Let's get this out of the way: Aaron Rodgers will be the Green Bay Packers' starting quarterback in 2021.
No matter how good the Packers believe Jordan Love is, they aren't going to trade a top-three quarterback fresh off an MVP season and eat a $31.5 million dead cap hit. It's bad business no matter how you slice it.
Rodgers' postgame comments after the Packers' NFC Championship Game loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had many points. Rodgers saw a team in the Bucs who gave Tom Brady everything he asked for to compete for a title, while the Packers went cheap in free agency and used their first-round pick on Love. Rodgers undoubtedly is telling the Packers to either go all-in or send him to a team that will.
There's also another layer as Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported Monday that Rodgers wants a new contract from the Packers, one that pays him in the ballpark of Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson. Rodgers currently is set to make 22.35 million in 2021, 25.5 million in 2022 and 25.5 million in 2023. His average per year in new money is $33.5 million, which ties him with Jared Goff. (Yikes.)
So, Rodgers clearly is underpaid for the level he's still playing at and deserves a new contract that pays him like the elite quarterback that he is. The Packers could show Rodgers they are committed to him by giving him a new contract that could significantly lower his cap hit next season and give the Packers some breathing room to add to their roster.
The 49ers always will be a team that's mentioned whenever a top-tier quarterback might be changing zip codes. The Niners have been mentioned as a good landing spot for both Watson and Matthew Stafford as questions about Jimmy Garoppolo's ability to lead them to a Super Bowl persist.
As it stands right now, the 49ers are entering the offseason in a cap crunch. Assuming the league sets the cap at $185 million, the 49ers should start with $38 million in salary-cap space, thanks to the calculations of The Athletics' Dave Lombardi. The 49ers will have to set aside money for a new contract for left tackle Trent Williams and an extension for linebacker Fred Warner. Add those deals with the money set aside for the NFL draft pool and the 49ers should be operating with about $8 million or somewhere around there in cap room.
The 49ers will have to set money aside to revamp their secondary -- they only have two cornerbacks currently under contract -- and add depth to the offensive line.
So, back to Rodgers. He currently is set to have a cap hit of $37 million for the Packers in 2021. However, if he were to be traded that cap hit goes down to $22.7 million since the prorated bonus is on the Packers' tab.
If Rodgers does ask for a new contract and the Packers are unwilling to commit to him in that manner, it could open the door for the 49ers to trade for him and then restructure his contract, giving him the higher new-money average he wants while lowering his cap hit for 2021 to ease the burden on the 49ers.
The $22.7 million cap hit isn't undoable, but the deal is more attractive for the 49ers if they can find a way to lower that number further and round out the roster around Rodgers.
Now, what would it cost to acquire Rodgers? The price certainly would start at three first-round draft picks. Yes, he's 37 but he also is coming off an MVP season and isn't showing signs of diminishing. Plus, if the Packers are going to lose an elite QB and take a massive dead cap hit, they have to exact a heavy toll from the team getting Rodgers.
All this, of course, is unlikely. The smart money is on the Packers giving Rodgers the new deal he wants, restructuring the deal to lower his 2021 cap hit for them and then using that saving to actually spend on the roster around him. Rodgers' words did what they were supposed to and made his future the lead story on every show and website across the country.
He's forcing the Packers' hand, and I don't think Green Bay can or will trade him. It's bad business.
But if the Packers don't want to commit more money to an aging star quarterback, Rodgers' desire for a new contract could open up the very slim possibility of him finishing his career with the 49ers.