On Dec. 27, 2019, three days after the Green Bay Packers clinched the NFC North title with a Week 16 win over the Minnesota Vikings, ESPN’s Field Yates reported the Packers restructured Aaron Rodgers contract.
“The Packers converted $14.26M of Aaron Rodgers’ 2020 $19.5M roster bonus into a signing bonus, which allows that money to prorate over five seasons, including 2019,” Yates tweeted, noting the move created $11 million in cap space for 2020.
The conversion came two years after Rodgers signed the four-year, $134-million deal when he had two years remaining on his previous five-year, $110-million deal (2015-19). For those scoring at home, the conversion came in 2019 for a deal signed before the 2018 NFL season that didn’t begin until 2020.
It meant the Packers gave Rodgers $14.26 million as a signing bonus in 2019, which allowed them to spread out the cap hit over five years (2019-23). In prorating the hit over five years, it decreased his 2020 cap hit by $11.408 but increased his 2021-23 cap hits by $2.852 million each year.
At the time, it was a notable deferral decision that allowed the Packers to maximize cap space in making a Super Bowl push in 2020 – and potentially beyond if they kicked Rodgers’ cap hit farther down the road. While notable, it also felt irrelevant, a Monopoly-money move that mattered for roster management, not Aaron Rodgers’ future.
That was before the Packers traded up to select Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the key trigger in pushing Rodgers’ long-held frustrations with the organization to a boiling point. Sixteen months after Yates’ seemingly harmless report, the details of that conversion and every other detail in Aaron Rodgers’ contract are highly relevant.
Packers’ head coach Matt LaFleur told Michael Silver one day after Love was drafted.
While LaFleur, nor general manager Brian Gutekunst, hinted at a timeline for the Rodgers-to-Love transition, it seemed probable Rodgers wouldn’t play out the remainder of his contract through the 2023 season. That left us guessing which numbers and dates could come into play if he retires or is traded or released. One year later, we’re still guessing, though the lens has narrowed as Rodgers is holed up in California.
The $134-million deal (worth up to $138 million with salary escalators and incentives) included $98.2 million in guarantees, $79.2 million of which was fully guaranteed at signing via a signing bonus, two roster bonuses, and one workout bonus:
Signing Bonus: $57.5 million
2018 Workout Bonus: $500,000
2018 Roster Bonus: $7.8 million
2019 Roster Bonus: $13.4 million
And with the late-2019 conversion, Rodgers has a cap hit of at least $37 million in each of the next two years:
|Year||Base||Cap Hit||Dead Cap|
“We’re not going to trade Aaron Rodgers,” Gutekunst said after the first round of the 2021 draft. “He’s our quarterback, he’s our leader. We’ve been working through for a little while now. It may take some time. He’s the guy that makes this thing go. He gives us the best chance to win. We’re going to work towards that end.”
Gutekunst said after the first round of the 2021 draft.
If that changes and Rodgers is traded before June 1, Rodgers would keep a $6.8-million roster bonus (paid in March) and leave behind a cap hit of $38.356 million for 2021, the biggest dead cap in NFL history.
If traded after June 1, Rodgers would still keep the $6.8-million roster bonus but leave behind a cap hit of $21.152 million for 2021 and $17.204 million for 2022. (If traded after the 2021 season but before the 2022 season, it’d be the same $17.204-million cap hit, though no roster bonus is due in 2022.)
It’s worth noting Rodgers doesn’t have a no-trade clause in his contract, Tom Silverstein reported this week.
The Packers won’t release Aaron Rodgers in 2021. Even if released after June 1, the savings are minimal. They could, however, release him in 2022 with two years remaining on his contract.
If he’s released in 2022, the Packers will save $22.648 million while swallowing a dead cap hit of $17.204 million for 2022. There is no roster bonus due in 2022, and there’d be nothing on the books for 2023.
If Rodgers retires, which Ian Rapoport said is a “serious” option, he might have to repay the $6.8-million roster bonus and would have to repay $23 million from his $57.5-million signing bonus – $11.5 million for each of the remaining two prorated cap years, 2021 and 2022.
That’s $29.8 million to retire.
If Rodgers goes AWOL and doesn’t report to required offseason activities, training camp, and/or regular-season duties, he could be subject to several financial penalties, including repayment of the roster bonus and signing bonus, along with forfeiture of game checks and fines by the Packers (up to $50,000 per day).
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