A blockbuster Aaron Rodgers trade might be inevitable for the Green Bay Packers, with the reigning NFL MVP seemingly determined to play elsewhere for the upcoming 2021 NFL season.
All of this started on the night of the 2020 NFL Draft, when general manager Brian Gutekunst shocked the NFL world by trading up to the No. 26 pick to select Jordan Love. While it’s not unusual for teams to draft a potential heir for their aging quarterback, Gutekunst’s decision not to communicate with Rodgers about the pick and the team’s plans soured the relationship.
Feeling uncertain about his future with the franchise, Rodgers took it as a slight and responded with one of the best seasons in his legendary career. After posting a 48-5 TD-INT ratio and posting a league-best 121.5 passer rating, Rodgers helped Green Bay reach the NFC Championship Game and won his third MVP award shortly after.
The 37-year-old cast doubt on his future with the team shortly after the season-ending loss, but things might have been more certain behind the scenes. Rodgers asked for a contract extension, but Green Bay countered with a restructured deal. With the franchise unwilling to make a long-term commitment and the All-Pro not wanting to be a “lame duck” quarterback, talks broke off and Rodgers wanted out.
Green Bay is trying to salvage the relationship. Gutekunst and team CEO Mark Murphy stated their desire to keep Rodgers, and teams that inquired about a blockbuster trade were told it isn’t happening. The franchise is also now willing to offer a new contract that would ensure the future Hall of Famer has more control over his future. But it might be too late.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler said on “SportsCenter” that Rodgers is “dug in” (h/t Bleacher Report):
“The Packers are still actively looking for solutions here; they’re trying to keep an open line of communication with Aaron Rodgers and his agent, Dave Dunn. So, no traction in the short term. But many people around the league believe Aaron Rodgers is indeed ‘dug in,’ and there’s a belief by some that he wants to be out West. Denver is a team that’s buzzing in league circles. I was told by a source that Denver is ‘monitoring’ that situation right now. But they’re also coming out of the draft days, and they’re in the team-building mode. They really like Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, so they’re not committed or tied to anything. Talking to people around the league, they say about 60-40 they think that Rodgers is dealt.”
Will the Packers trade Rodgers?
Many from across the league have weighed in on Rodgers’ future in Green Bay. Former teammates and close friends believe he could return, if the Packers are willing to repair the relationship and make some accommodations. But top NFL insiders, including those who cover the team, believe there is little chance for a return and that it would take unprecedented action for any kind of resolution.
Mandatory minicamp starts in a month, when Rodgers would first be required to report to the facilities. If he doesn’t show up, the Packers will fine him for each practice missed, and the financial penalties will keep racking up through training camp.
Rodgers, who has earned more than $200 million in career earnings, is considering sitting out the 2021 season. It’s the only real leverage option he has. But if he doesn’t play this season, he would forego his salary and be required to pay back more than $20 million of his signing bonus.
While the Packers did draft Love, this is still a franchise in win-now mode. All-Pro receiver Davante Adams is entering a contract year and wants to become one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL. If Rodgers doesn’t return, there’s little incentive for Adams to stay in Green Bay. Green Bay also just made a huge investment in Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones, and standout corner Jaire Alexander is eligible for a contract extension.
The Packers are a Super Bowl contender with Rodgers, a quarterback who can help cover this team’s flaws and put it over the top in big moments. But if Love takes over as the starter, a young quarterback who might not be ready, this team will take a huge step backward.
There’s plenty on the line for Rodgers, but just as much at stake for Gutekunst. Pushing one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history out the door after an MVP season can be justified if Love becomes a star. If Rodgers never plays for Green Bay again and Love isn’t the quarterback this franchise believes he can be, that’s how Gutekunst will be remembered.