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Grading Packers on Salary Cap Curve: Rodgers and Quarterbacks

In the first of a series of season-ending report cards, we look at the Green Bay Packers’ quarterbacks through the lenses of performance and the salary cap.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Because Aaron Rodgers had a disappointing season, the Green Bay Packers had a disappointing season, as well.

That stands to reason. The salary cap plays such a hugely important role in building a team. To win, teams need their big-budget players to deliver big-time performances and some of their smaller-budget players to outperform their contracts.

With that in mind, here is Part 1 of our annual series of player grades as viewed through the lens of the salary cap. All cap figures are from Analytical stats are from Pro Football Focus and Sports Info Solutions.

Aaron Rodgers ($28.53 million; fifth among quarterbacks)

In 2021, Aaron Rodgers won his fourth MVP and second in a row. He led the NFL in passer rating (119.1), touchdown percentage (7.0) and interception percentage (0.8), and was third in completion percentage (68.9) and sixth in yards per attempt (7.75).

In 2022, the fall from the top was swift and steep. He finished 16th in rating, 12th in touchdown percentage, 24th in interception percentage, 20th in completion percentage and 23rd in yards per attempt.

After the season, Rodgers pointed to the offseason trade of Davante Adams and the enormous transition.

“I feel like, obviously, losing Davante was a big deal,” Rodgers said after the season-ending loss to Detroit. “We didn’t fill that void. Nobody can. He’s super-human. He’s phenomenal. There was hope in certain things that were going to fill that void. Ultimately, that just didn’t happen. The things we were able to do, I think, may have been taken for granted at times because we were able to create so many different things in the moment over the years, and especially the last couple of years, because not much changed other than his absence from the lineup.”

True, but the Kansas City Chiefs also traded their premier receiver, Tyreek Hill, to the Miami Dolphins. Green Bay replaced Adams with rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs and veteran Sammy Watkins. The Chiefs replaced Hill with free agents JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and rookie Skyy Moore.

Is there a substantial difference, one way or the other? Probably not. Of course, the Chiefs have all-world tight end Travis Kelce, so it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, but Mahomes is going to win MVP this year and there’s probably more than one member of the organization that is ready to turn the page.

Maybe the thumb was a bigger problem than he let on. That would explain why his on-target rate of 74.3 percent was his lowest in SIS’s eight years of grading and his passer rating on passes thrown 0 to 9 yards downfield was one of the worst in the league.

Maybe with a healthy thumb, a settled offensive line and the experience gained by Watson and Doubs, Rodgers will be in the mix for a fifth MVP and the Packers will be on their way to the Super Bowl in 12 months. Or maybe not.

Grade: D.

Jordan Love ($3.38 million; 38th among quarterbacks)

Jordan Love played 26 snaps in four games – garbage time against the Vikings, Jets and Vikings again, and his eye-opening performance in the fourth quarter of the loss at the Eagles. Love completed 6-of-9 passes for 113 yards and one touchdown at Philadelphia. He was sharp mentally and physically.

It wasn’t quite like Rodgers going 18-of-26 for 201 yards and one touchdown in relief of Brett Favre at Dallas in 2007, but Love’s potential was on full display for 10 snaps. He was so much better than he was during losses at the Chiefs and Lions in 2021.

“We really like the development of where Jordan is. I think he’s ready to play. I think that’s the next step in his development,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said at the end of the season. “It’s like any quarterback in the National Football League when they haven’t done it. You go into that and there’s some unknowns. They’ve got to handle a lot of different things, see a lot of different things before they can get to a point where they can win games in this league.”

By that standard, Rodgers could be the 60-year-old starter and Love the 45-year-old backup.

The Packers, of course, know if Love is a starting-caliber quarterback. It perhaps was telling that, even with Rodgers grappling with a broken thumb and then injured ribs and the team losing one game after another, Green Bay continued to roll out Rodgers instead of getting Love about 300 snaps of starting experience during the final five games of the season.

Grade: Incomplete.

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