Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have spent 18 seasons together. But it's possible the star quarterback will be playing elsewhere in 2023. Rodgers admitted after a deflating finish to 2022 that he was undecided on his NFL future, and while both retirement and a return to Green Bay are on the table, the team is the QB.
Rodgers just signed a three-year, $150 million contract extension last March. Offloading his deal would bring challenges. But even at 39, coming off a down year, he'd surely fetch premium compensation, which could help general manager Brian Gutekunst rebuild around Rodgers' heir apparent, Jordan Love. Rodgers would also be relatively affordable for an acquiring team, due $31.6M in 2023 -- the 10th-highest mark among QBs, behind guys like Matt Ryan, Derek Carr and Ryan Tannehill.
With all that in mind, here's an early look at logical suitors for Rodgers, in the event he and Green Bay agree to part ways:
Note: Salary cap figures courtesy of Over the Cap.
Geno Smith is a good story, but at 32, approaching free agency, he'll be a risky bet considering 2022 is his only productive season as a starter. Seattle wouldn't necessarily want to dump one aging QB (Russell Wilson) just to add another a year later, but Pete Carroll, 71, is probably interested in contending sooner rather than later. He's got other pieces -- Kenneth Walker III, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett -- to help. He's got loads of cap space ($30.6M) to use, and even more draft picks from the Russ deal. And GM John Schneider has a big Packers connection; he was the top aide to Ted Thompson when Green Bay drafted Rodgers, and he was the director of football operations when A-Rod took over for Brett Favre and won his lone Super Bowl.
Chances are, they'll happily go into 2023 with at least two of their QBs currently on the roster: Brock Purdy, Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance. The former has already done enough as Jimmy G's emergency fill-in to warrant serious consideration as next year's Opening Day guy. But with Lance still a total unknown, why wouldn't Kyle Shanahan at least entertain this pairing? He admittedly did it before, calling the Packers about Rodgers' availability prior to 2021. San Francisco is built to contend, with weapons on both sides of the ball. And Rodgers would surely jump at the opportunity, growing up a 49ers fan in California and famously wishing San Francisco would've drafted him in 2005.
GM Jason Licht is gonna be itching for a quick fix if Tom Brady, 45, calls it quits for good or, perhaps more likely, tests free agency in search of a final fresh start. The question is, does he have enough cap manipulation up his sleeve to make it feasible? On paper, the sunny destination would be appealing for Rodgers, who could potentially help reshape the offensive philosophy and guide roster decisions, as Brady did. When healthy, they remain a contender in a wide-open division.
Yes, Tua Tagovailoa is in town and took a major leap early in 2022 under Mike McDaniel, but how on Earth can they trust his availability moving forward? Tua's health is bigger than the game, and after at least two concussions this year, he's both a short- and long-term question mark under center, where he still struggled as a consistent off-script and deep-ball thrower. Miami is the ideal landing spot for a stopgap solution like Rodgers or Tom Brady; with premium weapons and smart strategy, they could conceivably go for broke in 2023 without sacrificing on a potential future with Tagovailoa.
Always open for veteran QB business, they have the skill weapons and defense to stay in the playoff mix. What they don't have, as usual, is a true franchise signal-caller, with Carson Wentz bound to be cut and Sam Howell boasting a single NFL start. The cap space is a concern, but if the respected Ron Rivera is still in charge, he could be a real draw for a longtime vet like Rodgers.
You can only win in spite of your young QB(s) for so long, right? Bill Belichick has the run game and defense to elevate uninspiring play under center, but in 2023, he'll also have the cap space ($48.8M) to pursue a blockbuster upgrade on Mac Jones. What better way to finally recreate the Brady era than by going all in for the next-best thing? Rodgers could conceivably also put his own spin on the offense/staff, allowing Belichick to pour full attention into the "D."
Ryan Tannehill does his job well for a team that never dies, but he's owed more than even Rodgers in 2023, and another early playoff exit would seem to confirm his ceiling. A-Rod loves him some Mike Vrabel, who's yet to feature a superstar at QB despite a proven track record of postseason contention. LaFleur sprouted from this organization. And Rodgers would surely benefit from an offense that leans heavily on the bruising legs of Derrick Henry, not to mention an annually open division. It helps that Tennessee isn't necessarily well-positioned to land a top QB prospect in the draft.
Respected as he once was in the organization, Derek Carr is now an inevitable cap casualty via either release or trade, and was probably already eyeing new scenery amid another lost season. Rodgers, meanwhile, has established chemistry with the Raiders' top investment, Davante Adams, and would be moving closer to his West Coast home.
Regardless of what Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas say publicly, second-year QB Zach Wilson is on thin ice both on the field and in the locker room, repeatedly proving to be the weakest link on an otherwise feisty playoff hopeful. They're assembled at every spot other than under center, making a veteran upgrade especially tantalizing. Coach Saleh is a respected voice who knows A-Rod well from the Packers' battles with the 49ers. And offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, a Kyle Shanahan disciple, is the younger brother of Matt, Rodgers' coach in Green Bay.