Trades in the NFL are more rare than deals in the NBA or MLB, but they seem to be happening with more frequency lately. Even still, usually trades happen when one team wants to contend and another team wants to help their future draft classes. Rarely do two NFL teams make a trade that could help both teams immediately, but both the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers do need help.
Immediately. Could former colleagues Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur pull off a player-for-player trade that might help both franchises get back to scoring points?
On Tuesday, Aaron Rodgers was critical of some teammates, saying that “guys who are making too many mistakes” should be benched so that others can have an opportunity. Rodgers is likely pointing the finger at some of his receivers, as the Packers are not getting the type of post-Davante Adams production that they were hoping for with the moves that they’ve made at the position. Green Bay’s offense has dropped 17 passes, according to Pro-Football-Reference, third-most in the league.
Meanwhile, the Rams are probably going to trade Cam Akers and they probably really wanted Christian McCaffrey, according to reports. And Les Snead is running out of draft picks, while Green Bay might have an opportunity to save money and move some parts around on their roster without slowing down the offense.
I think that the two sides could potentially find comfort in moving some of their chess pieces back and forth, without any draft picks necessarily needing to be involved.
And it would all start with Allen Robinson and Aaron Jones.
It can be complicated and messy to trade players in the first season of a new free agent contract, but Allen Robinson has been a misfire for Les Snead since Week 1. Maybe Robinson’s most recent outing is a sign of progress (five catches, 63 yards, one touchdown) but it did come against a Panthers defense missing cornerback Jaycee Horn.
Robinson has been targeted exactly five or six times in each of the last five games, but he’s been held to under 25 yards in three of those games. In Week 1, Robinson had 12 yards on two targets. Robinson is struggling to get separation, as his 2.5 yards of separation per route is near the bottom of the league, according to Next Gen Stats.
Packers receiver Allen Lazard is also getting 2.5 yards of separation.
But Robinson hasn’t been blamed for any drops yet this season and knowing that he is 99-percent certain to play out this year with the L.A. Rams (this article is just a proposal to start considering what could be if teams think a little more outside the box), maybe it’s just a matter of continuing to develop chemistry with Matthew Stafford, getting comfortable in the offense, and maybe finding some better matchups down the line. However, what if Robinson is never a fit for the Rams, just as Sammy Watkins wasn’t a fit?
Watkins—who is now on the Packers—was traded after one season with L.A.. Could McVay have wanted to cut ties with Watkins even sooner than that?
By trading Allen Robinson to the Packers:
- L.A. cuts ties with a free agent mistake, but not without a significant strike against the cap
- However, they would save the cash owed to Robinson ($15.25 million in 2023)
- Open a starting WR slot just as Van Jefferson returns from IR, and maybe with Odell Beckham Jr still as an option to re-sign
I’m not saying that it is easy, but if the Rams are able to trade Robinson at all, it has to be open for discussion. If the execs say “No, it’s not even possible!” Then fine, I understand that. But if it is possible, Green Bay might be the team to talk to about it.
What the Packers would get by trading FOR Allen Robinson:
- Robinson could have an opportunity to be Aaron Rodgers’ number one immediately
- Push struggling rookies Romeo Doubs, Christian Watson, and Samori Toure down the depth chart, perhaps even releasing Amari Rodgers
- A player intimately familiar with the NFC South defenses
Let’s just say that the Rams could give Robinson to the Packers for draft compensation. It would make sense for both teams, right? Green Bay has added Watkins, Randall Cobb, and those three rookies in an effort to replace Adams, but it has been a disaster. The Packers have had one of the worst offenses in the NFL and Rodgers’ 40.5 QBR is the lowest of his career.
But then there would be the problem of the cash owed to Robinson in 2023 and a question of how Green Bay could even afford that.
Well, the Packers have their own exorbitant roster bonus due to a player in 2023 and he so happens to also be a running back.
Right now, Aaron Jones has 78 carries for 432 yards (5.5 YPC) with 26 catches for 176 yards. He has scored four touchdowns, with three of those coming through the air. Yes, Aaron Jones is probably still good even though he’s 28 and his last two games (17 carries, 42 yards) have been terrible. At least, as a runner.
