Aaron Rodgers trade scenarios: Ranking seven 2021 landing spots for the Packers QB

Are Aaron Rodgers and the Packers nearing a divorce? Depends on who you ask but the probable MVP wants a new contract and didn’t seem too happy after Green Bay lost in the NFC Championship to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Not everyone is entirely convinced Rodgers is locked in as Green Bay’s QB of the long-term future. Brett Favre, the same legend who gave way to Rodgers more than a decade ago, said this week he believes No. 12 will finish his NFL career elsewhere. And while Love may very well spend multiple seasons learning behind Rodgers before even getting the chance to take the field, it’s conceivable — from purely a financial perspective — that LaFleur and Co. could look to make the transition as soon as 2021.

As Over The Cap reports, the Packers can save $22 million in 2021 salary cap space by trading Rodgers after June 1 that year, not to mention an additional $22.6M in 2022 and $28.3M in 2023. That, to be frank, is a lot of dough, especially considering Rodgers’ big deal would seemingly prohibit Green Bay from making a quick switch to Love. 

Now, is it likely the Packers will try to trade Rodgers so soon? Not necessarily. Who’s to say he won’t take the team right back to the NFC Championship this season? But if, for whatever reason, the Packers want to do so, they won’t exactly be hamstrung.

Where, then, could Rodgers end up? We put on our hypothetical cap and looked ahead to 2021, keeping in mind that teams who figure to struggle mightily in 2020 might end up using the draft, not free agency, for a new QB. That, plus needing to wait until June to trade their longtime franchise QB, could make it difficult for a Rodgers market to materialize.

Nevertheless, here are seven potential landing spots for Rodgers, in the event Green Bay shops him down the road:

7. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are betting a lot on former sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew in 2020, and considering the QB’s supporting cast, it wouldn’t be a stunner if Jacksonville were once again picking in the top 10 in 2021. That alone means they’re probably more likely to pursue their future face of the franchise through the draft. Still, only two teams have more projected cap space for 2021, and the Jags also have six picks in the first four rounds of next year’s draft (i.e. lots of trade ammunition). Nothing would reignite a Florida fan base taken hostage by Tom Brady like Rodgers calling TIAA Bank Field home.

Rodgers might not be gung-ho about joining an AFC South cellar-dweller, but he’d likely be reuniting with new Jags assistant Ben McAdoo, who served as the Packers’ QBs coach from 2012-13, when Rodgers had a 39-touchdown season and led Green Bay to back-to-back NFC North titles. It doesn’t hurt No. 12 is apparently an increasing fan of beachfront property.

6. Denver Broncos

John Elway just spent the offseason giving Drew Lock all kinds of new toys, and he seems genuinely committed to letting the 23-year-old former second-rounder grow into Denver’s unquestioned leader. Chances are, the team’s 2020 additions — namely rookie wideouts Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler — will confirm Lock as the Broncos’ QB of the future.

But let’s envision a scenario where Lock is hampered mightily by the abbreviated offseason, the new WRs have little time to build chemistry, and Vic Fangio’s squad struggles to eclipse .500 while the Kansas City Chiefs roll on and the Los Angeles Chargers prepare to unveil their own hot, young QB. Is it crazy to suggest Elway might be tempted to return to the veteran QB well, not only because it worked with Peyton Manning and because Rodgers would represent a similar gamble, but because Lock never cost Denver a premium price? Green Bay, meanwhile, would keep Rodgers out of the NFC, and Rodgers himself would get Colorado weather

5. Indianapolis Colts

After striking gold on two homegrown prospects in Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, the Colts don’t strike us as a team that wants to be in the business of relying on recycled big names beyond Philip Rivers in 2020. But Rivers is a one- or two-year fix, at most, and his arrival means Jacoby Brissett isn’t in the short- or long-term plans. It’s also hard to think fourth-rounder Jacob Eason would stop Chris Ballard from thinking long and hard about a QB of Rodgers’ caliber, were the longtime Packers star on the market.

Whether or not Rivers pans out (and especially if he doesn’t), the Colts will assuredly be desperate for more of a sure, franchise QB by 2021, two years removed from Luck’s abrupt retirement. And if Frank Reich’s interest was piqued by a reunion with Rivers, well, it’s a safe bet he’d embrace a team-up with Rodgers, who he once declared the Steph Curry of the NFL. (Rodgers at 37 will be on a different level than Rivers at 38.) Indy has been building its roster like it intends to win sooner rather than later, and few passers would not only sell tickets but get them closer to the promised land.

