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Sport Agent's Take: How the Packers can repair Aaron Rodgers situation to his liking without a trade

05:55  05 may  2021
05:55  05 may  2021 Source:   cbssports.com

Aaron Rodgers timeline: A series of events that led to Packers rift, ignited trade rumors

  Aaron Rodgers timeline: A series of events that led to Packers rift, ignited trade rumors Aaron Rodgers is one of the baddest men in the NFL, and now he's stuck in a situation that he may not be able to wiggle out of.While the match between one of the NFL's baddest men and one of the league's most storied franchises has been one made in heaven, the schism between the franchise and the player has seemingly sent the relationship to hell.

In the hours leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, ESPN's Aaron Schefter revealed Aaron Rodgers told the Packers he didn't want to return to the team, prompting speculation a trade could be imminent. Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst, head coach Matt LaFleur and president and CEO Mark Murphy have traveled separately to meet with Rodgers this offseason. After news of Rodgers' discontent became public, the Packers have been adamant the reigning NFL MVP won't be traded.

a group of people standing next to a man © Provided by CBS Sports

There have been different accounts of what would placate Rodgers. Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson reported Rodgers won't play for the Packers as long as Gutekunst remains general manager. According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, Athlete First's David Dunn, Rodgers' agent, has had contract discussions in Green Bay with the Packers' brass over the last month. The Packers were interested in restructuring Rodgers' contract, while he wanted a contract extension. Retirement is an option for Rodgers unless the situation can be "repaired to his liking," suggesting there is a path for Green Bay to salvage things.

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  Aaron Rodgers-Packers drama timeline: How Green Bay and the QB have grown apart According to reports, Rodgers doesn't want to return to the Packers next season. It's been a few years in the makingGreen Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) walks off the field fter the Green Bay Packers 31-26 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship playoff game Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

The fix

Green Bay mending fences without trading Rodgers or firing Gutekunst could be a two-step process. Reversing course with a commitment to trade Jordan Love, whose presence is a major cause of Rodgers' rift with the Packers, would probably need to be made.

The Packers traded up to the 26th overall pick last year to take Love as Rodgers' potential successor at quarterback rather than selecting someone in the first round who could make an immediate contribution, perhaps an offensive weapon in a deep wide receiver draft class, after advancing to the NFC Championship Game. Adding insult to injury from Rodgers' perspective, he was blindsided by the Love pick instead of being alerted beforehand.

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Business of Football: The Parallels Between Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre Continue

  Business of Football: The Parallels Between Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre Continue Last year our Andrew Brandt said the Packers' QB situation was déjà vu all over again. It's only feeling more familiar now. I have written often in this space about my decade as vice president of the Packers. I spent three of those years with Brett Favre—one of the game’s iconic superstars at that time—as our starting quarterback and Aaron Rodgers as his backup. There was tension in that situation between the two of them that surfaced from time to time; we were able to keep that largely hidden from public view.

Rodgers seemingly responded by having arguably his best season as a pro. He set career highs with 48 touchdown passes and a 70.7 completion percentage, which both led the NFL. Rodgers also had a league best 121.5 passer rating and passed for 4,299 yards. For the second straight year, the Packers lost in the NFC title game.

Murphy has proclaimed the Packers are committed to Rodgers in 2021 and beyond. The second step would be the Packers putting their money where Murphy's mouth is by giving Rodgers an extension, although there are three years remaining on his contract. Rodgers, who turns 38 in December, has previously indicated on several occasions he plans on playing into his 40s.

The four-year, $134 million extension (worth up to $138 million through salary escalators and incentives) Rodgers signed during the preseason in 2018 averages $33.5 million per year. There were two years left on Rodgers' existing contract when he became the NFL's highest paid player.

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Rodgers' contract has become outdated since the signing. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes tops the NFL pay scale at $45 million per year with the unique 10-year extension he signed last offseason. Dak Prescott is next with the four-year, $160 million deal averaging $40 million per year he received from the Cowboys in March. An NFL-record $95 million fully guaranteed at signing, which includes the largest signing bonus ever at $66 million, is in Prescott's contract.

Rodgers has $66.2 million in the three years left on his contract, which doesn't include a $6.8 million roster bonus earned in March on the third of the league year. His remaining 2021 compensation consists of a $14.7 million roster bonus and $500,000 workout bonus. Rodgers is scheduled to make $25.5 million each year in 2022 and 2023.


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The DeAndre Hopkins blueprint

Players receiving extensions with three years remaining is unusual. A blueprint does exist. It was created last year with Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. He had three years remaining on his contract for $39.915 million when he signed a two-year, $54.5 million extension right before the 2020 regular season started. Hopkins became the NFL's highest paid non-quarterback at $27.25 million per year. $42.75 million of Hopkins' contract was fully guaranteed, which included a $27.5 million signing bonus. Hopkins got a no-trade clause, the final year of the contract can void based on his performance and the Cardinals can't designate him as franchise or transition player when the deal expires.

