GREEN BAY – The trade of quarterback Aaron Rodgers took longer to finalize than he expected, but General Manager Brian Gutekunst feels good about three items it accomplished for the Packers.
It's not easy to say goodbye to a future Hall of Famer, but the move:
- Adds a key draft asset that can be utilized immediately.
- Provides adequate overall compensation befitting a player of Rodgers' caliber.
- Gives Green Bay an entirely different salary-cap outlook in 2024.
Gutekunst addressed the trade implications Wednesday, a little more than 24 hours before the 2023 NFL Draft begins.
In the immediate, the Packers acquired an additional second-round draft pick this year, moved up two spots in the first round, from No. 15 to No. 13 overall, and surrendered a fifth-round pick for a sixth-rounder from the Jets.
Shifting two spots in the first round doesn't necessarily change the team's outlook or strategy heading into Thursday night, with the draft board already set. A couple more players might be under consideration that otherwise would've been gone.
But the extra second-rounder, No. 42 overall to go with Green Bay's original at No. 45, sets up more possibilities for moving around to target certain players and/or maximize value as events unfold.
"Getting the compensation for this year and the extra '2' I think is very helpful in this draft," Gutekunst said. "There's some good players that I think will be available. If we do want to move around, I think that gives us a lot more flexibility as well, especially at the top of the draft."
Regarding the overall compensation, Gutekunst joked he wanted "a lot of things to start out with" when negotiations with Jets GM Joe Douglas began. But he's satisfied the future consideration is a minimum second-round pick next year that can become a first-rounder based on Rodgers' playing time. The condition is essentially injury protection for the Jets.
"Next year's pick was very important to me, as well," Gutekunst said. "Aaron's such a great player, has meant so much to this organization, and if we were going to move on from him, I thought we needed to get something of fair value back that could help this football team. Not only this year but in years to come, and I think we were able to accomplish that."
Cap-wise, the Packers are taking a substantial hit in 2023, having to count roughly $40 million of bonus money already paid to Rodgers that hadn't yet counted against the cap. But by absorbing that entire hit this year, financially speaking Rodgers is off the books in 2024 and Green Bay's current tight cap situation will loosen considerably.
The only way for the Packers to ease their cap burden for this year would've been to trade Rodgers after June 1, but that would have taken immediate help in the upcoming draft off the table.
"The assets in this draft would not have been available to us," Gutekunst said of a later trade scenario. "Obviously we're beyond free agency, so kind of taking it now and maybe clearing some stuff up for next year, I thought that was a better route for us to take."
In chasing a championship with Rodgers amidst the downturn in the cap due to the 2020 pandemic season, the Packers pushed more cap charges than usual into the future to keep the team together and not be forced to release proven but costly veteran players. Rodgers' cap charges were part of that, and the financial picture changes next year as a result of the trade.
"At some point you gotta figure that out," Gutekunst said regarding the cap charges coming due. "I think this will help us do that. It's not everything. It's not like we're getting clear of everything, but it'll certainly help us next year. We're excited to kind of move passed this particular piece and have some assets for next year."
Green Bay's focus on the future begins with 24-year-old quarterback Jordan Love, whom Gutekunst said he had a "great conversation with" on Wednesday. The former first-round pick has been in Green Bay since the offseason program began last Monday in preparation for his first season as the Packers' starting quarterback.
"He's excited, I think his teammates are excite for him to get his opportunity," Gutekunst said. "I think he's in a really good place, he's in great shape. Again, it's really early but I think he's ready for this opportunity and excited for it."