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The Win-Win-Lose of a Hypothetical COVID Opt-Out by Rodgers

Setting aside the impact on the field, the COVID-19 opt-out for Aaron Rodgers hypothesized by Pro Football Talk has plenty of financial intrigue.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Could a COVID-19 opt-out give Aaron Rodgers the equivalent of a “Get Out of Jail Free” card?

In an interesting hypothesis, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio presented the possibility of Rodgers opting out of the upcoming season. That decision would have to be made by Friday, July 2. Once a decision is made, one way or the other, there’s no turning back.

As noted by Florio, it would be a major financial victory for Rodgers if he is 100 percent set on not returning to the Packers.

“The benefit to doing so comes from the fact that he would not forfeit $11.5 million in unearned signing bonus money for 2021 if he opts out. Also, he presumably would still receive the payments on the $6.8 million roster bonus that he earned in March, and that is due to be paid out in weekly installments during the season.

“That’s $18.3 million that he’ll keep by opting out. If he doesn’t opt out but holds out, he loses that $18.3 million — and would be fined roughly $2 million on top of it for skipping training camp.”

Rodgers is under contract through the 2023 season. When Devin Funchess signed a one-year deal last offseason but opted out, that contract shifted to 2021. It would be the same story with Rodgers. If he opts out, his contract would run through the 2024 season. His 2021 contract (minus the signing bonus) would shift to 2022, 2022 to 2023 and 2023 to 2024.

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While the forced transition from Rodgers to Jordan Love might throw the on-the-field product for a major loss given Love's predictably up-and-down offseason practices, there would be major financial gains for the Packers if Rodgers chose to opt out.

As noted by OverTheCap.com’s Jason Fitzgerald, Rodgers’ cap charge for 2021 would drop from $36.702 million to $6.8 million, a savings of $29.902 million. That would be a financial windfall that could be used for contract extensions (Davante Adams or Jaire Alexander) or simply carried forward to next season, when Green Bay is a league-worst $35.28 million over the established cap ceiling of $208.2 million.

Moreover, according to OTC, Rodgers’ cap charge for 2022 would fall from $39.852 million to $30.402 million, a savings of $9.45 million.

Added together, the $29.902 million savings in 2021 and the $9.45 million savings in 2022 would result in a $39.352 million swing. Suddenly, the Packers would go from the worst cap situation in the league to $4.07 million under the cap.

“The cost to trade Rodgers would remain high ($31.556M) next year,” Fitzgerald wrote, “but there would be no rush for Green Bay to execute the move and they could in theory even delay it to June 2 if they found a partner to play ball since his cap number would have dropped by so much following the opt out. The decision would also be far easier for all involved since they would have 17 games of Love to evaluate. If Love is terrible, then they know it is time to mend the fences with Rodgers and continue the relationship with no threat of benching for the next three years. If Love is good, they can trade Rodgers without all the negativity that would come with it this year.”

For another layer, if Rodgers’ goal is to not just get out of Green Bay but to inflict the most damage possible to his employer of the past 16 seasons, presumably his trade value would be less after sitting out a season. So, not only would the Packers not have Rodgers’ talents on the field but they might have to take a lesser boatload of draft picks in a trade.