Aaron Rodgers grew up rooting for the 49ers, in a hometown just a few hours’ drive from San Francisco.
Now that it appears his potential exit from the organization he spent his first 15 NFL seasons with could approaching, will Niners general manager John Lynch pull off a blockbuster trade and bring the former MVP in from the Green Bay Packers?
#Packers QB Aaron Rodgers to end our call: "There are some new factors that are out of my control. And so my sincere desire to start and finish with the same organization, just as it has with many other players over the years, may not be a reality at this point." pic.twitter.com/sZIcfOwwhk— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) May 15, 2020
The short answer is no. The 49ers have quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo down for a $26 million cap hit in 2020, and coach Kyle Shanahan along with Lynch have stopped at nothing to praise Garoppolo in recent months. Plus, the Packers are unlikely to trade Rodgers to a team it competes with every year for playoff positioning. After all, the Niners outscored Green Bay 74-28 in two meetings last season, including the NFC Championship Game.
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Lynch also has not shown a willingness to trade one, let along multiple first-round picks as the asking price on Rodgers won’t be cheap.
While a trade is unlikely in the near future, Rodgers is owed a substantial $6.8 million roster bonus on March 19, 2021. If the situation continues to boil over and the sides can’t patch things up, Green Bay could cut its losses, though not without a sizable $31.5 million in dead money being added onto their cap. Lynch and Shanahan kicked the tires on 42-year-old free agent Tom Brady this offseason, why wouldn’t they look into a player a handful of years younger who has had so much success in his career?
Free agency would be a much clearer path to the 49ers, but there also is the case of Garoppolo. Critics were lining up in droves to hammer Jimmy G after San Francisco blew a double-digit lead in Super Bowl LIV, in particular his third-down overthrow of the now-departed Emmanuel Sanders, a play that still haunts Sanders.
Now that the championship expectations are in place, no member of the organization has more pressure on them going into 2020 than Garoppolo. If he shows a noticeable regression and the 49ers can’t bring the Lombardi Trophy back to the Bay Area in each of the next two seasons, the Garoppolo bandwagon will become a heck of a lot lighter.
The long answer is the 49ers’ championship window never has been more wide open in the 21st century than it is now. When teams don’t hit their goals in the NFL, the blame falls on the organization’s most critical triumvirate: the general manager, coach and starting quarterback.
Shanahan likely would have a lot of fun devising a scheme around Rodgers’ outstanding arm talent. He even said last season that "nobody on the planet throws it better" than Rodgers. Lynch could start to feel the heat if several playoff appearances come up short, and pivot to a win-now mindset. That mindset could mean the organization chooses to move forward without Garoppolo.
Rodgers’ ties to the 49ers always have been well documented, from draft night in 2005 all the way to several heartbreaking playoff losses. But the only way we’ll be seeing Shanahan and Rodgers sharing a locker room in Santa Clara is if Garoppolo takes a massive step back in 2020. Even if Jimmy G does regress but the Niners still fulfill their dreams and win a championship, it’d be hard for the organization to move on.
Garoppolo admirably remained a consummate professional throughout the turbulent offseason chatter, and the organization has remained steadfast in supporting him.
But if outside pressure continues to mount in the coming years, those blissful feelings could evolve.