Will Aaron Rodgers stay in Green Bay?
By: Skyler Waterman
All we’ve been hearing since April 29th is that Aaron Rodgers no longer wants to be a member of the Green Bay Packers and has asked to be traded this offseason. It’s been almost two weeks now though and it seems like there’s more smoke than actual fire to these rumors. Adam Schefter originally broke the news on April 29th that team and league sources had informed him that Aaron Rodgers no longer wanted to play for the Green Bay Packers. However, since then, Schefter has backtracked on that statement. He openly admitted a week after the draft, on the Dan Patrick Show, that there was no source and that it was “just an accumulation of information throughout the course of the entire offseason.” Which essentially means this article was founded on nothing more than rumors and speculation. It is true that multiple teams have contacted the Packers regarding the availability of Aaron Rodgers, yet the Packers have held firm that they have no interest in trading the reigning league MVP.
Other teams’ interest in Rodgers
Tom Pelissero tweeted on April 29th that the 49ers reached out to the Packers on potentially trading for Aaron Rodgers, but no offer was made, and a source stated that “there is a zero percent chance” that Green Bay trades Aaron Rodgers. Additionally, there were multiple reports that the Rams reached out to the Packers on the availability of Rodgers. In the same interview with Dan Patrick, Adam Schefter stated that the Rams were quickly rebuffed by the Packers front office, which eventually led to the Rams instead trading for Matthew Stafford. Many media outlets reported that multiple teams were reaching out to the Packers on draft day about a possible Aaron Rodgers trade, but Brian Gutekunst essentially debunked those myths in an interview with Peter King. Gutekunst stated that he received one phone call on Thursday, April 29th, after the first round had concluded. He told them Rodgers wasn’t available via trade, and that was the end of the conversation.
The Packers have stood their ground and for good reason. Aaron Rodgers still has three years remaining on his contract with the Green Bay Packers and was the MVP of the league in 2020, receiving 44 of the 50 MVP votes. The Packers also still have no idea what they have in quarterback Jordan Love. Despite being drafted 26th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Packers have yet to see him take a snap in a Packers uniform. Love was inactive for every game of the season and remained the third-string quarterback behind Tim Boyle as a rookie. The Packers have also never seen Love in action during a preseason game, as the preseason was canceled last season due to COVID-19. For this very reason, the Packers front office is especially hesitant to the idea of moving on from Aaron Rodgers.
What would it cost to trade Aaron Rodgers?
The financial ramifications of an Aaron Rodgers trade are yet another reason why it is extremely unlikely that he would be traded anytime in the near future. If the Packers traded Aaron Rodgers today, they would carry a $38,356,000 dead cap, while also losing $1,154,000 in cap space. If the Packers considered trading Aaron Rodgers on June 2nd or later, they would still create a dead cap of $38.3 million, but would now spread it out between the 2021 and 2022 seasons. They would carry a $21,152,000 dead cap in 2021, as well as a $17,204,000 dead cap in 2022. Meanwhile, the Packers would only gain $16,050,000 in available cap space in 2021. None of those are ideal scenarios for the Green Bay Packers. If the Packers do intend on eventually trading Aaron Rodgers, it will almost certainly not be until the start of the 2022 NFL league year. If the Packers traded Aaron Rodgers during the 2022 league year, they would carry a $17,204,000 dead cap, but would also create $22,648,000 in available cap space. If Brian Gutekunst has plans of trading Aaron Rodgers in the future, this is when it will happen. This was most likely his original plan when he drafted Jordan Love twelve months ago. Rodgers’s completion percentage, passer rating, and QBR had decreased in efficiency for three consecutive seasons when Gutekunst decided to draft Love. However, since then, Rodgers produced one of his greatest seasons as a Packer, and Love has failed to impress.
For those very reasons, we have seen the Packers re-affirm their desire to continue with Aaron Rodgers as the starting quarterback. Back in January, Mark Murphy stated “We’re not idiots. Aaron Rodgers will be back, he’s, our leader.” Brian Gutekunst has been firm on his stance that Aaron Rodgers is not available via trade. The Packers know Rodgers gives them the best chance of success both in 2021 and beyond. Now they need to commit to him long-term. Rodgers knows they’re only technically committed to him through the 2021 NFL season with how his contract is structured. He wants a longer commitment from the Packers, and they’ve begun to address this issue. According to Bob McGinn of The Athletic, the Packers have offered Rodgers a deal that would make him the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. The question now is whether this deal has guarantees beyond the 2021 NFL season. Rodgers stated back in 2017 that he plans to play in the NFL through the age of 45, just like Tom Brady. That means he could potentially play eight more seasons in the NFL. He’s currently only 37 years old. Thus, understandably, he wants the Packers to commit to him beyond the age of 38.
The Drafting of Jordan Love
Herein lies the greatest issue. The Packers spent a first-round pick on Jordan Love. Jordan Love will be entering year two of his four-year contract (not including his fifth-year option) as Aaron Rodgers backup once again if they do not trade either player. If the Packers commit to Aaron Rodgers long term, they’re essentially giving up on what Jordan Love could become. So much of Aaron Rodgers frustrations can be attributed to Brian Gutekunst’s selection of Jordan Love. Rodgers made public statements that he wanted to play for the Packers until he was 45, and yet despite that commitment to the franchise, the Packers drafted his successor only four months after his 36th birthday. Rodgers led the Packers to the NFC Championship for the fourth time in his career, and instead of improving the Packers championship hopes in 2020, they traded up in the first round for a quarterback.
