What’s Next for Aaron Rodgers?

By Nick Murray

The playoffs came early in 2022 for the Green Bay Packers both figuratively and literally. From week 14 on, the Packers had to go undefeated and get a little lucky with other teams losing along the way. The Packers managed to win 4 straight and were put in control of their own destiny, with a win and in game against the Detroit Lions. However, in classic Packer playoff fashion, the team fell apart. The Packers were eliminated from playoff contention, losing 20-16 to the Lions, completing the Lions first sweep of the Packers since 1991. Aaron Rodgers effectively sealed the game with an interception deep down the right sideline to rookie safety Kirby Joseph with 3:32 left on the clock. With this play, Joseph became the first player in NFL history to intercept Rodgers 3 times in a single season. Postgame, Packers fans once again watched 12 throw up his classic rock on sign as he strode into the tunnel in another home [playoff-esque] loss. In potentially his final game as a Packer, Rodgers exited the field embracing longtime friend and teammate, Randall Cobb.

Having now concluded his eighteenth NFL season, the question once again arises: what will 12 do? Over the past 3 years, Rodgers has routinely taken time away from the game in the off season to contemplate retirement and his role with the team. Beginning in 2018, the narrative began to shift around Rodgers towards one of a washed up Quarterback who couldn’t carry the team like he once did. However, Rodgers responded with back to back MVPs in 2020 and 2021 and led the team to consecutive first place seeding in the NFC. In each of the past two off seasons, reports have come out suggesting that Rodgers no longer wants to play football, or Rodgers is unhappy with the organization, or Rodgers wants to be traded. However, instead, Rodgers signed a 3 year $150 million contract with the Green Bay Packers. 

Unfortunately, the issue is further complicated by the matter of the Packers 2020 first round pick, quarterback Jordan Love, who reportedly believes he has sat on the bench long enough and either wants to play or be traded. Now, entering the off season, reports are yet again suggesting Rodgers wants to be traded or will retire. Most recently, Adam Schefter reported that the Packers Organization wishes to move on from Rodgers and plans to trade him to a team in the AFC. The leading two teams in Vegas Odds to land Rodgers: the Las Vegas Raiders at +150 and the New York Jets at +400. 

The primary argument in favor of Rodgers being traded to the raiders: quarterback Derrick Carr will be traded/cut and All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams already has rapport with 12. However, herein lies three massive issues. Adams presumably left the Packers because he wanted a QB that wouldn’t threaten to retire every year and could get him the ball accurately for the remainder of Adams’ prime years. Trading for Rodgers is exactly the opposite of that. Not to mention the fact that the coming NFL draft offers numerous quarterback prospects that would be suitable for the Raiders and wouldn’t carry the same contract issues. And there lies the second issue, Rodgers contract and trade price is anything but appealing to NFL teams looking for a quarterback. NFL General Managers are going to be looking at the Russel Wilson trade in which the Seahawks received 2 firsts, 2 seconds, and a fifth round pick in addition to 3 players in exchange for Russel Wilson and a 2022 fourth round pick. The Russell Wilson trade was supposed to complete the Broncos championship caliber roster and set them up for years to come but instead cripled the team’s draft capital and failed to improve their record at all while the Seahawks got a head start at a rebuild, successfully making the playoffs this year. While Aaron Rodgers trade price will be less than Wilson due to the age difference, the Raiders’ General Manager will no doubt fear crippling their franchise trading for a 39 year old quarterback coming off the worst year of his career when they could instead take advantage of a strong 2023 quarterback draft class. Finally, the goal of trading Rodgers out of the conference is to avoid having to play against the future Hall of Famer. However, the Raiders are scheduled to play the Packers in 2023 and a Raiders trade would completely defeat the point of trading out of the conference.

The argument for the Jets lies in the coaching staff, strengthened by the recent hiring of former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Hackett was the offensive coordinator during both of Rodgers most recent MVP seasons and was the mastermind behind the Packers 2020 number 1 ranked offense averaging 31.8 points per game compared to this past year’s offense averaging 21.8 points per game. In addition, the Jets head coach Robert Saleh was hired from 49ers head coach Kyle Shannahan’s staff, a system Rodgers is already familiar with thanks to Packers HC Matt Lafluer. However, Nathaniel Hackett most recently was fired from head coaching the Broncos after the team finished with a record of 5-12. Hackett was originally hired in Denver to pull Rodgers over to the Broncos. However, just like the season before, Rodgers returned to the Packers. In addition, the Jets HC Robert Saleh, while a part of the Kyle Shannahan coaching tree, was a defensive coordinator with the 49ers and would not be much of an advantage in integrating Rodgers into the Jets system. Furthermore, a trade for Rodgers would further complicate the Jets quarterback room already consisting of 2021 second overall selection Zach Wilson and 2023 free agent Mike White. Wilson was benched late in the 2022 season after a series of poor starts but the organization maintains they are not abandoning the young quarterback. The Jets are projected to have $9 million dollars in cap space in 2023. Rodgers on the other hand has a cap hit of $31.9 million in 2023. Therefore, it would appear that the artificial trade bait of hiring Nathaniel Hackett as offensive coordinator will not be enough to garner a trade for Aaron Rodgers. 

Insead, despite over-dramatized reports about Aaron Rodgers retirement, organization news, and trade news, expect Aaron Rodgers to return to the Packers in 2023. The 39 year old quarterback has repeatedly expressed on the Pat McCafee show that he would like to finish his career in Green Bay and understands that his contract will need reworking in order to return. While the Packers are likely to move on from some favorite players of Rodgers, due to age and contract issues, Rodgers has endured roster turnover before, most notably with the departure of both Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. With Rodgers likely only to play another year, maybe two at most, expect Jordan Love to return at well and ride the bench one more year. After all, Aaron Rodgers sat behind all time great Brett Favre for four years and look where that got 12.