Aaron Rodgers’ return to the Green Bay Packers has been one of the biggest question marks of this NFL offseason. And the future Hall of Famer’s recent ‘darkness retreat’ trip to Oregon only increased speculation of what’s next.
Adding to his history of unconventional offseasons, Rodgers spent time this past week at Sky Cave Retreats in Ashland, where he continues to mull retirement and his future with the Packers, who drafted him in 2005.
The four-time MVP finished his four-day retreat and exited his partially underground 300-square-foot room on Wednesday, according to ESPN, and now football fans, including the Packers await his decision.
After a an 8-9 campaign and a playoff miss in his 18th season, Rodgers, 39, has plenty to consider, including playing elsewhere next season.
The Packers, meanwhile, must develop their own contingency plans while re-reading the fine print of Rodgers’ complex contract. The QB’s reluctance to declare his plans for next season has placed the Packers in a unique situation that resembles the Brett Favre succession saga, which ultimately ended when the Hall of Famer was traded to the New York Jets in 2008. Now Favre’s successor is putting the organization in a bind.
How much is Rodgers’ current contract worth?
In 2022, the Packers signed Rodgers to a three-year extension deal worth $150 million. Green
Bay agreed to that record contract, which is the highest in terms of annual average income, in hopes of recapturing the Lombardi Trophy, which the Packers haven’t hoisted since 2010.
The four-time MVP is set to reel in a $59.4 million guaranteed salary next season if he returns. But that prospective payout, the highest ever salary doled out to a NFL player for one specific season, still hasn’t prevented him from considering walking away.
His three-year deal is unique as it includes a couple of options and cap penalties that exist even if he isn’t on the team anymore. The intricacies of the deal potentially make it more challenging to move their future Hall-of-Famer.
What are the Packers’ options?
Along with the cheeseheads, Packers’ team management must wait for Rodgers to make his decision on whether he’ll play. But as they face future salary cap limitations, they may try to find a way to avoid paying Rodgers the hefty check if he does want to keep playing. An outright release isn’t likely, though, since it would be an enormous cap hit.
So the Packers may look to trade him to a team willing to absorb the cap hit from Rodgers’ $58.3 million option bonus for the 2023 season. Any potential trade partner would have to pay at least a substantial chunk of the tab on that. Regardless, the Packers would suffer a $40 million cap hit in the event of a pre-June 1 trade, but a healthy return of draft picks might make it a viable option.
What if Rodgers decides to retire?
The Packers will suffer a $40 million cap hit if he retires before June 1 but can split that hit in the next seasons if he announces after June 1. On the field, the team would turn to backup QB Jordan Love, who was drafted in the first round by the Packers in 2020.
Rodgers has made more than $550 million during his career, including his off-field earnings. Among those “other things” he mentioned after the season’s final game is his investment portfolio, which includes a minority stake in the Milwaukee Bucks.
What about Love?
Packers’ general manager Brian Gutekunst recently reiterated his support for Love, who has played in only 10 games with one start to his name. This year, the Packers must decide if they want to pick up or decline Love’s fifth-year option, which would be for the 2024 season. Paying Love roughly $20 million to back up a guy soaking up a nearly $41 million cap hit would be a nonstarter for most teams. But it’s not unthinkable, and like everything else with Green Bay right now, it all depends—on Aaron Rodgers.