Transaction Implication: Aaron Rodgers’ Last Dance

by Aaron Stewart · Contracts & Free Agency

Aaron Rodgers is gone after this season. The parallels between the Packers and the Michael Jordan Netflix documentary are obvious and referenced by involved parties.

“But wait,” I hear the Underworld minions and buzzards say. “The void year is for 2023, NOT 2022. How can you and others say for certainty that this is Rodgers’ last year in Green Bay?”

Allow your Salary Cap-tain to navigate you through the waves of contract and salary cap complexities.

The Contract

Aaron Rodgers’ Restructured Contract via Spotrac

The first notable detail about Aaron Rodgers‘ new contract is the 2023 void year referenced in the intro. The void year is critical. It prevents him from being franchise-tagged by the Green Bay Packers.

Top-10 2022 Quarterback Cap Hits via Spotrac

The next detail to note is Rodgers’ 2022 cap hit. A $46.15 million cap hit is massive, even for a reigning MVP quarterback. The Falcons and Vikings are not excited to carry similar quarterback cap hits in 2022.

The Packers already find themselves $46.2 million OVER the cap next offseason.

Packers’ Cap Space in 2022 via Spotrac

Cap hits CAN be lowered by kicking the can down the road ala New Orleans Saints. This is done by making Rodgers’ base salary the veteran minimum ($1.075 million). The remaining $25.40 million is spread across the remainder of his contract.

But, he only has one more year left on his contract after 2022. As discussed earlier, it is a void year.

The Packers will not restructure and carry a $33 million dead cap on their 2023 books for a departed Rodgers.


But The Salary Cap Is A Lie…Right?

The Packers almost double the next-closest team in terms of money over the cap next offseason. “Okay, Salary Cap-tain. The Saints show us every offseason that the cap is a lie.”

Contrary to popular belief, the salary cap is a rule that must be abided by.

The Saints have found ways to follow the rules. It costs them the ability to retain valuable pieces of their team, such as Trey Hendrickson. But this is Mickey Loomis’ plan as the Saints general manager as Anand Nanduri discussed on The Decision Point podcast.

The Rodgers’ restructure was never a part of Brian Gutekunst’s plan. Unlike Loomis, Gutekunst has not prepared years in advance for this.

Rodgers may be under contract in 2022, but his primary receiving weapons aren’t. Rookie Amari Rodgers and Randall Cobb are the only notable receiving weapons under contract in 2022. Good luck affording Adams and Tonyan once they hit the free-agent market.

2022 Packers WR & TE Free Agents via Spotrac

Rodgers won’t like that one bit. If the Packers force him to deal with it, then he’ll threaten retirement again. And the Packers will laugh and collect the guaranteed money that he leaves on the table. Wait a minute…

The restructured contract has a clause that prevents the Packers from collecting his signing bonus money if he retired.

Now that our voyage through Rodger’s restructure is done, let’s get into the implications of the transaction. Where is Rodgers going to play in 2022? How does the Rodgers saga affect Adams? Where do Cobb and the rookie WR fit in the 2021 plans?

Aaron Rodgers

Where will the 2020 MVP play in 2022? The popular pick is the Denver Broncos. The Broncos passed on the chance to draft Justin Fields in favor of improving their secondary with Patrick Surtain.

This past offseason the Broncos addressed all areas of concern on their roster, except quarterback. Look at his name, Teddy Bridgewater is nothing more than a bridge quarterback.

For years, Aaron Rodgers wanted his team to give him weapons. Since 2018, the Broncos have invested a first or second-round pick in receiving weapons. In order, this includes Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Jerry Jeudy, and Javonte Williams.

The Broncos project to have the fifth-most cap space ($50.6 million) in 2022. That’s plenty of cap space to get Rodgers and build a Super Bowl team. A dark horse team to get Rodgers is a division rival of the Broncos with cap space to spend.

Jon Gruden has yet to invest heavy draft capital or significant money on a free-agent quarterback.

The Raiders are already linked to Davante Adams in 2022. It would reunite the collegiate teammate duo of Adams and Derek Carr, who hasn’t been able to take the Raiders to the next level. Conveniently, he has no more guaranteed money on his contract in 2022.

Las Vegas Raiders: A 2022 or 2023 Destination For QBs (via Spotrac)

The Raiders have the ability to make a Rodgers-Adams package deal happen.

Along with Adams, Rodgers would have Darren Waller, Bryan Edwards, and deep-threat decoy Henry Ruggs. At the very least, this is a dangerous Madden NFL 22 offense.

Davante Adams

Losing Aaron Rodgers would cause the Packers to shift their attention towards Davante Adams. The Packers may not be able to franchise tag, but they still can tag Adams.

2022 Projected Franchise and Transition Tenders via OverTheCap

This matches the $19.30 million in cap savings the Packers receive from moving on from Rodgers next offseason.

Nobody that loves football wants to see Rodgers and Adams split up. However, Adams desires to become the highest-paid wide receiver. If that happens, he’ll have a new quarterback in 2022. Also, would the Packers start the Jordan Love era without their top wide receiver?

In dynasty, what are we doing with Adams? DeAndre Hopkins and Stefon Diggs are reminders to not panic when star wide receivers changing teams. Adams was able to create 2.13 (No. 9 among qualified wide receivers) yards of Target Separation and averaged 2.97 (No. 1) Yards Per Route Run.

Adams saw a league-leading 34.1-percent Target Share and 42.2-percent Red Zone Target Share. Whoever pays Adams in 2020 is going to feed Adams. Even for rebuilding dynasty teams, it’ll take a king’s ransom. Don’t let people negotiate his price tag down because of his uncertain NFL future.

Make league mates pay the premium price for a superstar player.

Randall Cobb vs. Amari Rodgers

Amari Rodgers was a late second-round pick in Superflex rookie drafts this year. The primary reason was due to expected immediate involvement in the Packers offense. Drafted in the third round in 2021, he was expected to challenge incumbents Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

The addition of Randall Cobb is conflicting. On one hand, it confirms that Aaron Rodgers also wanted better alternatives to the incumbents. On the other, Cobb directly takes over the rookie’s presumed role.

This is a lose-lose situation. Not producing as a rookie will hurt Rodgers’ chances of breaking out in the NFL. For Cobb, he topped 60 yards twice in ten games while playing with Deshaun Watson.

“Cobb’s Better Than These MFers.” -Rodgers (probably)

Sure, Cobb will have spike weeks like he last year in Week 7 against Green Bay. In that game, he had eight catches for 95 yards. But he’s a non-factor in fantasy football leagues that aren’t best ball.

From an NFL perspective, this move was to appease the reigning MVP. The only benefit that Cobb adds to this offense is reliability. He had zero drops on 48 targets.

Valdes-Scantling led the league in Drop Rate with a 14.3-percent rate. Lazard finished in the top-30 with 6.5-percent. Even Equanimeous St. Brown dropped two targets (15.4-percent).