Drafting Love to replace Rodgers vs Drafting Rodgers to replace Favre
Now some people might foolishly state that he should have expected this and that it was no different than when Ted Thompson drafted Aaron Rodgers while still having Brett Favre under contract, and those people couldn’t be more wrong. As was previously stated before, Aaron Rodgers fully intends to play football until at least 2028. The Packers drafted Jordan Love in 2020. Whereas Brett Favre had been flirting with the idea of retiring ever since 2002. In December of 2002, Favre hinted that he might retire if he won his second Super Bowl with the Packers that year. Two years before they drafted Aaron Rodgers. In January of 2005, after a playoff loss to the Vikings, Favre told the Packers he needed time to ponder his future. It wasn’t until March that Favre announced he would return for the 2005 NFL season. The uncertainty of Favre’s future in Green Bay after 2005, was what led to the eventual selection of Aaron Rodgers. Again, in 2006 Favre didn’t announce he would return to the team until April. It wasn’t until Favre officially announced his retirement in March of 2008 that Aaron Rodgers was named the starting quarterback. It was only then after Rodgers had been handed the keys, that Favre decided he wanted to return to the NFL. Ted Thompson responded by saying that Favre would be the backup quarterback if he returned, and thus Favre asked to be traded.
Now how does that sound in any way similar to the quarterback, who states at the age of 34, that he wants to play until he’s 45? Only to then see his organization draft his eventual successor two years later. Not only did they draft his successor, but they also traded up four spots in the first round of the NFL Draft to do so. Some Packers fans will foolheartedly try and tell you that Gutekunst wasn’t doing anything that Ted Thompson wouldn’t have done, however, Ted Thompson never once traded up in the first-round of the NFL Draft. He did trade for an additional first round pick once, but that was a move to acquire outside linebacker, Clay Matthews. A move that filled a large hole on the defensive front seven as they transitioned from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense.
When Brian Gutekunst traded up for Jordan Love it was reckless and irresponsible. When Aaron Rodgers fell to the Packers at 24th overall it came as a shock to everyone. Many expected him to be one of the first players selected in the 2005 NFL Draft. The same cannot be said for Jordan Love. The opinions on Love were drastically varied. Some didn’t believe he was worthy of a first-round selection while others thought he could be a top ten pick. The Packers have always been a team whose philosophy has been to take the best player available, but it has always been the best player available who fits a team need. Gutekunst strayed from this formula in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The rift between Aaron Rodgers and Brian Gutekunst
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that there is a stern distrust between Aaron Rodgers and Brian Gutekunst. Not only did Gutekunst go behind Aaron Rodgers back when he drafted Jordan Love, but he also went behind the back of head coach Matt LaFleur. It’s never a good sign when the General Manager isn’t even incorporating the opinion of his play-caller when decided to draft a franchise quarterback. The Packers named Brian Gutekunst the Packers General Manager in January of 2018, and his first action as GM was to release Aaron Rodgers most trusted wide receiving target in Jordy Nelson. This decision was likely made without the approval of Rodgers and likely was not a good first impression. The next thing he did was trade for a quarterback. Giving up starting cornerback Damarious Randall for backup quarterback DeShone Kizer. Looking back, I think we all know who won that trade, and it wasn’t Green Bay. The following year the Packers failed to offer Randall Cobb a contract when he entered free agency, something that I’m sure also disappointed Rodgers.
The Packers had a chance to make up for that in the 2019 NFL Draft. They had parted ways with both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, two of Rodgers favorite targets, but had a chance to draft their successors, yet failed to do so in 2019 by not drafting a single receiver. The Packers again could have addressed wide receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft, but instead drafted a quarterback, running back, and fullback in the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft. They once again didn’t draft a single wide receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft. The final straw that broke the camel’s back, was when the Packers released wide receiver Jake Kumerow, only one day after Rodgers praised Kumerow as one of the four receivers who would be a lock to make the roster.
Ultimately the Packers aren’t going to trade Aaron Rodgers. He can either retire at the age of 37 or continue to play for the Packers in 2021. What should happen, is the Packers should extend Aaron Rodgers, guaranteeing his contract for multiple seasons and make him the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. Matt LaFleur should be given full control of the Packers player personnel decisions. The Lafleur-Rodgers marriage has been successful the past two years. Together they’ve accomplished a 26-6 win-loss record in the regular season and reached two consecutive NFC Championship games. Brian Gutekunst can head the scouting department and have the final say on players selected in the NFL Draft, meanwhile, Lafleur will be in charge of cutting the roster down from 90 to 53 each season. These changes should mend the bridge between Rodgers and the Packers and allow for continued success in Green Bay. Will that happen? Probably not, but should this happen? Absolutely.
If we see no organizational changes to the Green Bay Packers and a disgruntled Aaron Rodgers returns this season, expect this to be Aaron Rodgers “Last Dance” in Green Bay. Making one final attempt to win a Super Bowl before getting traded in 2022 and thus beginning the Jordan Love era in Wisconsin.