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Why The Green Bay Packers Should Have Traded Aaron Rodgers To The Denver Broncos

The Green Bay Packers would have received far more draft capital by trading Aaron Rodgers to Denver … [+] in 2022 instead of to the New York Jets in 2023.

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Two sub-.500 football teams will meet Sunday afternoon in the mile high altitude of Denver.

The Green Bay Packers are five games into the Jordan Love-era. And with the Packers sitting at 2-3 overall, no one is certain how long this period will last.

Denver is 23 games into the Russell Wilson experiment. And by the looks of it, the Broncos could pull the plug at the end of the 2023 campaign.

Before Wilson became a Bronco, Denver tried repeatedly to pry Aaron Rodgers away from Green Bay — the most recent coming after the 2021 campaign. At the time, though, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst refused to deal Rodgers.

Hindsight is always 20-20. But had Gutekunst traded Rodgers to Denver, the Packers and Broncos would both be in better shape today. Instead, Gutekunst shipped Rodgers to the New York Jets a year later and got far less in the trade than if he made a deal with Denver the previous offseason.

Today, the Broncos and Packers both have more questions than answers at quarterback — the most important position in sports. And if there were “do overs” in sports, both sides would undoubtedly love to go back in time and work out a trade where Rodgers became a Bronco — not a Jet.

Here’s a look back at Gutekunst’s decision to keep Rodgers a year too long, and what might have happened if he worked out a deal with Denver instead of New York.


On March 16, 2022, the Seattle Seahawks traded Wilson and a 2022 fourth round draft choice to Denver and got back one of the greatest hauls in NFL history.

Seattle acquired a first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, second round picks in 2022 and 2023, a 2022 fifth-round pick, tight end Noah Fant, defensive end Shelby Harris and quarterback Drew Lock.

Seattle used those picks on left tackle Charles Cross (2022 1st), linebacker Boye Mafe (2022 2nd), cornerback Devon Witherspoon (2023 1st), linebacker Derick Hall (2023 2nd) and linebacker Tyreke Smith (2023 5th).

Cross and Mafe are off to terrific starts in their careers, while Witherspoon — the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft — is already a force. Hall is a key backup and Smith is on the practice squad.

Fant remains the Seahawks’ starting tight end, while Lock is the No. 2 quarterback behind Geno Smith and Harris was released after one season.

Now, imagine what Gutekunst could have done with a similar combination of draft picks and players? And just think what Denver could have done with Rodgers under center instead of Wilson?

It almost happened. It should have happened.

Gutekunst opted not to pull the trigger, though. And both sides were losers due to the trade that never was. Here’s why.


After Green Bay suffered a dreadful 13-10 home loss to San Francisco in the 2021 NFC Divisional playoffs, it seemed like the perfect time for Gutekunst to rip the Band-Aid off the Rodgers-era and start anew.

Rodgers and the Packers were just 7-9 in the playoffs since winning Super Bowl XLV XLV . Green Bay lost at home four times in the postseason under Rodgers. And Rodgers was 0-4 in the playoffs against San Francisco, the team that bypassed him with the No. 1 pick in the 2005.

Rodgers won four Most Valuable Player awards from 2011-2021. In the playoffs, though, he consistently morphed into the league’s Most Disappointing Player.

The 2021 Packers had arguably the best collection of talent around Rodgers since their Super Bowl championship team of 2010. And if Rodgers couldn’t get it done then, many wondered if he would ever get Green Bay over the hump again?

Gutekunst’s fear of the unknown was too great for him to turn the page, though. And he opted to bring the band back — well, at least some of it — for another run in 2022.

That, of course, blew up on Gutekunst and the Packers who went 8-9 last season and missed the postseason for the first time since 2018.

Green Bay could have kept its impressive roster together by trading Rodgers and gaining roughly $20 million of salary cap relief. Instead, the Packers traded wideout Davante Adams to Las Vegas, released outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith and offensive lineman Billy Turner, restructured several contracts and gave Rodgers a new three-year, $150.8 million contract extension to get under the salary cap.

The Packers got younger — and worse — at several key positions. And Rodgers had arguably the worst of his 15 seasons in Green Bay.

Had Gutekunst sent Rodgers to Denver in the spring of 2022, Green Bay almost certainly would have gotten the same type of draft haul from the Broncos that Seattle did.

Cross, the No. 9 pick in the 2022 draft, would have solved the Packers’ left tackle woes. If Green Bay wanted a pass catcher instead, wideouts Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jameson Williams were taken with picks No. 10-12.

Denver’s 2023 first round pick that went to Seattle was No. 5 overall after the Broncos had a miserable season. Perhaps that pick would have been lower with Rodgers under center instead of Wilson. Still, picks 8-16 featured players like running back Bijon Robinson, defensive tackle Jalen Carter, and offensive tackles Peter Skoronski and Broderick Jones, who are all off to terrific starts.

Had the Packers traded Rodgers in 2022 — not 2023 — they wouldn’t be dealing with the $40.3 million in dead salary cap money that Rodgers is costing them today.

Green Bay also could have also started to get answers 12 months sooner whether or not Love is the solution at quarterback. Today, the Packers can’t be sure as Love has been up and down in his first five starts. Had Green Bay begun the process earlier, Love could have as many as 22 starts by now and things would be coming into focus.

Instead, Gutekunst waited a year too long, then traded Rodgers to the Jets for what, in essence, will become two second round picks and a 2023 first round pick swap.


In the winter of 2022, Denver hired former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to be its next head coach. Hackett and Rodgers became extremely close during their time together in Green Bay, and Hackett would have loved to bring Rodgers with him to Denver.

When Gutekunst wouldn’t part with Rodgers, though, the Broncos made the deal for Wilson — and the last year-and-a-half has been a disaster for them.

Wilson threw just 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last season and had a career-worst passer rating of 84.4. The Broncos went 5-12, Hackett was fired and replaced by Sean Payton.

Things haven’t been any better this season, as Denver is off to a 1-5 start and has already started dumping some of its veterans. Wilson has been better with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions to date. Wilson will likely be gone in 2024, though, if the Broncos believe they can land USC’s Caleb Williams or North Carolina’s Drake Maye in this year’s draft.

There’s no guarantee Rodgers would have made the Broncos any better in 2022, but history says it’s likely.

Rodgers was coming off back-to-back MVP seasons, and considering nine of Denver’s losses in 2022 were by one score, it’s quite possible Rodgers would have helped the Broncos approach .500, or better.


When the Rodgers trade was finalized on April 26, Gutekunst said, “I think this is a good day for the Packers.”

It certainly could wind up being a good day, too.

The Rodgers-era had run its course. Green Bay used its first round pick swap with the Jets to draft outside linebacker Lukas Van Ness and the second rounder on receiver Jayden Reed. The Packers will still have a second round pick coming from the Jets in the 2024 draft.

If that trade marked a “good” day for the Packers, though, sending Rodgers to Denver a year earlier would have been a “great” day.

And both the Packers and Broncos would be in far better spots today.

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