The Jordan Love selection at No. 26 overall by the Green Bay Packers was probably the most head-turning moment of the NFL Draft. As much as the team denies it, it is hard to not see it as a clear indication that the team is preparing for life after Aaron Rodgers.
Entering Thursday night, with a historic wide receiver class set to be selected, most assumed the Packers would gear up for 2020. Rodgers himself was the last offensive skill position player the team took with a first round pick. After the Packers made the NFC Championship Game a year ago, it seemed obvious that they would ramp up the offense.
Instead, their 2020 NFL Draft was... forward thinking at best? After the Love selection, Green Bay took running back A.J. Dillon, who will likely be a third stringer and a possible signal that the team doesn't plan on a long-term future with emerging star back Aaron Jones. Other picks were all defensive players and late round offensive linemen. There's a very real chance that not one Packers selection starts a game for the team this fall.
After the Love selection, there has been a wave of speculation over Rodgers' future with the franchise, and whether he could be traded to bring on a true rebuild. As Dan Graziano told ESPN's Get Up this morning, it isn't particularly realistic. Moving on from Rodgers before the 2022 season would be extremely expensive for the team.
Graziano broke down the salary cap situation. Rodgers is just two years into the mega-deal that he signed a few years ago. Even if both Rodgers and the Packers wanted a move, they couldn't do it under the current deal.
"Yeah, pretty much impossible at this point. If they were to trade him now, very hypothetically, it is more than $51 million in dead money on this year's salary cap. It would actually add $29 million to this year's cap. They don't have that cap room to do it if they even want it to.
"If they trade him next year, you're looking at $31 million in dead money. A trade of Aaron Rodgers out of Green Bay is pretty impossible this year, and would be extremely painful for the team next year."
The only way that it would make sense to move on from Rodgers before the 2021 season, Graziano says, is if he is clearly washed up and Jordan Love is set to play at a star-level, which could make the cap hit worth it.
"If you were to do it this time next year, you'd have to be sure Rodgers was done, and Jordan Love was absolutely ready to go and be a star in the NFL in 2021. So asking for a trade is very far fetched, and quite frankly, kind of an insane overreaction. Aaron Rodgers has been there since 2005, he's played in four NFC Championship Games. The notion that the Packers aren't are not Aaron Rodgers in a position to win and succeed and win championships is just not supported by the facts."
So the Packers and Aaron Rodgers are almost definitely joined at the hip for the foreseeable future. Graziano's fellow panelists say that the best thing he can do now is to be a gracious teammate to Love, and try and up his game from here. On the optimistic side of things, others have wondered if he would see a similar late career resurgence that Tom Brady had in the years after the New England Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round back in 2014.
Given how the Pats performed after Garoppolo was picked, and most would sign for that. The likelihood of that level of upswing is pretty low, though.