The Packers will likely trade quarterback Aaron Rodgers before or during the 2023 NFL Draft because: 1) That makes more sense for the team; and 2) general manager Brian Gutekunst has hinted that this year’s draft is the deadline for Rodgers to be traded.
“I think the sooner the better,” Gutekunst said at NFL owners meetings last week when asked if Green Bay’s draft capital recoveries need to be for this year or if they can be for 2024 and beyond. .
The Jets have the clout now because the Packers have incentives to finalize a trade before the draft and New York doesn’t. The Packers would benefit from using any pick they get in return to surround more talented quarterback Jordan Love immediately for Year 1 success as a starter, rather than waiting a year to reap the rewards of trade return.
However, just because it makes more sense for Gutekunst to accept the Jets’ best offer before April 27 (Round 1 of the draft) or April 28 (Rounds 2 and 3) doesn’t mean he will.
When asked about the possibility of this saga continuing into the summer, Gutekunst said: “I think hopefully we’ll finish this before then, but for as long as it takes.”
After all, Gutekunst has a job to do, a line he used to explain why he left Rodgers after he proved difficult to connect with the quarterback this offseason, and he’s much more inclined to play hardball than soft.
Until last Monday, at the league meeting, Gutekunst and Jets general manager Joe Douglas had been on the phone for weeks. They spoke again in person in Phoenix last week. As of Tuesday night, there was still no deal. The draft is just over three weeks away, so there’s no rush to close a deal at this exact time, no matter how much everyone outside of both organizations seems to want it done. Gutekunst even said the Packers can afford to wait until May or June if the Jets don’t offer a package for Rodgers they deem appropriate before then.
“There’s not much going on right now,” Gutekunst said. “So again, I think it has to work for both parties and I think we’re both committed to working it out. He’s really kind of in his court right now. We’ll see where it goes.”
But what if the trade doesn’t go down at the end of the draft like we all think it will? So what happens?
“Certainly if we go beyond the draft, then everything changes, the compensation changes,” Gutekunst said. “That would be a completely different scenario.”
If Rodgers is still employed by the Packers on April 29, Day 3 of the draft, then this situation is turned around. The Packers would take advantage of the leverage with the two days they would use the draft capital traded for Rodgers having passed. And the Jets would be under pressure to strike a deal to have their preferred starting quarterback in the building sooner rather than later. The Packers already have their QB1 report for duty. New York has Zach Wilson, and Douglas said in league meetings that trading Lamar Jackson would be in bad faith given how far they’ve come with Rodgers. So trading for Jackson is off the table as an alternative, and getting Rodgers is the only feasible option unless Jets bosses and coaches want to sign their termination papers before the season starts.
The Packers might actually have incentive to wait until after June 1 to make a deal because the 2023 dead money of more than $40.3 million if Rodgers is traded before June 1 would be split over two years, according to Over The Cap: about $15.8 million. in 2023 and the rest in 2024. The Packers may want to eat that dead money hit this year to make sure it doesn’t drag on any longer, but they still have more financial options if this gets past the draft.
The only deadline by which the Packers have to trade Rodgers if this stalemate continues beyond the draft is the start of the regular season. That’s when the Packers would have to pay their $58.3 million option bonus, per OTC. They’re not doing that for a quarterback they’re not starting and the Jets need Rodgers in the building long before then, so Green Bay would hold the lead after April 29.
As far as compensation if a trade doesn’t go through by the end of the draft, the Packers could shift their attention to players who can improve their roster immediately if they don’t get the 2023 draft capital. That could be the focus, though not as a full replacement of all draft capital in the deal because they will likely still look to acquire 2024 capital and potentially even a 2025 conditional pick depending on Rodgers’ playing time and accomplishments with the Jets. The trade package may look slightly different pre-draft and post-draft as the Packers need to do whatever it takes in negotiations to improve their 2023 roster rather than be content to wait until 2024 to reap the benefits, especially since a team with Rodgers probably has worse picks than a team without him.
Head coach Matt LaFleur wants a veteran wide receiver to complement Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, who are entering their second season after promising rookie seasons. Meanwhile, Jets wide receiver Corey Davis, entering his seventh season at 28, is on the block. He played for the Titans when LaFleur was Tennessee’s offensive coordinator in 2018, catching 65 passes for 891 yards and four touchdowns that season. He could still be part of the deal, but perhaps including him in a package would be more likely if the Packers don’t accept an offer by April 28. lose by forgoing the 2023 capital project.
In the rare hypothetical case that Rodgers hasn’t been traded before the start of mandatory minicamp on June 13, there’s no way he’s going to show up at Lambeau Field, right? That would be incredible theater, but it’s a question the Packers don’t even want to think about the answer to. Rodgers might want to make things as awkward as possible for an organization that clearly feels they belittled him by leaving, based on his comments on “The Pat McAfee Show,” but it’s hard to believe he wants to make things complicated for Love and scroll over him in the news. facilities as the 24-year-old has to answer questions about the number 12 and nameplate of his locker which is still present at 1265 Lombardi Ave.
That would be the main drawback of this saga continuing. Love needs as smooth a lift off the track as possible entering his first year as a starter. The longer Rodgers stays on the roster, the more turmoil there will be for Love to navigate when he shouldn’t have to.
“I think right now, all options are on the table,” Gutekunst said when asked about an unlikely meeting between Rodgers and the Packers this summer. “It’s not trending like that, and I’m hopeful that we can facilitate this and get it done. But he has come back in certain circumstances before where maybe he wasn’t very happy with everything that was going on and he played very well. So we’ll see how this all happens. I think hopefully he’s in the right direction for what everyone wants and we can wrap this up.”
(Photo by Aaron Rodgers: Megan Briggs/Getty Images)