The inevitable off-season topic of whether or not Aaron Rodgers will be traded warmed up in a big way Monday thanks to The Pat McAfee Show. Normally, viral clips and sound bites regarding Rodgers come from his own mouth on Tuesdays. This time around, they came a day earlier from NFL insider Ian Rapoport. Rapoport is often featured on the show and has a reputation for providing reliable information. In case you missed in, the summary is that a trade is possible.
Now, Ian Rapoport didn’t sounds overly confident that a team would want to take on the Rodgers contract, but there is reason to believe it’s possible. We also can’t overlook what sports insider Andrew Brandt had to say either as he interprets the Rapaport news as the Packers are listening to offers. He was also the VP of the Packers at one point so his thoughts may hold a bit more weight.
Fans and media personalities alike have voiced their opinion on this at nauseum over the last 2 plus years. If you avoid the toxic comments, there are a lot of good points on both sides of the situation. The thing is, there are more than two angles to this. I want to take a look at the main four categories people fall into when debating whether or not Rodgers should be traded, and if their arguments have any validity.
The Rodgers Supporters
Two of these categories are more toxic than the others and this is one of them. As entertaining as some of it is, the supporters that actually put thought into their responses seem to focus on the same point: The Packers are better at QB in 2023 with Rodgers.
Not everyone will agree but there is definitely evidence to support it. It’s hard to argue that Rodgers is a top tier NFL quarterback when healthy. We saw it in 2020 and 2021. The real question marks come into play when judging the 2022 season. Just going off of the eye test, things weren’t right. We also have to keep in mind he lost a top three receiver in the league and had to rely heavily on either rookie receivers or vets with little to no juice left.
On top of that, he played most of the season with a broken thumb on his throwing hand. No matter who you are throwing to, the inability to consistently grip the ball is going to cause problems. He had numerous throws during the packers rough stretch that left us scratching our heads. Given his track record, it’s easy to think the thumb was a large reason as to why.
For the people in this camp, I get where you’re coming from. It’s easy to think that Rodgers will be able to return to form in 2023 with a healthy hand and more experienced weapons out wide. With that said, they aren’t thinking about the future of the franchise and how keeping him could handicap the team financially. They think trading Rodgers is a dumb move, even if it inevitably hurts big time down the road.
The Rodgers Haters
This group is probably the most toxic. Aaron has been a polarizing athlete ever since his stance on vaccines became public, but his naysayers have a point when they turn their focus to how he effects the product on the field. Sure, he had an injury, but he didn’t look like a world beater the first five games either.
Through the first five games of the year, Rodgers averaged 231 yards with a 67.8 completion percentage and an 8/3 touchdown to interception ratio. Are those numbers bad? For the most part no, but they are unexpected from a back to back MVP who is getting paid as much as Rodgers is. Not too mention two of the games were against some of the worst defenses in the league and only two made the playoffs.
The games immediately following the injury all resulted in losses, four in total. The statistics shouldn’t be shocking as Rodgers was figuring out how to perform with a physical limitation. The problem is, the stats never really improved. Outside of the Cowboys game, the stats were eerily similar. The Packers eventually made a run towards a playoff spot, but was that because of Rodgers? Most would say not as the defense found their groove and held five teams in a row to 20 points or less. The offense scored points, but the majority of that was due to the run game.
Many will blame the weapons, or lack there of, for the season Rodgers had. There is some truth to that, but a quarterback we can look at in comparison is Daniel Jones. Jones arguably had worse receiving options than Rodgers and really only lacked in passing touchdowns. His yards were very similar, he was more accurate, threw 7 fewer picks (in one less game and with 70 less attempts) but he made up for it by racking up 700 yards and 7 touchdowns with his legs. He also made the playoffs and won a playoff game with a 300 yards, two TD performance with no picks.
There are no perfect apples to apples comparisons when trying to judge QB situations, but Jones and Rodgers seem close. We also can’t overlook the fact that Jones plays within his system. That’s not something we can say about Rodgers. The Packers ran a lot of plays this year that left us shaking our heads. Whether it was the play in general, or the situation it was called in, it just wasn’t good overall. Naturally many are quick to blame the head coach, but many also don’t realize that Aaron changes the play a lot at the line of scrimmage.
