What might the Green Bay Packers get if they decide to trade Aaron Rodgers?
GREEN BAY, Wis. − The Green Bay Packers would have landed a haul if they’d traded Aaron Rodgers last year.
Maybe not quite what the Seattle Seahawks got for trading Russell Wilson to Denver – that was two first-round draft picks, two second-rounders and three players. Wilson was probably more valuable because he’s four years younger than Rodgers, though Rodgers would have made up some of that difference because he’s the better player.
Still, it’s a given the Packers could have bagged at least two first-round picks and then some if they’d traded him coming off his fourth NFL MVP.
"They would have gotten two ones and a two, probably," said a high-ranking scout for another NFL team.
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A year later, the landscape for a Rodgers trade has changed. He’s coming off his worst season statistically as a starter (a career-low 91.1 rating) and a year in which the Packers finished below .500 and out of the playoffs even though he started every game.
Quarterback-needy teams also might be gun-shy about overpaying for an older quarterback after watching Denver get burned by Wilson’s poor play (84.4 rating, 5-12 record).
Looking at other recent quarterback deals suggests some parameters, though those deals were all over the map because of the varied stages the quarterbacks were in their careers, both in age and level of play.
For instance, in 2021, the Philadelphia Eagles traded Carson Wentz to Indianapolis for a first-round pick and a third-rounder. Just a year later, though, the Colts traded Wentz to Washington for a lot less: A flip-flop of second-round picks that moved them up five spots, plus two third-rounders.
Last year, Indianapolis also acquired a veteran starter, the fast-declining 37-year-old Matt Ryan from Atlanta, for a third-round pick. At the other end of the spectrum, Cleveland acquired Deshaun Watson, just 26 at the time of the deal, for three first-round picks, along with second-, third-, and fourth-rounders.
And two years ago, the Los Angeles Rams acquired Matthew Stafford, 33 at the time, from Detroit for two first-round-picks, a third-rounder and Jared Goff.
What might Aaron Rodgers fetch in the trade market?
So what is general manager Brian Gutekunst likely to get if he deals Rodgers this offseason?
Rodgers is 39 and coming off a bad season, though he played a big chunk of the year with a thumb injury on his throwing hand that could be a mitigating factor for some teams. He also has a huge contract that could be problematic. He’ll make $59.5 million this year and has another, non-guaranteed $49 million due in 2024. He’s also talked of retiring last offseason and again this one, so there’s no knowing how long he’ll continue playing.
The salary-cap numbers are more than manageable for a new team (about $15.7 million in ’23 and $32.5 million in ’24). But $59 million would be a lot of cash for a team to pay for a one-and-done, so that could impact how much the Packers get for him. That is, unless the team works out a contract restructure with him that increases the chances he’ll play at least two seasons. Rodgers at least suggested Tuesday he'd be open to a restructure if there were a trade, though it was unclear whether he was talking about actually changing the contract or only adding dummy years for cap purposes.
"I don't think there would be a scenario where I'd come back and that ($59 million) would be the number," Rodgers said on The Pat McAfee Show on Tuesday. "I think that would have to shift."
But assuming all goes well there, then it’s a question of how much a suitor thinks Rodgers is worth as a four-time MVP who’s 39 and coming of a subpar year. GMs around the league surely are studying Rodgers’ 2022 tape.
"They’re going to see a regression," one of the scouts said, "but he’s proven enough to at least get a (first-rounder) in there."
Said the other scout: "If you watched Russell Wilson’s film from his last year in Seattle it wasn’t very good. Aaron’s this year in Green Bay was good – wasn’t perfect, but …"
All four front-office executives consulted this week – three with teams, plus a former GM who still works in NFL circles – predicted the Packers would get at least a first-round pick. Three thought they’d get another pick as well.
One said a first-rounder and a third-rounder that could escalate to a second based on Rodgers’ performance in ’23. Another said a first-rounder and a third- or fourth-rounder. Another said a first-rounder and flip-flop of picks after the first round. And the other said a first-rounder straight up as long as the pick wasn’t near the top of the round.
Also, on the Head of the Pack podcast hosted by The Athletic, former player agent Joel Corry offered a creative solution to the uncertainty of whether Rodgers will play in ’24: A second- or third-round pick this year, and a first-round pick if Rodgers plays in ’24.
All things considered, any of those deals would be a good return for Rodgers at this point. The Packers would be out from having to pay him $59.5 million this year, though it’s still hard not to wonder what impediments his contract will be to a trade. I doubt any team will be gung-ho about paying him $109 million for 2023 and ’24 combined. There's always the chance he'll have to lower that total in exchange for a greater guarantee to facilitate a trade, or that the Packers will have to take even less compensation to make the deal.
Several teams are a quarterback upgrade from being Super Bowl contenders
Still, if Rodgers ends up on the trade market, there are plenty of potential bidders. Usually close to half the league is looking for a quarterback to one degree or another, and that’s no different this year.
Among the teams at the top of the list is Las Vegas, which is moving on from Derek Carr and has a coach (Josh McDaniels) who needs to win now after an underachieving 6-11 season. The Raiders could reunite Rodgers and Davante Adams as well. But there’s a good chance Tom Brady is at the top their list, based on McDaniels’ long history with him at New England.
Another possibility is the New York Jets, who have a good young roster but an opening at quarterback after benching former first-round pick Zach Wilson this season because of accountability issues. The Jets also are considering hiring former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to run their offense next season, which would make for a natural transition to Rodgers. However, one of the scouts predicted Rodgers would balk at playing for the same franchise the Packers traded Brett Favre to in 2008.
Yet another possibility is New England, where Bill Belichick is nearing the end of his career (he turns 71 in April) and might be unwilling to wait to see whether Mac Jones pans out. The questions are whether Belichick would consider the outspoken Rodgers a bad cultural fit for his team, and whether Rodgers would chafe at the prospect of playing for an authoritarian coach.
Tennessee is another possibility. The Titans have a good team and a premier running back (Derrick Henry), and would be justified in thinking they’re only an upgrade from quarterback Ryan Tannehill away from Super Bowl contention.
Other possibilities include Miami, which has explosive offensive talent and could be looking for a quarterback because of Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion issues; Indianapolis unless it is out of the market for old quarterbacks after Ryan bombed last season; Baltimore if it trades Lamar Jackson; Seattle if it’s unconvinced Geno Smith can take it on a deep playoff run; Tampa Bay; Washington; and New Orleans.
And maybe even San Francisco will be on the list if after the playoffs the 49ers don’t think Brock Purdy or Trey Lance is their long-term solution.
There’s also the question of whether the Packers might be unwilling to send Rodgers to rivals within the NFC. Former GM Ted Thompson, remember, insisted on dealing Favre to the AFC back in ‘08, and ESPN's Adam Schefter said he thinks the Packers wouldn't trade Rodgers within the NFC, though it's unclear whether he was reporting that or just speculating.
The guess here is that wouldn’t be as big an issue for Gutekunst as it was for Thompson, in part because the PR fallout of trading Rodgers will be nothing like it was with Favre, and in part because GMs around the league are more willing to trade with rivals than they were a decade or more ago.
"I think they would if they got the right compensation," one of the scouts said of trading him within the NFC.
Whether the Packers will actually move Rodgers is a whole ‘nother matter. But it’s clearly on the table, and if they do they can probably get at least a first-round draft pick, and maybe a little more.