Green Bay Packers: Why Trading Aaron Rodgers After June 1 May be a Better Idea
It's now been more than a week since Aaron Rodgers ended his silence and announced his intention to return for another NFL season and play for the New York Jets. However, while the quarterback's desire is clear, the two teams have yet to reach a trade agreement.
There have been multiple rumors about why, ranging from the Jets not wanting to part with the 13th overall pick in this year's draft to disagreements about how much of Rodgers' contract the Packers should absorb. However, a third one, the timing of the trade, might be a good reason for the delay as well.
At first glance, it might seem like the best path forward for the Packers is to part ways with their disgruntled player as soon as possible (and I'm still one of the fans who would rather see this not become any more of a distraction than it already has). However, the salary cap implications can't be overlooked. The contract Rodgers signed just last year guarantees him nearly $60 million and a trade would result in the Packers incurring roughly $40 million in dead money on their cap.
In comparison, if they wait until June 2 or later to make that trade, the cap impact would be divided over two years instead of just one, freeing up millions of dollars in 2023. While one or more 2023 draft picks might seem more attractive to some, the extra cap money also has advantages.
Here's the reality. The Packers will be starting over with first-time starter Jordan Love at quarterback and currently have no wide receivers with more than a year's worth of experience. Even if the Packers get the Jets' first round pick, 13th overall, recent history has shown an offensive player taken with that pick probably won't have an immediate impact. All you need to do is look back at the inconsistent play from last year's rookies to see this.
In comparison, freeing up cap space so the team can sign serviceable veterans to supplement a very young offense could go a lot further toward helping Love's development while he goes through the expected ups and downs as he makes the team his own. It'll also put a whole lot less stress on a rookie by letting them learn the ropes without expecting them to be the immediate savior.
The biggest argument against this is 2024 draft picks are considered to be less valuable. However, that is based on the presumption the Jets will have a significantly better record in 2023 than they did in 2022 and that's not necessarily going to be the case.
The Jets will face two division rivals, the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, that were playoff teams last season as well as the always dangerous New England Patriots, a team Rodgers has not had a lot of success against. The Jets will also be facing both Super Bowl teams, the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles. While an aging Rodgers might be an improvement over what they had at quarterback last year, it may not be enough to get them to the playoffs, especially if Rodgers' skills have declined and his subpar 2022 numbers weren't just from a thumb injury and his young receiving corps. Even the Jets seem to realize this. If a Super Bowl run were a sure thing, I don't think the 13th overall pick would be a deal breaker.
Another advantage of waiting is it opens up the possibility of another suitor because of an injury, sudden retirement or another reason. While there may be no guarantee Rodgers would be willing to play for a team other than the Jets, it would at least put some pressure on New York to seal the deal before someone else closes it.
Of course, there is some risk to waiting as well. The Jets could decide it's not worth it and pursue another quarterback. But that scenario ultimately isn't all that bad either.
If Rodgers retires rather than play for Green Bay (which I think was their preference to begin with), it just gives them more cap space. If he insists on returning, then the worst case is they would need to find a way to make it work for one more year, something I don't think is as impossible as it might seem. Rodgers is a competitor and would still play to win so the only problem would be deciding which quarterback to start. And that's a problem a lot of teams would love to have.