Two interesting aspects of the offseason saga of former Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers came to light recently:
---A sizable percentage of Denver Broncos fans apparently believe Rodgers will be the Broncos starting quarterback in 2021.
---Rodgers has an option that few had considered: He could opt out of the 2021 season and save about $18 million he would lose by simply sitting out training camp and the season.
Let’s look at the second item first. Based on an agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, players can opt out of the 2021 season (presumably because COVID-19 fears) even if they did not opt out in 2020.
The deadline to opt out is this Friday (July 2), and if Rodgers opts out he apparently would not forfeit $11.5 million in unearned signing bonus money for 2021. He probably would also be eligible for the $6.8 million roster bonus that he earned in March.
If he does not opt out but decides to sit out training camp -- which seems likely – he would be subject to additional fines of $2 million or so.
However, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk said Rodgers is unlikely to choose the opt-out route, saying Rodgers won’t want to give up the possibility of playing this season in a decision that must be made in less than a week, which is still more than two months before the season opener – enough time to work out a trade.
A source told Florio that Rodgers might be able to avoid playing without having to pay back any money to the Packers.
OK, so the opt-out strategy is unlikely to be enacted, but it is still worth watching until July 2 comes and goes.
A more reasonable option for Rodgers (if he is not traded in the next two months) is simply to retire. Rodgers, the 2020 MVP, could sit out the 2021 season and return in 2022, saying he is refreshed and reinvigorated and blah, blah, blah. Two other NFL players retired after an MVP season -- Jim Brown in 1965 and Norm Van Brocklin in 1960. But neither of them returned, and the money involved those days did not approach what NFL stars earn today. There would be little doubt that Rodgers would plan to return in 2022 if things were to his liking.
However, would Rodgers be willing to sacrifice a season this late in his career when he is playing the best football of his life while risking a deterioration of his skills through inactivity? He will turn 39 before the 2022 season is over, and he can't have more than a handful of productive seasons left.
So let’s turn to the other bit of recent news – that some Broncos fans believe Rodgers will be Denver’s quarterback this season.
For various reasons, the Broncos have been the team that most of the Rodgers trade speculation has focused on.
The Broncos acquired Teddy Bridgewater in April, and he has been splitting time with Drew Lock, last year’s starter, in the team’s preseason workouts. Lock’s 2020 performance was inadequate, and Bridgewater was acquired for a sixth-round draft pick, hardly making him a prized possession.
So profootballrumors.com conducted a poll to see which player Broncos fans believe will be Denver’s primary starting quarterback in 2021.
Bridgewater got the most votes, nearly 40 percent, but Rodgers got about as many votes as Lock, a little more than 25 percent.
Of course, fans’ opinions don’t mean team officials have the same outlook, and the Broncos faithful may be divulging their hopes, not their real beliefs.
Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that the people on the outside still believe Rodgers will be traded to the Broncos, which was one of three teams Rodgers cited as teams he’d like to play for.
Cover photo of Aaron Rodgers by Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports
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