After elimination in last year’s NFC Championship Game, Aaron Rodgers regretted sounding like he was saying goodbye to Packers nation. And yet, we still had to endure an offseason of will he/won’t he regarding his future in Green Bay. One year later, Rodgers and the Packers suffered an even earlier elimination (thanks, Robbie!), which re-opened the discussion of his future with the Packers once again.
For what it’s worth, Rodgers insists he won’t drag out the drama as he did last year. The Packers are probably hoping that is the case, too. Making it known publicly, to make it all the more real.
“Matt (LaFleur), Brian (Gutekunst), executive vice president/director of football operations Russ Ball and I are all in agreement that we want Aaron to come back,” said team president Mark Murphy in a Q&A piece at the Packers’ official website. “He is likely to win his fourth league MVP, is the unquestioned leader of our team and is still playing at a high level at 38.”
My eyes rolled so far to the back of my head while reading that, I wasn’t sure they’d come back.
Of course they want Rodgers back. Postseason shortcomings and off-field antics aside, Rodgers put up regular season numbers worthy of yet another MVP trophy. And considering how Jordan Love didn’t light up scoreboards in Kansas City when given the opportunity to start in Rodgers’ place, it doesn’t take a football savant to understand why Green Bay would want its starting QB back. The public show of interest is a nice touch. As if to say: Hey, big boy. We’re still here wanting you just in case you were wondering. However, the Packers’ desire to retain Rodgers is only part of the equation. Because even the team acknowledges there could be serious cap ramifications that would come with Rodgers’ return.
“We are significantly over the salary cap for next year, and will have to make many difficult decisions in order to get under the cap,” Murphy explains. “A key factor will be whether Aaron Rodgers comes back for the 2022 season.”
Ah, yes, of course. How could we be so silly? So naive to think about Rodgers’ return without trying to view it through the lens of the massive cap crunch that would come with such a decision. According to OverTheCap.com’s calculations, Rodgers projects to take up 22.2% of the Packers’ cap with a cap charge of $46,664,156. And with a cash payout of $26,970,588 coming Rodgers’ way, that would make up 15.2% of the team’s spending. That’s a hunk of change for any team, let alone one that is more than $50 million OVER the 2022 salary cap number.
The Rodgers situation leaves the Packers at a crossroads.
Sure, the team could part ways with a ton of talented players to bring Rodgers (and Davante Adams, probably) back into the mix. Doing so would put Green Bay in a position to field a stars-and-scrubs team, but only after parting ways with a handful of key players from the 2021 squad. But Rodgers has made it clear he has no interest in a rebuilding effort. So … can you really cut these guys and keep Rodgers happy? Seems like a tightrope walk to me. I doubt the Packers want anything to do with the type of heavy lifting that comes with a rebuild. However, cap constraints could make it difficult building the type of team Rodgers believes in. You know, the kind of team that can be a No. 1 seed before ultimately losing a January home game to underdogs in the postseason.
Nevertheless, we’ll keep tabs on this situation as the offseason trudges on. The impact of a move in either direction is massive. Either the Packers will be without an all-time great QB for the first time since before the Favre era. Or they’ll have one, plus his top target — but with significant cap manipulation. Either way, the NFC North (and conference as a whole) will feel it. Imagining the Packers without Rodgers is a dream. But I know better than to get lost in hoping that guy disappears off the map.