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The Green Bay Packers are the only franchise Aaron Rodgers has ever known. After 16 years with the organization, the two sides are marred in dramatic turmoil that is seemingly leading up to a blockbuster trade.
Rodgers cast doubt on his future with the Packers after the NFC Championship Game, uncertain if he would be able to finish his Hall of Fame career in Green Bay. The storyline hung quietly over the spring before a bombshell hours before the 2021 NFL Draft shed light on his desire to play elsewhere.
Many have since weighed in on the unfolding drama between the 37-year-old quarterback and the front office. With reports that Rodgers wants general manager Brian Gutekunst fired, that he wanted out since last season and has told teammates he isn’t coming back.
While the three-time NFL MVP hasn’t spoke publicly, the Packers have made their intentions clear. Both 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.
But there remains a growing belief around the NFL that a trade is inevitable. However, some of Rodgers’ former teammates and close friends seem to believe a separation isn’t a forgone conclusion.
Will Aaron Rodgers return to the Packers?
With mandatory minicamp just a few weeks away, the situation will become even more real very soon. If Rodgers doesn’t report for mandatory practices, it will result in daily fines and be the first real sign of trouble for Green Bay. Many believe that is inevitable, with the All-Pro quarterback looking to force his way out of Green Bay, and that the team’s efforts to repair the relationship have come too late.
While that might be the case, Rodgers’ former teammate and NFL Network analyst James Jones explained the quarterback’s frustrations with the Packers and hinted that things could be fixed.
Rodgers reportedly wants a long-term contract extension early in the offseason. While he’s technically under contract for the next three seasons, the structure of the deal allows Green Bay to trade him in 2022 with a minimal cap hit. So, seeking to regain some say in his future, Rodgers wanted a deal that allowed him to play with the Packers into his 40s.
“He has a little bit of leverage here in this situation and I think that’s going to put the Green Bay Packers in a tough spot. Ultimately, at the end of the day, I truly believe Aaron wants to come back to Green Bay, but he doesn’t want to do it on a lame-duck contract.”Former Green Bay Packers fullback John Kuhn on potential Aaron Rodgers return, via CBS Sports’ Radio’s Zach Gelb
This caused a bit of a problem for Gutekunst. He traded up for Jordan Love in the 2020 NFL Draft, grabbing a quarterback to develop and eventually take over the position. If Green Bay extends Rodgers, it would mean the Packers spent a first-round pick on a player who wouldn’t see the field until his rookie contract almost expires.
“He said multiple times on several different outlets that he plans to play into his 40s and he really wants to do it in Green Bay. I don’t see that feeling from him having changed, and I believe that’s still the main goal of him and sometimes it takes some drastic measures to get to the spots.”Former Green Bay Packers fullback John Kuhn on potential Aaron Rodgers return, via CBS Sports’ Radio’s Zach Gelb
Instead, Green Bay reportedly offered Rodgers a restructured deal that would at least ensure his return in 2022. It wasn’t what he was looking for and with the organization unwilling to make a long-term commitment, Rodgers’ frustrations seemed to reach a tipping point.
It’s very possible the long-standing issues can’t be resolved. The Packers have made several decisions in recent years that Rodgers doesn’t believe put the team in the best position to win a Super Bowl. As a result, he wants to play for a team that will take the same win-now approach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have with Tom Brady.
It might be too late for a resolution between the two sides, but the Packers are still trying to make it happen. Green Bay’s former fullback John Kuhn, who is close with Rodgers, told CBS Sports’ that it’s “absolutely’ possible Rodgers returns.
Ultimately, it’s going to take time for everything to play out. If Rodgers is willing to resolve matters, with the help of a new contract and the front office becoming more aggressive, he might return. But if he doesn’t see that, he will never play for this franchise again.