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A year after the Green Bay Packers drafted his future replacement, Aaron Rodgers won his third NFL MVP and helped carry the team to the NFC Championship Game. But as teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs have done everything possible to surround their star passers with more talent, the Packers have been quiet in NFL free agency.
Admittedly, the Packers entered the 2021 offseason in a difficult spot. The team was more than $20 million over the NFL salary cap, desperately needing to create room just to retain some of their free agents and to sign their incoming 2021 NFL Draft class. While general manager Brian Gutekunst accomplished that mission, including the return of Aaron Jones, Green Bay has done nothing to improve its roster via free agency.
The Packers’ own external signing was a long snapper, an addition that will make little difference for this team’s Super Bowl LVI chances in the best-case scenario. While the inactivity could be blamed on the club’s lack of cap space, that problem could be resolved if the Packers signed Rodgers to a new contract.
As the latest news from the saga between the two sides shows, though, Green Bay already seems to be showing a lack of commitment to their legendary quarterback.
Green Bay Packers offseason is another letdown
This isn’t the first time Gutekunst’s decision-making has come under question. Look back to the 2020 offseason after the Packers lost to the NFC Championship Game to the San Francisco 49ers. This team reached the doorstep of its second Super Bowl appearance under Rodgers, within striking distance of a Lombardi Trophy. Instead of making this team stronger, Gutekunst emphasized a future beyond Rodgers.
Green Bay’s decision to trade up for Jordan Love in the 2020 NFL Draft remains baffling. The move drew instant criticism from NFL fans and general managers. The Packers could have drafted a wide receiver like Tee Higgins, Chase Claypool or Michael Pittman Jr., adding a playmaker to an offense with little weaponry outside of Jones and Davante Adams.
The front office didn’t even necessarily have to take a pass-catcher. Green Bay’s defense was one of its biggest issues in 2020. A cornerback like Jaylon Johnson would have looked far better opposite Jaire Alexander than Kevin King. Even addressing the offensive line (Ezra Cleveland), or defensive line (A.J. Epenesa) would have helped this team. Instead, Green Bay traded up for a project quarterback who might contribute in 2022 in the best-case scenario.
Things didn’t get much better later in the draft. The Packers spent a second-round pick on a backup running back (A.J. Dillon), who won’t even be the featured runner a year later after the Jones re-signing. Meanwhile, third-round pick Josiah Deguara will be nothing more than a role player.
Rodgers was understandably frustrated with the team’s decisions and it fueled trade rumors. Determined to prove he could be a great starter for years to come, he responded with a career-best season. But even after proving himself, the Packers still commit to him.
As detailed by ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Rodgers wants a renegotiated contract that assures he will be the starter beyond 2021 and not deemed a lame-duck quarterback. A contract restructure would not only make him happy, but would free up money for Green Bay to add a quality wide receiver or a veteran defender who can make an impact in 2021.
It seems the Packers aren’t entirely interested in committing to Rodgers. Instead, Gutekunst seemingly wants to double down on the unproven quarterback who didn’t make a strong impression in training camp nor as the No. 3 quarterback last season.
What would an Aaron Rodgers trade cost?
Rodgers has done more than enough to prove himself to this organization. He enters the 2021 season ranked second in all-time touchdown/interception ratio (4.63) and has the third-highest career passer rating (103.9) in NFL history. Any questions of major regression are also gone, given he had a 121.5 passer rating and 9.6 TD/INT ratio this past season.
Publicly, the Packers have talked about their commitment to Rodgers. Matt LaFleur shut down trade rumors and team CEO Mark Murphy said the organization would be idiots if it traded him. Actions speak louder than words, or inaction in this scenario.
Drew Brees playing extremely well into his 40s and Tom Brady just won a Super Bowl in his age-43 season. In both instances, their respective organizations ignored the long-term consequences and invested everything possible into helping their quarterbacks win another ring. It seems evident the Packers aren’t willing to do the same for Rodgers.
After expressing doubts about his future in Green Bay, the latest inaction from the organization might need to be the final straw for Rodgers. Legacies are ultimately defined by Super Bowl rings and there are undoubtedly other organizations with front offices and owners more desperate for a title.
NFL QB Rankings: Aaron Rodgers near the top despite contract issues
There’s already a growing sense that Rodgers will be traded next offseason, but that puts the control in Green Bay’s hands. Rodgers could push the Packers to trade him now and there would be plenty of suitors. Teams like the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins would love to have a quarterback capable of pushing their team to a Super Bowl.
It’s going to cost multiple first-round picks and a young player, but that’s a cost all three organizations can afford.
If the Packers aren’t willing to commit to Rodgers, another team would be happy to do so. It will just take the quarterback who isn’t afraid to express his frustrations, deciding he has had enough.