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  Coach Matt LaFleur 'can't even take my brain to that spot' of Aaron Rodgers not in Green Bay Add head coach Matt LaFleur to the chorus of voices struggling to imagine quarterback Aaron Rodgers in anything but a Green Bay Packers uniform. LaFleur was clear in his desire for Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP, to return to the Packers squad in 2021. He joins team president Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst, who both voiced support for having Rodgers after reports surfaced that the star was unhappy with the team. LaFleur 'can't fathom' Rodgers not in Green Bay LaFleur said he wants to do everything in his power to make Rodgers, 37, want to return. It's Rodgers who is reportedly unwilling to come back.

Every deal I did in my numerous years as an agent was over how much new money and how many new contract years may be added when a player had contract years remaining. Negotiations weren't conducted as if deals were being ripped up like a player wasn't already under contract even with a significant amount of time remaining.

The Hopkins deal has 30.3 percent of the $54.5 million in new money after the first contract year or 2020. The percentage of new money barely increases to $30.7 million after 2021. There's nearly 37 percent of new money through the three remaining contract years or 2022. Hopkins has just over 72.5 percent of the new money through the first new contract year of 2023.

The most player-friendly contract structures are typically reserved for the league's best quarterbacks, given their importance to a team's success. There is a major factor distinguishing Rodgers from the Hopkins situation that could impact his ability to get a superior structure.

The Cardinals were starting fresh with Hopkins since he was acquired in a trade with the Texans a few months prior. This meant the Cardinals weren't contending with any existing bonus proration on the salary cap.

Rodgers extension considerations

A two-year extension that's satisfactory to Rodgers would likely need to make him the NFL's highest paid player ahead of Mahomes' $45 million per year. This would mean more than $90 million new money allocated over the five years of a contract running through the 2025 season.

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  NFL removes ‘Rodgers vs. Mahomes’ from schedule-release promo The NFL will release its complete 2021 schedule on Wednesday. A promo for the release that aired roughly a week ago highlighted several matchups we will see this year, and “Rodgers vs. Mahomes” was the first one mentioned. You can see the commercial below: Your browser does not support this video Brad Callas of Complex Sports noted on Sunday that the NFL has released a new version of the ad. The part that said “Rodgers vs. Mahomes” in the original has been replaced with “Jackson vs. Mahomes,” referencing when Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens will take on the Chiefs.

Becoming the highest paid player would be meaningless for Rodgers without substantial contract guarantees. The ability to void out of the final year wouldn't be necessary since Rodgers turns 42 in 2025.

Rodgers' 2021 and 2022 cap numbers of $37.202 million and $39.852 million would at worse need to remain the same. The Packers really aren't in position for an increase to Rodgers' 2022 cap number. There are currently a league high $223,393,875 of 2022 cap commitments for the Packers with just 33 players under contract, according to NFLPA data.

The easiest way to fit an extension within these constraints is to give Rodgers a big signing bonus where his $14.7 million 2021 base salary is lowered significantly, if not to his $1.075 million league minimum salary. For example, a $50 million signing bonus where Rodgers' 2021 base salary drops to $4.7 million while also getting rid of the $1 million in incentives for each of the existing years would make his new 2021 cap number $36.352 million. This is because there's already $14.352 million bonus proration and the $6.8 million roster bonus accounting for $21.152 million of Rodgers' 2021 cap number while the $850,000 of incentives on Green Bay's cap as likely to be earned are being eliminated. The new $10 million of annual proration from the $50 million signing bonus, the $4.7 million base salary and $500,000 workout bonus would make up the other $15.2 million of Rodgers' 2021 cap number.

Rodgers' 2022 compensation couldn't be more than $15.5 million to keep his 2022 cap number from increasing. There would be $24.352 million of bonus proration from the $14.352 million already existing and the $10 million created by the new signing bonus.

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Rodgers would have to make more than $95 million through 2023, excluding the $6.8 million from the March roster bonus, to set a new standard for money fully guaranteed at signing. In essence, the first three years running through 2023 would likely need to be fully guaranteed. Rodgers' third year cap number in turn would exceed $40 million. The salary cap should probably start to see tremendous increases by 2023 because of the new media rights deals.

Rodgers' 2024 and 2025 cap numbers wouldn't be much more than $40 million, depending upon much how more than $90 million of new money was being added. There would have to more than $156.2 million over the five contract years running through 2025 for there to be over $90 million in new money since Rodgers has $66.2 million left in his current deal.

Final thoughts

All of this assumes the relationship with Rodgers isn't beyond repair. My experience as an agent was money talked in a rift with a player. If Rodgers truly feels there's too much water under the bridge at this point, no amount money will make a difference to him. The ultimate resolution between Rodgers and the Packers remains to be seen. In any event, I really don't expect the Packers to go the extension route because of my skepticism in any deviation from the apparent original plan of having Love become Rodgers' replacement as early as next season. The $22.648 million of 2022 cap room that would be gained from Rodgers' departure could really come in handy given Green Bay's cap situation for next year.

Aaron Rodgers tips his hand on Packers drama — with an assist from Davante Adams .
The Packers quarterback declined to speak publicly when he showed up at Saturday's Kentucky Derby. It certainly doesn't benefit the Packers to put that out there hours before the NFL draft. Rodgers provides a glimmer of insight Into the new week, Rodgers has maintained his silence, allowing speculation to simmer on what he really thinks. Mostly. As of Tuesday, Rodgers hasn't spoken publicly on the report. But he did offer a nugget of insight with an assist from his top target Davante Adams.

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