This is supposed to be a good thing as he’s supposed to adjust the play based on what he sees the defense doing. In theory, that helps out the offense. What if the quarterback isn’t seeing the defense correctly? A lot was made about the Matt LaFleur offense when he was hired. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen it a whole lot over the last four years. It seemed ever worse in 2022 because Davante Adams wasn’t there to cover up the holes. Rodgers has struggled to work within a system. For years, he was able to read, react, and make all of the throws needed to impress and get the job done. It appears likey that may no longer be the case.
On the other side of the scale, this group would likely trade Rodgers for a jugs’ machine. Even though that isn’t realistic, the thought of moving on from Rodgers isn’t all doom and gloom. There is no guarantee he gets back to his MVP self and players usually become more injury prone the older they get. Wanting to trade Rodgers for personal belief reasons is odd to me, but relying on statistics makes the trade argument a little more viable.
The Franchise Defenders
This group is typically more reasonable as they care more about the future of the franchise than any one individual player. They want success on the field but also pay attention to what happens beyond next year. I tend to prefer to communicate with these individuals as they try to see both sides of the debate.
When the Packers drafted Jordan Love in 2020, it set in motion the slow moving situation we have now. I’m sure many think it’s fast moving, but until now, moving Rodgers didn’t seem like a truly viable option. Depending on who you talk to, trading Rodgers last offseason may have been ideal in terms of return potential. With that said, Love may finally be ready to take over for Rodgers in 2023 without the result on the field falling off.
Sure, some of that can be chalked up to Rodgers struggling in 2022, but the other part is development from Love. It’s no coincidence that even after getting injured, Aaron never considered sitting. Could that have been because he was worried about Jordan getting an opportunity and running with it? Even though that is entirely speculative, it also doesn’t seem that unreasonable.
With 2023 being the last year of Love’s rookie deal, the Packers have a big choice to make on his fifth year option. That decision gets easier if you move on from Rodgers. Eventually there will have to be a changing of the guard. This group will argue now is the time as they have an NFL ready QB on the roster. Obviously, we don’t know the potential of Love, but the front office and Rodgers alike have praised his growth.
After missing the playoffs this season, this seems like the best time to give a new QB a shot. Even with Rodgers, this roster has holes and likely isn’t a true title contender. Is it worth risking the not so distant future for a season with an aging QB and a roster that will likely lose a handful of veterans from 2022? That’s the great debate and this group of people will be talking about it for months.
The Cap “Experts”
The fourth and final group is the cap experts. I made sure to put the quotations around experts because very few fully understand the kind of impact Rodgers is having on the cap in 2023 and beyond. Even fewer know what that impact is if he isn’t on the team as it changes depending on how he leaves the team, if that were to happen at all. Even though very few understand the whole situation, myself included, referencing the cap is a big part of the equation.
My favorite person to reference for Packers cap concerns is Ken Ingalls. He consistently tweets about the Packers current, and future cap situations, along with which players have contracts that can be adjusted to help the cap. As one would expect, he focused a lot on the Aaron Rodgers contract after the details of the new one were released last year. Even though Rodgers only accounts for just shy of $32 million against the cap in 2023, it’s the dead money concerns in 2024 and beyond that cause concerns.
The longer Rodgers is with the Packers, the more difficult it gets for them to move on without crippling themselves financially. To see the breakdown of the numbers if he’s traded or retires, check out this tweet from Ken. The dead cap number grows every season he remains in Green Bay. If the finances of the team are your biggest concern, then trading Aaron after June 1st this year is a no brainer.
One of the main sticking points for people talking against a trade is the cash owed in the Rodgers contract. Yes, Rodgers is due a lot of cash in 2023 and 2024, but the cap hit is much less than that. Another site that is great for contract reference is spotrac as they go threw all of the ins and outs of what is going towards the amount any given player is making. Football is different then other sports as there are ways to pay players without directly impacting the cap along with pushing back money.
This group, along with the franchise defenders, are probably in similar boats. If there was ever a time to move on from Rodgers, this is the year. It has to be done correctly however as there is a way to limit the financial damage. Realistically, if the Packers can get a solid return for Rodgers, they need to thoroughly consider it. Not that I think they wouldn’t, but Aaron has more control over this franchise than most think. I’m hoping that last year opened some eyes and we do what’s best for all parties involved.