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The Finances of Trading, Keeping Rodgers

The Green Bay Packers have major salary cap problems. Here's how the future of Aaron Rodgers will impact the finances.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Since the story of the day is Nathaniel Hackett becoming coach of the Denver Broncos and his potential interest in acquiring Aaron Rodgers, there are a couple additional components.

One is what the Packers would get in return if Rodgers indeed asked for and was granted a trade by general manager Brian Gutekunst. (We’re working on that angle.)

The second is financial. The Packers are significantly over the salary cap - $50.3 million, according to OverTheCap.com, and $46.3 million, according to Spotrac. An additional allotment of money will be required to get the draft class under contract.

Trading Rodgers would be good for the finances if not the on-the-field product. His cap charge for 2022, his final season under the revised contract agreed to last summer, is about $46.66 million. That’s 22 percent of the team’s cap. Trading him would produce $19.82 million in cap savings.

How do you get to that number? When a player is let go, his base salary is deleted from the salary cap but the prorated amount of his signing bonus is all pushed onto the current year’s cap. In the case of Rodgers, there’s $19.17 million of signing bonus on the 2022 salary cap and $7.67 million of signing bonus that was moved onto the 2023 cap as part of the void season that was inserted into last summer’s restructure to help with the 2021 salary cap. That’s about $26.84 million of “dead money” on the cap. Subtract that figure from his $46.66 million cap charge and you get the $19.82 million of cap relief.

If Rodgers stays with the Packers, it presumably will be with a long-term extension in line with the team’s goal – stated by coach Matt LaFleur on Monday – of keeping Rodgers in Green Bay until he retires.

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CBSSports.com’s Joel Corry, a former NFL agent, laid out a potential Rodgers extension this week. He envisioned a four-year extension that included a record $75 million signing bonus. That would mean $75 million split over five seasons (2022 and the four-year extension through the 2026 season) for accounting purposes, or $15 million per season. If Rodgers took a 2022 base salary of about $1.47 million, it would lower Rodgers’ cap number for the upcoming season by exactly $10 million.

Another option, which Corry discussed via DM, would be to use less of a signing bonus but hefty start-of-league-year roster bonuses. A four-year extension with a $25 million signing bonus would mean a proration of $5 million per season. Following Corry’s lead, if Rodgers took a 2022 base salary of about $1.47 million, it would lower his cap number the upcoming season by exactly $20 million.

The Packers could make up the money and get to Corry’s $75 million number with $25 million roster bonuses at the start of the league-year in 2023 and 2024. The Packers could pay those and take advantage of expected sharp increases in the salary cap, or they could turn those roster bonuses into signing bonuses as they come due, which would allow that money to be spread out over the final years of the contract for cap purposes.

The salary cap site Spotrac laid out some options, too.

Finally, Rodgers could take less money to help his pursuit of an elusive second Super Bowl win. As Corry noted, that’s what Drew Brees did toward the end of his career. This would be the ideal scenario from team’s perspective, obviously, though Rodgers has never given the team much, if any, of a discount. Comparatively, Tom Brady played under below-market contracts for years. His two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is worth $50 million, or $25 million per season.

The extension that Rodgers signed before the 2018 season is worth $33.5 million per season. That $8.5 million difference could pay for a really good player.