I have a bridge-building idea for the Aaron Rodgers dilemma. The more I think about it, the more I think, Why not?
The idea: The Packers commit to trade Rodgers, pacifying the angry quarterback—but the deal would not happen till next spring. Rodgers, in turn, agrees to give the Packers one more season in exchange for being allowed to transition to a new team before the 2022 draft.
Packers president Mark Murphy, who’s got to be Henry Kissinger here (look it up, kids), must be searching for an exit strategy. If I were in Murphy’s chair, I’d undertake another secret mission to meet with Rodgers and agent David Dunn, just the three of them, and propose one more year of Green Bay employment with the knowledge that Rodgers and Dunn could give the Pack a list of teams the QB would be willing to play for in 2022.
I think Rodgers and Dunn would want the quarterback’s freedom if he’d give the Pack one more season. And maybe that’s not entirely out of the question. But there is an historical omen that I think would make Murphy draw the line at 2022 freedom for Rodgers. Unlikely though it is, imagine Rodgers being a free agent next March, and Minnesota GM Rick Spielman swooping in to sign a player who’d love to stick it to the Green Bay front office by playing for the arch-rival—a haunting memory-relic from 13 years ago with Brett Favre. My bet is that would make Murphy say, “No chance we’re releasing him.”
When Favre was demanding his freedom from Green Bay after coming out of retirement in July 2008, then-GM Ted Thompson insisted he wouldn’t cut Favre loose. He knew Favre would likely sign with Minnesota or Chicago, and Thompson didn’t want to be hung in effigy in Wisconsin. He held firm, and Favre got traded to the Jets before eventually ending his career as a Viking. So wouldn’t it make sense for Rodgers, after this season, to give the Packers four destinations in the AFC, and let Green Bay GM Brian Gutekunst make the best deal for the franchise?
If all sides agreed, the deal could be announced in mid-June. The Pack could enter training camp with the MVP in place, in his prime.
I would bet Rodgers, today, is solid on never playing for the Packers again, so maybe this is useless. But Rodgers might view this as the best way to get through an unfortunate situation.
Why I think it makes sense for Rodgers
• His words. He told Kenny Mayne two weeks ago he loves his coaches, his teammates and the fans, and he has spoken with reverence about the history of the Packers. This compromise allows him to prove it. Lots of fans would find his words to Mayne hollow if Rodgers is home in California in September and Jordan Love gets blown out on opening day at New Orleans. I doubt Rodgers wants a bridge-burning exit from Green Bay.
• His best championship chance. The Packers are 28-8 in Rodgers’ last two seasons in Green Bay, and there’s little doubt Green Bay is the place he’d have the best chance to win a Super Bowl this year. With Rodgers, I’d say it’s a Tampa Bay-Green Bay tossup for home field in the NFC playoffs. Is there any place in the AFC where Rodgers would have as good a chance to win his second ring in 2021? No, and it’s not close.
• His personal fortune. Rodgers won’t subject himself to massive fines and money losses if he reports and placidly goes on with a final year in Green Bay. This isn’t the biggest thing with him, but imagine his boycotting the Packers and the team coming after his $6.8-million roster bonus from the spring. It’s one thing to not earn money in the future. It’s another to pay back millions.
• His management of a bad situation. If he shows up, there’d be a relatively peaceful season. Rodgers could talk about the situation once, then no-comment everything else the rest of the season. The story would be wallpaper. Loud wallpaper, but wallpaper.
• His last big contract. Rodgers gets one more payday, a big one, with his new team in 2022. (More in a minute on that.)
Why it makes sense for the Packers
Murphy’s a pragmatist, and he has to be that above all as the caretaker of this franchise. No matter how many times he thinks, Aaron would never hold out and hold us hostage, does he know that? No. Rodgers is willful. Back him against a wall, and Murphy doesn’t know how he’d react. But it would not be good for the team.
Beyond that, the prospect of quarterback certainty in 2022 would motivate Green Bay to do what every team should be doing in the first 17-game season anyway. Whenever the Pack is up by 20 or down 20 in the last 10 minutes, give Jordan Love the last two or three series of the game. Give Love the Week 18 game if the Packers’ playoff spot in secure. That prevents overuse of a 37-year-old quarterback and could give Love 100 or so important snaps entering 2022.
The Packers need to extend an olive branch for a situation—whether they acknowledge the reality of it—that could turn into a football and fan disaster in 2021. This is that olive branch. It’s a face-saving thing for both sides.
Contractually, too, it makes sense. Rodgers was paid that $6.8-million roster bonus in March, and he’s due a base salary of $14.7 million this season. He has two years after this season left on his contract. If he’s traded next spring, the dead cap hit for Rodgers on Green Bay’s cap in 2022 would $17.2 million. Rodgers would have two seasons left at $25.5 million per. But it’s probable, in the event of a trade, a team would sign Rodgers to a big deal putting him somewhere north of $40-million a year, and I’d guess the term would be three or four years, perhaps with some cap-easing phony years on the end of the contract.
If the offer is made and Rodgers says yes, it’s a win-win for everyone. If the answer’s no, well, Murphy tried. And then we’d know exactly how much Rodgers dreads putting on the green and gold ever again.
How the Aaron Rodgers-Packers drama will likely end originally appeared on NBCSports.com