As the Green Bay Packers made their final preparations before the 2021 NFL Draft, word broke that reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers wanted a trade. While the franchise is now focused on doing everything possible to repair the fractured relationship with its star quarterback, the Packers might have someone to blame if things don’t improve.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news on April 29 that Rodgers was disgruntled with the Packers and wanted to be traded this offseason. Word quickly spread that the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos would make aggressive offers for the future Hall of Fame quarterback, but a blockbuster trade never came to fruition on draft day.
Since then, everyone within the Packers’ organization has publicly stated their commitment to Rodgers. The team’s CEO released a statement backing the face of the franchise, head coach Matt LaFleur isn’t even considering life without Rodgers and general manager Brian Gutekunst said there won’t be a trade. Privately, there is another feeling in the organization.
According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, the Packers are upset that rival clubs might have reached out to Rodgers to gauge his interest in playing for their team via trade. Green Bay believes the 49ers and Broncos, the two clubs heavily connected to Rodgers, committed tampering.
This isn’t the first time the Packers have thought a rival tampered with their superstar quarterback. Green Bay filed a charge to the NFL in 2008, accusing the Minnesota Vikings of tampering with Brett Favre. The NFL found no evidence of it and rejected the charge.
The Packers have not filed tampering charges against any teams this offseason, largely because the burden of proof rests with the accuser and finding convincing evidence is extremely difficult.
Will the Packers trade Aaron Rodgers?
For the time being, Green Bay has refused any inquiries from other NFL teams. Gutekunst said after the NFL Draft that one general manager reached out and was promptly told Rodgers wouldn’t be traded. Additionally, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan reached out to LaFleur about a quarterback trade and he was told to move on.
San Francisco did just that, drafting Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick and taking itself out of the running for Rodgers. But the Broncos passed on Justin Fields and many around the NFL are watching closely for a potential blockbuster trade.
A resolution isn’t imminent. The first major turning point in this saga would likely come in training camp. If Rodgers doesn’t show up and starts receiving daily fines, it will be an even greater sign that he is committed to never playing for the Packers again.
There are increasing signs that Rodgers, who is under contract for the next three seasons, will sit out the 2021 season rather than returning to Green Bay. If he does take the Carson Palmer approach, retiring early to force a trade, he would owe the Packers more than $20 million back for his signing bonus.
Everything is on the line for the Packers. The worst-case scenario is Rodgers missing the entire 2021 season, getting a year older and losing trade value. If it becomes clear he won’t play under Gutekunst again, Green Bay might not have any choice but to trade its superstar. If that happens, though, there’s a real risk of this becoming one of the worst teams in the NFC.
The Green Bay Packers will cling to hope that all of this can be resolved, likely through a contract extension that lets Rodgers end his legendary career on his terms. Given NFL players rarely get that outcome, even in the case of Hall of Famers, this all likely ends in an ugly separation.