Packers fans will probably balk at the idea of trading their starting running back, especially at a time when the offense needs more good players (and surely many fans do not currently believe that Allen Robinson is a good player anymore, I get that), but here’s a fact: Aaron Jones is going to be difficult to retain next year because of his roster bonus and the odds are that this is going to be the final half-season of his Packers career.
Green Bay is 3-4 and they’re looking up at the 5-1 Vikings in the division. If the Packers lose to the Bills this week, as most expect them to, they’ll be entering “must-win” territory every week. Now is the time for taking chances, especially because Aaron Rodgers is 39 and may not have many years left after this one even though he did sign a new three-year contract in March.
Should the Packers avoid getting receiving help for Rodgers because they’re worried about losing a running back who seems all but certain to be playing out his Green Bay career right now?
Backup running back A.J. Dillon, signed through 2023, had 187 yards for 803 rushing yards (4.3 YPC) and 34 catches for 313 yards last season. Dillon is a former second round pick and even if he’s better as a complementary player (I’m about to get there), he’s also more than an adequate starter. I know some Rams fans are saying, “Well, why not trade for Dillon then?”
Because of the Allen Robinson/Aaron Jones contracts.
Something has to line up financially for the Rams to be able to unload that deal and as I said, Jones might be playing out his Packers career right now anyway. The Packers re-did Jones’ deal in February to create cap space, but now there’s also this $7 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the 2023 league year. How could Green Bay possibly pay that to a 29-year-old running back when they’re already going to be over the cap without releasing or restructuring other players?
If Jones doesn’t agree to a pay cut, he’s going to get cut before his roster bonus arrives. Also, Aaron Jones is set to have a $20 million salary cap hit in 2023, the highest in NFL history for a running back by over $2 million!
By trading Aaron Jones to the Rams:
- Green Bay moves his contract and his roster bonus
- Opens up A.J. Dillon to be a starter for the next year and a half
If the Packers trade Aaron Jones and get Allen Robinson, they will have hoped to solve their receiving issue without hurting their run game issue. This will be aided by the fact that the Rams also send Cam Akers to the Packers. Green Bay’s offense would go from Lazard-Doubs as the top two receivers and Jones-Dillon as the running backs, to Robinson-Lazard as the top two receivers and Dillon-Akers as the running backs.
Romeo Doubs leads Green Bay with 42 targets, but has only caught 26 for 234 yards and two touchdowns. That’s 5.6 yards per target, one of the worst marks in the NFL.
Lazard has caught 26 of 41 targets for 340 yards and four touchdowns. Cobb is on IR. Watkins has already missed four of seven games. Trying out Allen Robinson could not hurt!
What the Rams would get by trading FOR Aaron Jones:
- An actual, legitimate starting running back
- An out for Allen Robinson’s contract, potentially
Jones has consistently been a dual threat throughout his career and he’s on pace this year for 1,049 rushing yards and 63 catches for 427 yards. The Rams could cross the bridge of his signing bonus when they come to it next year, but they wouldn’t be on the hook for the prorated portions of his signing bonus. That means that instead of a $20 million cap hit, the Rams would “only” be looking at a $12 million cap hit in 2023.
But if the Rams were able to trade Robinson in the process, they would actually be able to save money against their 2023 cap; about $3 million, if I’m not mistaken.
The Trade Terms
Rams trade Allen Robinson, Cam Akers to the Packers for Aaron Jones, Amari Rodgers
I know that Rodgers isn’t much to hang your hat on, but Green Bay would probably release him if they traded for a wide receiver anyway. This helps make sense for the roster spaces of each respective team and the money changing hands with regards to Cam Akers going to Green Bay.
The Packers would then have a backfield of Akers and Dillon. The Rams would have a backfield of Jones and Darrell Henderson. The Packers top two receivers would be Allen Robinson and Allen Lazard. The Rams top two receivers would be Cooper Kupp and probably Van Jefferson, if not eventually OBJ.
Normally this trade would be more nonsensical because of their contracts, but because both teams also have these contractual issues in their futures, it smoothes out the rough edges of such a deal.
If anyone though, “Well, this isn’t fair because Jones is playing better than Robinson and Akers,” I would agree with you. Maybe in that case, the Rams add a day three draft pick. However, I think it’s pretty close and because Jones is a running back on a collision course with being released and Green Bay is about to hit a critical mass if they don’t beat the Bills, it might just be crazy enough to work.