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The Green Bay Packers refuse to commit to reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers after the quarterback put up an historical performance in 2020.
It truly is stunning. Months after Green Bay was eliminated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game, drama seems to be unfolding behind the scenes. Immediately after that loss, Rodgers questioned his own future with the Packers. He has not backed away from that claim since, as evidenced by recent remarks on the part of the all-time great.
At issue here is Green Bay’s unwillingness to restructure Rodgers’ contract as a way to be more proactive in free agency. That’s the first thing we must look at when coming to the conclusion that the Packers’ brass has dropped the ball big time here.
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Aaron Rodgers contract and the Packers’ narrow view
Playing under a four-year, $134 million contract that’s set to expire following the 2023 season, Rodgers is already vastly underpaid in the grand scheme of things. His $33.5 million average annual salary is tied with Jared Goff for fifth among quarterbacks. Yes, that Jared Goff.
Here’s a dude who put up nearly 4,300 yards with 48 touchdowns against five interceptions while leading the NFL in completion percentage (70.7) and quarterback rating (121.5) last season. However, this is not necessarily the issue. It’s all about general manager Brian Gutekunst refusing to see the bigger picture.
Rodgers, 37, is set to count $37.2 million against the cap in 2021. It has prevented the Packers from being able to do anything of real substance during the first couple waves of NFL free agency. That’s not hyperbole.
“They’ve called me about one of my players and said ‘Hey, this is where we are now, and until we get something big done — hint, hint — we don’t have any space.’ It’s kind of like a lose-lose situation right now. That’s what [is] surprising to me is, you’d think there would be a middle-ground situation to get something done.”NFL agent on Packers’ free agency
The pushback as it relates to restructuring Rodgers’ contract is rather simple. Under his current deal, Green Bay can save north of $22 million if it were to trade the quarterback next offseason. Lowering his cap number in 2021 via a restructure would have linked the Packers to Rodgers far beyond the 2021 season.
The Jordan Love dynamic and Aaron Rodgers
This is a huge backdrop to it all. Green Bay selected Jordan Love from Utah State in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. It was an absolutely shocking move to everyone, including Rodgers himself. Seen as a project, the idea was for Love to sit behind Rodgers for a couple seasons and eventually take over.
It’s not too dissimilar from when former Packers general manager Ted Thompson did the same thing with Brett Favre after drafting Rodgers in the first round back in 2005. And in reality, it could potentially create the same type of internal rift.
Outside of the disrespect factor, the idea that Green Bay can seamlessly move from Aaron Rodgers to Love without any potential regression is absolutely absurd. We’re talking about a top-five quarterback in modern NFL history compared to a youngster who has not thrown a pass in competitive game action since December of 2019.
Having started all 16 games in six of the past seven seasons and coming off a career-best performance, there’s no signs that Rodgers is slowing down. He could very well be like Drew Brees and Tom Brady, playing great football well into his 40s. However, the Packers don’t want to commit to him financially beyond next season. That just make no sense.
Why not go all in with Aaron Rodgers?
In addition to taking Jordan Love in the first round last April, the Packers shockingly opted to draft running back A.J. Dillon in the second round. The issue? Green Bay had stud running back Aaron Jones on the roster. While the expectation was that Jones would depart in free agency, the Packers used their limited cap room to re-sign the Pro Bowl running back in March. That makes this situation even more strange.
All said, Love did not attempt a single pass as a rookie while Dillon contributed 242 rushing yards. That’s not the type of production a win-now team just coming off an NFC Championship Game loss to the San Francisco 49ers should be expecting.
Fast forward less than a calendar year, and the Packers have not gotten better this offseason. They missed out on adding top-end free agents due to the Aaron Rodgers contract situation. It’s a stunning realization to come to.
Clearly in win-now mode, the Packers’ brass has opted to look to the future. They are doing so with a NFL MVP still playing at an elite level and prepared to lead this team to a title.
Rather than going all in with Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have shown their hand. He does not fit in to their long-term plans. Jordan Love will likely take over in 2022. That can’t sit well with Rodgers. And in reality, it’s going to lead to more drama before he’s eventually traded within a calendar year. Way to drop the ball, Green Bay!