The Packers have another potential Aaron Rodgers problem. And Aaron Rodgers knows it.
He’s due to make nearly $60 million in 2023. Every penny of it is fully guaranteed. If the Packers decide they’d like to move on, there’s not much they can do about it, if he decides he wants to stay.
Rodgers, by virtue of his contract, holds all the cards. He sets the agenda. He decides whether he plays in 2023.
It also becomes a factor in whether he’ll finish 2022 on the field or on injured reserve. Asked by reporters on Wednesday whether it would be beneficial to Rodgers to not finish the season, given his lingering thumb and rib injuries, Rodgers tied the balance of 2022 and 2023 together.
“That’s an assumption that this place won’t look any different next year,” Rodgers said. “So I think, again, that’s part of the conversation.”
Rodgers first addressed “the conversation” as it relates to whether the team wants to evaluate younger players late in the season, once it’s clear that the playoffs aren’t a possibility for the Packers.
“I’d love to finish the season out, but I understand this is a business,” Rodgers said. “There’s a lot of us kind of older guys who play a decent amount, who they might want to see some younger guys play. Hopefully, we don’t have to have that conversation. But if that conversation comes up, you know, I’ll approach that with an open mind, and without any bitterness or resentment. Obviously, like I said, I want to win out and then we don’t have to have those conversations. But, you know, I understand if we don’t, that it’s a possibility to have that conversation.”
The fact that Rodgers would connect 2022 to 2023 is interesting, to say the least. Some would say the Packers need to know what quarterback Jordan Love can do. There’s less urgency to know what Love can do if the Packers plan to keep Rodgers for 2023.
That said, even if the Packers would welcome Rodgers back for next year, they need to know whether to pick up Love’s fifth-year option for 2024. It would be useful for them to see him play in a setting other than the preseason.
Again, Rodgers holds the cards. Unless he chooses to retire, the Packers are stuck with Rodgers’s contract.
Some have suggested they could just trade Rodgers. Apart from the fact that the cap hit would be significant, Rodgers could always say, “No, I don’t want to be traded. I want to finish my career here.”
Rodgers had a chance to leave in 2022. Many think that the Broncos hired former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett with the expectation that they’d trade not for Russell Wilson but for Aaron Rodgers. What if Rodgers put on the parachute, stood at the open door to the plane, and decided not to jump? What if he has decided to stay exactly where he is next year, too?
Yes, the Packers are potentially stuck with Rodgers for 2023. At nearly $60 million. With the only option being to cut him (and owe him every penny) or to keep him and bench him for Love, if they decide based on Rodgers’s performance in 2022 that it’s time to turn the page to the player for whom they traded up in the 2020 draft.