4. Washington Redskins

If you think Dan Snyder and Co. are actually, indefinitely sold on Dwayne Haskins, their first-round pick of 2019, then you just haven’t watched Washington do business long enough. This is a franchise perpetually enamored with taking swings for veteran QBs (see: Case Keenum, Alex Smith, Donovan McNabb, etc.). And while Haskins should have a younger, improved supporting cast in 2020, he’ll also be coming off an unusual offseason with an entirely new coaching regime — one that openly called ex-Panther and trade acquisition Kyle Allen competition for the Week 1 job under center.

In other words, it’s not even the last bit unfeasible Washington could be eyeing an all-new starter come 2021. And with the fifth-most projected salary cap space beyond this season, they’d surely have enough cash to at least temporarily quell any resistance from Rodgers about suiting up for a mostly lackluster franchise. Ron Rivera’s presence as a player’s coach would be a welcome bonus. Think of both the on-field and marketing possibilities from Snyder’s perspective, bringing such an established arm to FedEx Field in an always winnable NFC East.

3. New England Patriots

The Pats have seemingly been content to proceed with uncertainty at QB in the wake of Tom Brady’s departure, and it’s very possible Bill Belichick believes his team will be fundamentally sound enough to win with Jarrett Stidham and/or Brian Hoyer. It’s also possible Stidham really exceeds expectations in 2020, cementing himself as a worthy successor to TB12.

But let’s not kid ourselves: If Rodgers were available, Belichick would have to make a call. Longtime Packers personnel executive Eliot Wolf, who was in Green Bay when the Pack drafted Rodgers and when Rodgers won both MVP and a Super Bowl, now resides in New England’s front office. And whatever you have to say about the Patriots’ offensive system, does anyone really think Robert Kraft and the entire leadership team wouldn’t jump at the chance to put one over on the rest of the league and go from touting Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers in a matter of a few years? Instantly, they’d win back title-favorite support. Rodgers would get a chance to pick up the mantle of a dynasty. And the rest of the football world would swimmingly go back to rooting against the Patriots.

2. San Francisco 49ers

Niners brass believe in Jimmy Garoppolo, who’s just a few months removed from starting in the Super Bowl. But they didn’t believe in him enough to not entertain a pursuit of Tom Brady this offseason. Let’s say things don’t go as smoothly as expected in 2020. San Francisco can straight-up cut Jimmy G and instantly save more than $24 million, with only a $2.8M dead cap hit, and that’s assuming they can’t find a taker on the trade market. In other words, if Kyle Shanahan wants an upgrade at QB, John Lynch can make it happen, and it won’t wreck the team’s finances. (Enviable state of affairs, huh, Rams?)

Better yet, Rodgers and San Francisco are darn near a match made in heaven. The staff connections aren’t overt, but Rodgers, remember, grew up less than three hours from the city. He’s a California boy, through and through, and was a Niners fan growing up. Heck, the man thought he was going No. 1 to the 49ers during his infamous 2005 draft-day slide. Not only would the storylines be magnificent — San Francisco finally embracing their true franchise QB, more than a decade later — but the on-field fit would make sense. Rodgers would easily be Shanahan’s most talented arm, and you’d have to think the run game and defense will still be built up enough to take pressure off No. 12 for more Super Bowl runs.

1. Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders, ladies and gents, are the clear-cut favorites. Derek Carr has managed to endure years of speculation about Jon Gruden’s desire for a new QB, and yet he wasn’t entrenched enough to prevent the team from adding Marcus Mariota as a potential replacement-in-waiting this offseason. Meanwhile, the Raiders can cut Carr in 2021 and save almost $20 million, making him easily expendable in the event 2020 — the team’s big debut in Vegas — doesn’t go over as planned. (Some would argue neither he nor Mariota have the downfield arm to even capitalize on the club’s speedy additions at wide receiver.)

Edgar Bennett, who serves on Gruden’s offensive staff, spent 2015-17 as the Packers’ offensive coordinator, and in his first two years at the helm, Rodgers threw 71 touchdowns and just 15 interceptions. Nothing but an anecdote? Maybe. But Gruden’s track record of QB development — or lack thereof — speaks even more volumes: We talk every year about he and the Raiders potentially eyeing a top rookie signal-caller, but Gruden simply doesn’t draft QBs, and if he does, he doesn’t draft them high. The guy likes vets. And if there’s one vet he could surely convince Mike Mayock to pursue, it’s prime-time darling Rodgers.

A Vegas relocation would get Rodgers to the AFC for Green Bay. It would get Gruden a QB worthy of investment. It would jump-start a new market for the NFL. And it would give Rodgers a fresh path for his legacy. He wouldn’t be picking up anyone’s mantle. He’d be forging his own, right in the Entertainment Capital of the World.

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