Aaron Rodgers’ Contract Leaves Packers in a Precarious Position

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Nov 25, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph (98) and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports.

Aaron Rodgers’ contract is going to create some problems for the Packers. In fact, there’s a case to be made that it’s already creating issues.

Coming off a thoroughly average 8-9 season, the Packers are entering 2023 with a fair amount of uncertainty. Making matters even worse is that the NFC North hierarchy is somewhat muddled. Which team is the favorite going into 2023? For a while, the answer was clear-cut and obvious: the Wisconsin Cheeseheads. Now, though, things aren’t nearly so certain.

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Dec 11, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) and Detroit Lions wide receiver Josh Reynolds. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings are the reigning champs and coming off an impressive 13-4 record. Their early defeat in the playoffs, though, certainly undermines a lot of optimism. The Lions finished with a winning record and upset GB in the season’s final week, so it’s plausible they could be a formidable foe next year. Plus, Ryan Poles is working with a ton of cap space over in Chicago to go alongside his #1 overall pick and ascending QB.

In the end, we’re left with a division that’s going to be very difficult to decode during the offseason.

The Challenge of Aaron Rodgers’ Contract

Cutting Rodgers – which isn’t something Green Bay is going to do – would bring forth a startling result: nearly $100 million in dead money on their 2023 budget. More specifically, a Rodgers cut would result in $99,778,570 being left behind.

Not going to happen, folks.

Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Now, keep in mind that OTC currently suggests that the Packers are roughly $16.3 million over next year’s cap. Just becoming cap compliant is going to need some work and moving on from their QB isn’t an easy solution. Left unchanged, Aaron Rodgers’ contract will come with a 2023 cap hit of $31,623,570.

A couple more bonkers financial realities for Rodgers. Per OTC, the maximum GB could save from a restructure is $37,500. An extension could only free up $40,000. Folks, that’s an insanely tiny amount in the world of NFL finances.

Retirement is an option, something that Jason Fitzgerald has explored:

If Rodgers were to walk away he would forfeit all his rights to the $59.465 million in guaranteed salary for next year. In order to best accommodate the hit on the salary cap my assumption would be that the Packers and Rodgers would sign a new contract where the option bonus was eliminated and just a $1.165 salary remained. That would reduce Rodgers salary cap charge to $16,998,750 and they would carry him on the roster as a procedural move until June 2nd. At that point they would put him on the retired list. The salary cap charge in that case would be $15,833,570 in 2023 and $24,480,000 in 2024.

If they did not do that and processed the retirement right away they would take a salary cap hit of $40,313,570 in 2023 but none in 2024. The Packers have no cap space next year so it would seem more likely that they take the first approach.

Perhaps a trade will occur; doing so – according to Fitzgerald – could leave the same dead cap breakdown as the June-2nd retirement option.

Meanwhile, Minnesota has their own cap concerns. The potential is there for them to create a huge amount of cap space, but that’s a route that comes with considerable pain. Great players who deserve to stay get cut.

The issue, of course, is that being in such a tricky financial spot leaves the team with little option: difficult decisions need to be made.

In the coming weeks and months, the Vikings and Packers will be participating in a similar exercise. Both are taking aim at the NFC North crown in 2023, both have high-priced veteran QBs, and both are far over the projected cap in 2023. The decisisons that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Brian Gutekunst make in January, February, and March are going to go a long way in determining the results of football games played in October, November, and December.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap helped with this piece.