Aaron Rodgers acts out rumours: 49ers, Jets among 11 potential suitors if Packers want to deal star QB in 2023

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers went three consecutive seasons with at least 13 wins and a playoff appearance from 2019-2021. With less than half of the 2022 campaign left, it’s not even certain that Green Bay will break the postseason this time around. And Rodgers, 38, is undergoing one of the roughest offensive performances of his career. It’s not inconceivable, after back-to-back offseasons in which the legendary quarterback entertained a split from the pack, the opportunity will present itself again.

Rodgers just signed a three-year, $150 million contract extension in March. He is more likely to retire or return to Green Bay in 2023. But he’s flirted with a move before, and the Packers are financially strapped as they approach the 2023 off-season, with glaring gaps in key positions. Assuming the ship isn’t straight before the end of this season, a resulting trade could benefit both sides: Rodgers could theoretically salvage whatever’s left of his career on a better contender, and Green Bay could be able to stock up for a real rebuild under general manager Brian Gutekunst.

Unloading his monster contract would present challenges, but Rodgers has no no-trade clause in his deal, meaning he can be shipped anywhere, and his bonuses are structured in such a way that he’s not immovable. He’s also relatively affordable for a potential acquisition team, at least in 2023, when he should count $31.6 million toward the salary cap — No. 10 of all QBs.

With that in mind, here’s an early look at logical suitors for Rodgers, just in case he and Green Bay agree to part ways:

Note: Salary cap figures courtesy of Over the Cap.

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Denver was reportedly high on Rodgers’ wish list had he not rejoined the Packers before 2022, and the Broncos reportedly made a strong run at A-Rod before selling the ranch for Russell Wilson. The logistical hurdles would be huge, but what about trading one aging star for another? Nathaniel Hackett could reunite with a QB proven to be right for him, and Wilson could get an Aaron Jones-led ground game, with a chance to actually carry on his legacy for a historic franchise.

Marcus Mariota barely registers as a short-term starter, let alone a long-term investment. But the Falcons are competitive in a wide open division, with tons of caproom for 2023 ($57 million). They have proven under Arthur Smith, successor to current Packers coach Matt LaFleur at Tennessee, that they can run the ball; all they need now is a difference maker below the center.

Always open to experienced QB cases, they have the skill weapons and defense to stay in the playoff mix. What they don’t have, as usual, is a true franchise signaller, with Carson Wentz no doubt getting dropped. Cap space is a concern, but if the respected Ron Rivera is still in charge, he could have real appeal for an experienced vet like Rodgers.

GM Jason Licht will crave a quick fix as Tom Brady, 45, gives up for good or, perhaps more likely, free desk testing in search of one last fresh start. The question is, does he have enough cap manipulation up his sleeve to make it viable? On paper, the sunny destination would appeal to 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.

You can only win so long despite your young QB(s), right? Bill Belichick has the play and defense to elevate uninspired play under center, but in 2023 he also has the room ($48.8 million) 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? It’s conceivable that Rodgers could also put his own spin on the attack/staff, allowing Belichick to put all the focus on the “D”.

New York has the advantage going into 2023 not only with a wealth of capacity ($46 million), but also with the knowledge that new coach Brian Daboll has the ability to maximize headcount. Rodgers is a known fan of Josh Allen, whose rise to fame came in Buffalo under the leadership of Daboll and would go on from one historic franchise to another. The Giants, meanwhile, have had decent growth from Daniel Jones in 2022, but would be a real contender with superior playmakers below center and wide.

As respected as he may be in the organization, Derek Carr is extremely expendable beyond 2022 and may well be ready for a new environment after what threatens to be another lost season. Rodgers, meanwhile, has built chemistry with their top investment, Davante Adams, and is set to move closer to his West Coast home.

Ryan Tannehill is doing a good job for a team that never dies, but he owes even more than Rodgers in 2023, and another early playoff exit seems to confirm his ceiling. A-Rod likes Mike Vrabel, who has yet to superstar at QB despite a proven track record in postseason combat. LaFleur originated from this organization. And Rodgers would certainly benefit from an offense that relies heavily on Derrick Henry’s bruises, not to mention an annual open division.

Geno Smith is one of the best stories this year, but at 32 years old he will be a risky bet as 2022 is his only productive season as a starter. Seattle wouldn’t necessarily want to dump one aging QB (Russell Wilson) only to add another a year later, but Pete Carroll, 71, is likely interested in competing sooner rather than later. He has other pieces – Kenneth Walker III, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett – to help. He’s got tons of cap room ($30.6 million) to use, and even more draft picks from the Russ deal. And GM John Schneider has a big Packers connection; he was Ted Thompson’s top assistant when Green Bay drafted Rodgers, and he was the director of football operations when A-Rod took over from Brett Favre and won his only Super Bowl.

Already on thin ice, both on the field and in the locker room, sophomore QB Zach Wilson is proving to be the weakest link in an otherwise spirited playoff hopeful. They mount anywhere except under the center, making an experienced upgrade particularly tempting. Coach Robert Saleh is a respected voice who personally matched well with A-Rod from his time with the 49ers. And offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, a student of Kyle Shanahan, is the younger brother of Matt, the Rodgers coach at Green Bay.

1. 49ers

This may sound like a minor thing for Jimmy Garoppolo, who delivered a truly underrated performance in replacing Trey Lance once again. Jimmy G may well be on track to retain QB1 duties in 2023. But he’ll be a free agent first, and with Lance still a total unknown, why wouldn’t Kyle Shanahan explore this combination? Granted, he did before by calling the Packers about Rodgers availability before 2021. San Francisco is built to compete, with guns on both sides of the ball. And Rodgers was sure to jump at this opportunity, growing up a fan of the 49ers in California and wishing San Francisco would have drafted him in 2005.

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