might occur during the summer if he chooses to not attend camp. Rodgers is widely known to be at odds with the Packers over his future and the Packers have done little to pacify the situation which could make for an explosive summer. Rodgers has millions of dollars at risk if he holds out for the season (he has up to $13.7M in forfeiture that is possible) but none if he opts out. That doesn’t make Rodgers free and clear but it does pause the clock for both sides for a year and really would put the Packers in a stronger position next year.
If Rodgers opts out of the year his cap charge would drop from $36.702 million to $6.8 million, a savings of $29.902 million. That is money that the salary cap starved Packers could use to extend a player like Davante Adams or simply carry over to next year when the Packers situation goes from bad to worse. Next year Green Bay is projected to be $35 million over the salary cap.
With an opt out Rodgers contract from 2021 would toll to 2022. That would drop his salary cap number from $39.852 million to $30.402 million, a savings of $9.45 million. Ultimately that would mean that via the opt out the Packers would go from $35 million over the cap to about $4 million under the salary cap. The opt out would give the Packers essentially a free opportunity to look at 2nd year player Jordan Love as the starter for the team and gather the information necessary about Rodgers future.
When the Packers drafted Love the plan was likely to allow Rodgers to start in 2020 and most likely 2021 with a chance to phase out during the year if Rodgers did not play well. If Rodgers played poorly in 2020 they would have made the move to Love this year. Rodgers may have thrown a monkey wrench into those plans when he was spectacular in 2020 giving him all kinds of leverage to not only expect to be the starter for all of 2021 but to basically look for an assurance that he would be the starter the next few years and if they would not do that then they should trade him.
Trading Rodgers was always going to be near impossible this year. There is no way to sell a fanbase or veteran team on trading the MVP of the league for a complete unknown. In turn the Packers have gone on a bit of a campaign trying to paint Rodgers the villain calling him complicated and publicly admitting that he is tearing apart their fanbase this offseason with his feud with the team in the event that he does not show up or is able to force a trade. Packers management would look terrible if they traded Rodgers, even under those circumstances, and he flourished while Love struggled.
The cost to trade Rodgers would remain high ($31.556M) next year but there would be no rush for Green Bay to execute the move and they could in theory even delay it to June 2 if they found a partner to play ball since his cap number would have dropped by so much following the opt out. The decision would also be far easier for all involved since they would have 16 games of Love to evaluate. If Love is terrible then they know it is time to mend the fences with Rodgers and continue the relationship with no threat of benching for the next three years. If Love is good they can trade Rodgers without all the negativity that would come with it this year.
The Packers would also retain the same rights to forfeiture as they currently hold next year if there was another blow up between the two sides. When the contract goes on pause due to Covid all the rights transfer forward even those pertaining to recovery of a $6.8 million bonus that was paid this March. So really there is no harm to Green Bay at all unless they are worried about Love starting at all this season and if they were we probably wouldnt be here right now because they would have gone well out of their way to make up with Rodgers. So definitely an interesting theory even if it is a big longshot.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.