Aaron Rodgers contract details: Why 2021 could be Packers QB's last season in Green Bay

Written By Jacob Camenker
Aaron Rodgers-092021-GETTY-FTR
(Getty Images)

Aaron Rodgers held out from the Packers during the 2021 NFL offseason and was hoping to be traded. He wanted a fresh start because the Packers weren't letting him have any say in the things that directly affected his job.

The Packers had also selected quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, so Rodgers felt that signal from the organization confirmed that a split was coming for the two sides. So, he thought, why not accelerate it?

"As I felt like, 'If you can't commit to me past 2021, and I'm not a part of recruiting process in free agency, if I'm not a part of the future, instead of letting me be a lame-duck quarterback, if you want to take a chance and move forward, then go ahead and do it.'," Rodgers said in a press conference after he returned to the team.

The Packers, however, wanted to keep Rodgers around, and that caused a quibble between the two parties. It lasted nearly the whole offseason, but eventually, the two sides struck a deal on a revised contract that will keep Rodgers in Green Bay for at least 2021. Beyond that, things get a bit trickier.

What does Aaron Rodgers' contract look like now? And when could he eventually leave the Packers? Here's a breakdown of what Green Bay's revised pact with Rodgers looks like for 2021 and beyond.

MORE: Rodgers sounds off on people questioning work ethic

Aaron Rodgers contract details

Rodgers is in the second year of a four-year contract extension worth $134 million. Rodgers agreed to the deal in 2018, but the new contract terms didn't kick in until 2020. So there were three years left on Rodgers' contract, including the 2021 season.

However, the deal is now a year shorter. Rodgers renegotiated his contract and turned the 2023 season into a "void year." This has become an increasingly popular way for teams to clear cap space by deferring player payments into future years.

NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported that Rodgers will make close to $50 million over the last two years of his deal. The renegotiation with the Packers didn't add any new money to Rodgers' deal.

Year Total value
2021 $22.4 million
2022 $26.9 million

However, Pelissero also reports that the final year of Rodgers' contract voids on the seventh day before the 2023 league year, which usually begins in March ahead of free agency. That's one day after the franchise tag deadline, so that means Rodgers cannot be slapped with a franchise tag in 2023; he'll technically be under contract before that window closes.

As such, Rodgers will be a true free agent in 2023 at the latest. That would be ahead of his age-40 season. However, this deal also could force the Packers to move on from Rodgers during the 2022 NFL offseason depending on how things play out.

QB RANKINGS: Where does Aaron Rodgers rank among NFL's QBs in 2021?

Why the Packers could move on from Aaron Rodgers in 2022

There's nothing specifically forcing the Packers to move on from Rodgers, but Rodgers' cap hit and the presence of Love could loom large here.

Love will be entering the third year of his four-year rookie contract in 2022. Teams can choose whether to exercise a fifth-year option on first-round picks, so the Packers technically have three years of control over Love entering 2022.

That said, the Packers may want to get a look at Love as a starter to see if he's worth signing to an extension. If they wait too long to evaluate Love, they could risk him entering free agency with a small sample size of games played. That would make it hard to give Love a solid valuation.

The urgency to play Love may not be the biggest factor in a split with Rodgers. The veteran quarterback's contract restructure has caused his cap hit to balloon to a whopping $46.1 million in 2022, per Spotrac.com. That would eat up more than 20 percent of the team's salary cap space and they are already projected to be $32.8 million over the salary cap, in 2022 per OverTheCap.com.

MORE: When could Jordan Love start for the Packers?

Cutting or trading Rodgers would result in a dead cap hit of $26.8 million, but it would also free up $19.3 million in cap space. If the Packers are ready to give Love a chance, that extra cap space could allow them to trim their excess spending without getting rid of — or restructuring deals with — too many of the team's weapons.

It would also represent the last chance for the Packers to get a return on their investment in Rodgers. The team should probably unload him for draft capital in 2022 unless they're confident that they can win a Super Bowl that season or decide that Love is a sunk cost.

Either way, Rodgers' contract is structured in a way that makes 2022 the critical year for him and the Packers. That's part of why Rodgers has been treating this year as a "Last Dance" of sorts.

“I think we all know what’s at stake,” Rodgers said in late August, per ProFootballTalk. “I talked about that a little bit the other day about perspective and how important that perspective is to focus on this season and enjoy the most out of this season, because there are a lot of unknowns."

And the biggest unknown of all is the Packers' cap situation heading into 2022.

"They jumped through some hoops to get under the cap this year," Rodgers said. "Obviously, the cap is expected to go back up next year but you never know. So we’re just going to enjoy this season. It’s Title Town. It’s championship or disappointment.”

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