Will Aaron Rodgers retire now, stop retiring later?

Will Aaron Rodgers retire now, stop retiring later?
Will Aaron Rodgers retire now, stop retiring later?

While Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers continues to feign general ignorance about the necessity of a decision on his future, there is a very specific path he could potentially take.

With so much speculation about the possibility of Rodgers following in Brett Favre’s footsteps to the Jets, Rodgers could go full Favre another way.

Rodgers could retire, and then he could retire later.

While no one knows what Rodgers will do, the current take on his situation is consistent with the possibility that he would walk away from the Packers now — and that he would make a U-turn at a point that would force the team to either release him or trade him to a team other than the Jets or Raiders, the two franchises that have been most linked to him.

If the Packers don’t want Rodgers to stay (and longtime Packers reporter Bob McGinn has said in no uncertain terms that they’re ready to swing Jordan Love), but if they also resist the option of trading him to the team of their choice ( whatever it was), this would be a way for Rodgers to take control of the situation.

Rodgers has a fully guaranteed $58.3 million option bonus that is largely exercisable between March 17 and Week One of the regular season. If he had resigned before the window opened, and if he had resigned before the window closed, the Packers would be on the clock, bound by the obligation to pay him either the option bonus or owe the same amount in base salary for 2023.

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When Favre retired in 2008, the Packers were able to carry his $12 million compensation package under the salary cap. That allowed the team to take the time to trade him out of the conference. If Rodgers were to suddenly return in late July, as Favre did, the Packers would have to immediately comply with the cap, if Rodgers’ total salary of $59.465 million for 2023 would put them over the top.

Unless the Packers deliberately find a way to save $60 million in cap space (it won’t be easy, given that they’re currently projected to be over the cap for 2023), Rodgers could force them to give him away to anyone who would take him by the end of the same business day that his contract ended up back on the Packers’ cap calculation.

And the new team wouldn’t need nearly $60 million in cap space, as it would immediately exercise the option, spreading $58.3 million over four seasons — and lowering the 2023 cap figure to $15.74 million.

There is another significant benefit to retiring now and holding off on retiring later. If Rodgers wants to keep playing but doesn’t want to embrace the offseason program with the Packers or any team, the easiest way to skip OTAs would be to go all out on football.

So, instead of being hounded by the New York media and taking backside slings and arrows for choosing peyote (or some other hallucinogen) over his playbook, Rodgers won’t face criticism. He wanted to retire.

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But what about the feeling that teams need to know what he’s doing now? Well, consider the situation from Rodgers’ perspective.

When Favre suddenly retired, teams were ready to abandon established quarterback plans right away to acquire him. The Buccaneers were ready to do it. The Vikings would have done it. (They did a year later.) And the Jets, obviously, happily hit the trigger on Chad Pennington.

Perhaps Rodgers believes that regardless of the teams that welcome him to town now, there will be teams that would be happy to add him if he retires later. He’s Aaron Rodgers, not an afterthought in the middle of the pack.

Although his play dipped in 2022, he was the MVP in 2020 and 2021. If we fast forward to training camp and Rodgers suddenly becomes available to play, there will likely be several teams — and possibly a true contender or two — who will give their the current QB1 Pennington treatment.

Of course, the ultimate outcome for the 2008 Jets could be the cautionary tale for the team that would pounce on Rodgers later. After the Jets dumped Pennington, he landed in Miami. The Dolphins, not the Jets, won the division in 2008. And Pennington was named Comeback Player of the Year.

For now, here’s the point. While we wait for Rodgers to tell us what he’s going to do, don’t rule out the possibility that he’ll disappear now – and come back later.

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